Intense reaction against many elements of postmodern culture fueled the emergence of the New Right. It was a potent political movement that accepted neoliberal political and economic thought but was largely built on cultural traditionalism and a social agenda that the right expected to be enforced by conservative judges and legislation. Its membership included followers of George Wallace and many from the John Birch Society. The New Right did not welcome people from the Liberty Lobby, American Nazi Party, or the Ku Klux Klan, but the votes of these people doubtless go to New Right candidates. The New Right’s attachment to traditional values and critique of contemporary culture has supplied its energy and cutting edge. The New Right was strongly attracted by anti-big government rhetoric. After several decades of harping on this issue, the New Right allowed a “healthy skepticism about government [to] sink into something unhealthy, an embittered loathing of the federal government,” a development that Republican Senator John McCain deplored.
Religious traditionalists often believed they possessed a purity that their perceived enemies lacked. They had a sense of collective and personal humiliation, which gave them a righteous sense of purpose, and a deep commitment to recreating through politics the traditional America liberals had taken from them. They had no doubt that God was with them in their epochal battle against godless liberals. Republicans were able to tap a large constituency when they responded to the concerns of religious traditionalists. The number of people they potentially could alienate by doing so was much smaller. In focusing on cultural issues, they were able “to organize discontent,” in the words of Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus. They recognized there was a great deal of fear and resentment in Middle America and found a way of orchestrating a revolt against an “elitist upper class” that was promoting a hostile cultural takeover. A Pew Research Center study in 2003 found that almost half of Americans had unfavorable views of nonbelievers. This was about twice the number of people who feared the Religious Right.
This fear and anger made possible what Seymour Martin Lipset called “extremism of the centre” because most of its support came from the middle classes. Lipset was using the term to refer to fascists, and, of course, that term should not be applied to the New Right. The New Right certainly is not a form of fascism but is similar in that it represents a powerful, emotion driven right-wing mass movement. For that reason, it makes sense to examine “how social class and psychological tendencies shaped what appeared to be just an irrational set of fears, hatreds, and prejudices.” Unlike the fascists, the New Right is strongly attached to capitalism and has a distinct economic theory. However, both were allied with traditional economic elites. Their greatest points of similarity are the tendencies to exploit extreme nationalism and being energized by very powerful hatreds and fears.
The indictment of cultural liberalism became the nucleus of the New Right thought that emerged in the 1970s. Like the Old Right, its spokesmen sometimes criticized the moneyed elite but never failed to back policies that enriched big business and big money. Some complained about the wealth of the Buckleys and Rockefellers, but their complaints were mainly about the fact that these families offered different views of Republicanism
The New Right had a fierce moralistic tone that often unsettles conventional conservatives and neoliberals. The rhetoric of the New Right was an amalgam of remedies drawn from the Religious Right and chambers of commerce. Even though the New Right accepts neoliberal economic views, it is possible to draw a clear distinction between the neoliberals and New Right, naming them laissez faire conservatives and social conservatives. There is significant difference between them in that the neoliberals usually were not interested in legislating morality. But the fact is that these two groups have melded to a considerable extent as time passed. The social conservatives advocate economic neoliberalism with conviction, and the neoliberals employ the cultural rhetoric of the social conservatives; they doubtless blame liberals for the breakdown of morality. Republican practice has been such as to assure them that the social conservatives will be given symbolic victories from time to time, but the bulk of their agenda will be continually deferred.
The New Right professes a morality of a strict father and calls for tough anti-crime measures, defense of the death penalty, opposition to welfare, abortion, and affirmative action. The latter was usually called “reverse discrimination” to emphasize the idea that someone was receiving unfair preference. Similarly, conservatives who opposed bussing to achieve racial balance called it “forced bussing.” In this instance, the word forced connoted oppression and a federal incursion on state sovereignty. The inheritance tax was called the “death tax,” which meant someone was being taxed for dying and that wealth was being confiscated from someone who had worked very hard. In time, complaints about unfair taxation undermined support for the progressive income tax and win backing for policies that moved toward a straight tax because it allegedly would be fair to everyone. Becoming part of the New Right’s anti-liberal cultural philosophy, these views acquired a populist coloration. New Right spokesmen presented themselves as champions of little people in Middle America and marched under a populist banner. The New Right claimed it was fighting the liberal elite that had captured government, the schools, and media. They were aggrieved because the courts put an end to prayer in the public schools.
According to New Right talk show host Neal Boortz, “Liberals are not lovers of freedom. Liberals believe the average person is simply too ignorant to be free.” He claimed liberals thought most people needed to be guided by a big government run by “the leftist intelligentsia.” These right-wing populists were convinced that government was in the hands of people determined to frustrate the popular will. They resorted to popular referenda to get around this problem. In 1978, Californians approved Proposition 13, which sharply reduced taxes. In 1977 and 1978 alone, there were six referenda opposing civil rights for homosexuals. All but one of them were successful. Many came to believe that the state could not do a good job of providing public education and backed a voucher system, whereby parents received vouchers they could use to pay for private school educations for their children. This became more attractive as Protestant Evangelicals joined Roman Catholics in providing private school educations for their children. Ostensibly, the vouchers plan was to give parents a way of escaping failing public schools. However, a number of conservative political operatives have admitted that their primary objective was weakening the teachers’ unions, which were major supporters of the Democratic Party.
Sherman has written African American Baseball: A brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum
"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.
- Sherman De Brosse
- Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!