Kevin Drum offers an interesting short history of right-wing populism and its rise after the election of Democratic presidents since the 1930s over at Mother Jones (via RealClearPolitics.) He writes:
When FDR was in office in the 1930s, conservative zealotry coalesced in the Liberty League. When JFK won the presidency in the ’60s, the John Birch Society flourished. When Bill Clinton ended the Reagan Revolution in the ’90s, talk radio erupted with the conspiracy theories of the Arkansas Project. And today, with Barack Obama in the Oval Office, it’s the tea party’s turn.
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[S[hared tropes [of these movements] include a fear of “losing the country we grew up in,” an obsession with “parasites” who are leeching off of hardworking Americans, and—even though they’ve always received copious assistance from business interests and political operatives—a myth that the movement is composed entirely of fed-up grassroots amateurs. Take, for example, this description of Pam Stout, the star of a seminal tea party profile written earlier this year by David Barstow of the New York Times. After Obama took office, he writes, “Mrs. Stout said she awoke to see Washington as a threat, a place where crisis is manipulated—even manufactured—by both parties to grab power. She was happily retired, and had never been active politically. But last April, she went to her first tea party rally.” Compare that to the description of Estrid Kielsmeier in Suburban Warriors, Lisa McGirr’s history of ’60s-era right-wing activism in Orange County, California.Kielsmeier, a resident of my hometown of Garden Grove (my mother acidly recalls PTA meetings at my elementary school as hotbeds of John Birch Society activism), was a homemaker who ran the local gubernatorial primary campaign headquarters of ultraconservative oilman Joe Shell against Richard Nixon in 1962: “Her baby played in a playpen next to her desk while Kielsmeier participated in what she later called her first real involvement in politics. ‘Up to that time…it was education and just kind of…networking, really.’” Continue Reading »