The Politics of Unreason: Right Wing Extremism in America, 1790-1970

By Seymour Martin Lipset; Earl Raab | Go to book overview

in the schools. TACT (Truth About Civil Turmoil) relates to civil rights activity and has opposed what it has called "forced integration" in local public schools. TRAIN (To Restore American Independence Now) has addressed itself to foreign affairs and opposes foreign aid to "questionable" countries. There are also specific campaigns, such as "Support Your Local Police," and "When Guns Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Guns." While letters and petitions are stimulated on these kinds of issues for transmission to national officials, the activist burden really reposes in local and regional committees, such as those noted above. There is much evidence that in given communities and in some states, these committee activities have not been without considerable influence. They have, for example, stirred battles on sex education in the schools, activating, on a single-issue basis, larger segments of the community. And, in so doing, they have undoubtedly helped to crystallize a certain climate in many communities which transcends that single issue.

It should be noted that these isolated Birch Society issues--in the fashion in which they are presented--strike the preservatist nerve for those large numbers in the cities who feel their power and status declining, as manifested by the deterioration of their accustomed cultural and moral milieu.

On the other hand, most of the people who are activated on, say, a sex education campaign would not support the basic antistatist, economically ultraconservative thrust of the Birch Society (and have little interest in the elaborate conspiracy theory of the Society). The more massive support which the Birch Society receives on a local level with respect to these single issues is very selective, indeed, and does not extend to the national political arena.

Furthermore, there are indications that while the Birch Society gained in membership and financial support under the impetus of the Goldwater campaign, it did not grow under the impress of the 1968 George Wallace campaign. Wallace was able to appeal to some of the same fears that cherished moral and cultural baggage was slipping away, decisively added a new nativist piece to that baggage, did not encumber himself with economic conservatism, and offered a political movement. Without detracting from the local effects of the Birch Society, the state of the knowledge would strongly indicate that if there is a right-wing extremist wave of the future on a national political level, it is likely to be not in the Birch Society, but in the George Wallace mode.


Notes
1.
Hans Toch, The Social Psychology of Social Movements ( New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965), p. 17.
2.
Herbert Blumer, "Collective Behavior," in A. M. Lee, ed., New Outlineof the Principles of Sociology

-333-

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