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

By Seymour Martin Lipset; Earl Raab | Go to book overview
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of the rhetorical and programmatic direction of the extremist movement, the Republican party might cause the substantial demise of that movement, at least for a while. But there are presumably limits beyond which a mainstream national party cannot go. The critical votes in defeating the Haynsworth and Carswell appointments to the Supreme Court were, after all, those of Republican Senators.

Whether Wallace can succeed in avoiding the organizational and competitive hazards of which he seems aware, and whether historical circumstances will be favorable, are, of course, problematical. His weak showing in the 1970 Alabama gubernatorial primaries may have eliminated him as a national figure. Significantly, when Alabama turned against him, it produced the same pattern as the nation. He was defeated in the May primary by "the country club set and the Negro wards voting together for Brewer in about the same proportions," while his support came from white workers and poorer farmers. 58 But whether his particular movement survives or not, George Wallace has put together and further revealed the nature of those basic elements which must comprise an effective right-wing extremist movement in America. The question which is next ripe for detailed inquiry is whether--even if all the technical elements were present and all the historical circumstances propitious--more than 10 or even 20 per cent of the modern American population could become seriously engaged in such a movement. What, in short, is the state of countervailing commitment?

Reese Cleghorn, Radicalism: Southern Style ( Atlanta: Southern Regional Council, 1968), pp. 28-29.
Charles Y. Glock and Rodney Stark, Religion and Society in Tension ( Chicago: Rand-McNally, 1965), Chapter 14.
Franklin Hamlin Littell, From State Church to Pluralism ( Garden City: Doubleday-Anchor, 1962), p. 133. Emphasis in the original.
Philip E. Converse, Warren E. Miller, Jerrold G. Rusk, and Arthur C. Wolfe , "Continuity and Change in American Politics: Parties and Issues in the 1968 Election." American Political Science Review, LXIII ( December 1969), pp. 1101-1104.
Ibid., pp. 1097, 1100-1101.
Among the more important ones not discussed here are variations in the perception of a candidate's ideological position among different individuals and social groups (for example, in 1964 Republican Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, according to his speeches and writing, was basically a very strong-spoken economic conservative and at least a moderate when it came to civil rights; yet he probably tended to appear as a prototype ultra-rightist to the ultra-right and appears to have been taken as


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


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