Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Texas Right: The Radical Roots of Lone Star Conservatism

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Texas Right: The Radical Roots of Lone Star Conservatism

Article excerpt

The Texas Right: The Radical Roots of Lone Star Conservatism. Edited by David O'Donald Cullen and Kyle G. Wilkison. Elma Dill Russell Spencer Series in the West and Southwest. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2014. Pp. [x], 191. Paper, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-62349-029-4; cloth, $50.00, ISBN 978-1-62349-028-7.)

David O'Donald Cullen and Kyle G. Wilkison's The Texas Right: The Radical Roots of Lone Star Conservatism--a companion to their The Texas Left: The Radical Roots of Lone Star Liberalism (College Station, Tex., 2010)-- deploys nine brief essays by accomplished Texas historians to explore the ancestry of today's Texas conservatism. With subjects ranging from racialization at the turn of the twentieth century to antifeminist women's organizations in the 1970s, The Texas Right constructs a quick and accessible primer perfect for those looking to make a rapid acquaintance with several strands of twentieth-century Texas conservatism.

Cullen rightly notes in his introductory essay that "the historical Texas political landscape rewards its viewers with some of the starkest and most riveting scenery there is" (p. 2). From J. Frank Norris's fighting for fundamentalism to W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel's hillbilly politicking, Texas has produced a cast of remarkable and influential conservative characters. And at the height of the boom in studies of American conservatism, The Texas Right not only explores Texas's colorful history but also provides a much-needed launching point for understanding the long history of the Texas Right.

Less interested in engaging pressing issues surrounding the historiography of American conservatism than with recounting and exploring the political fortunes of Texas's twentieth-century conservative activists, the essays serve as a useful entree into much of the historiography of twentieth-century Texas politics. Readers acquainted with that historiography will find much that is familiar. Most of the essays distill their authors' primary research projects: Michael Phillips, for instance, draws from his work on the creation of whiteness in early-twentieth-century Dallas; Wilkison pulls from his study of radical farmworkers to describe the counterassault against early-twentieth-century socialist laborers; George N. Green mines his rich work on the Texas political establishment to explore midcentury conservative political leaders; and Sean P. Cunningham's piece recalls his study of postwar Texas conservatives (one of the few scholarly monographs devoted solely to Texas conservatism).

Academic readers preoccupied with definitional precision may find themselves frustrated--conservatism and radical remain nebulous terms throughout the work--but such imprecision seems deliberate: rather than shape these essays into a clear narrative or thesis-driven argument buoyed by some consistent interpretative thrust, Cullen and Wilkison have allowed their authors the freedom to explore their research--and their take on "radical roots"--on their own terms. …

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