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The Four Eras of the American Right

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"In another coincidence that the GOP would like to flush down the memory hole, the Kochs' father, Fred, a founder of the radical John Birch Society in the fifties, was an advocate for the impeachment of Chief Justice Warren in the aftermath of Brown [v. Board of Education]  Fred Koch wrote a screed of his own accusing communists of inspiring the civil-rights movement."

Blaming the Democratic Party for ending segregation -- and coyly invited by opportunistic Republicans like Nixon and Reagan to switch party allegiances -- racist whites signed up with the Republican Party in droves. Thus, the Democratic Party, which since the days of Jefferson had been the party of slavery and segregation, lost its southern base, ceding it to the Republican Party, which essentially renounced its historical legacy as the anti-slavery and anti-segregation party.

A Flip of Allegiance

This flip in the allegiance of America's white supremacists -- from Democrat to Republican -- also put them in the same political structure as the anti-regulatory business interests which had dominated the Republican Party from the days of the Robber Barons. These two groups again found themselves sharing a common interest, the desire to constrain the federal government's commitment to providing for "the general Welfare."

To the corporate Republicans this meant slashing taxes, eliminating regulations and paring back social programs for the poor or -- in Ayn Rand vernacular -- the moochers. To the racist Republicans this meant giving the states greater leeway to suppress the votes of minorities and gutting programs that were seen as especially benefiting black and brown Americans, such as food stamps and health-care reform.

Thus, in today's neo-Confederate era, the American Right is coalescing around two parallel ideological motives: continued racial resentment (from the disproportionate number of black and brown people getting welfare to the presence of a black family in the White House) and resistance to government regulations (from efforts to control Wall Street excesses to restrictions on global-warming emissions).

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Though the white racist element of this coalition might typically be expected to proudly adopt the Stars and Bars of the Old Confederacy as its symbol, the modern Right is too media-savvy to get boxed into that distasteful imagery of slavery.

So, instead the Right has opted for a rebranding as Revolutionary War-era patriots -- calling themselves Tea Partiers, donning tri-corner hats and waving yellow banners with a coiled snake declaring "don't tread on me." So, instead of overtly defending the Confederacy, the Right proclaims its commitment to the Founding Principles found in the Constitution.

But this sly transformation required the Right to rewrite the Founding Narrative, to blot out the initial interpretation of the Constitution by the Federalists who, after all, were the ones who primarily crafted the document, and to pretend that Jefferson's revisionist view -- representing the pre-Confederate position of the southern plantation owners -- was the original one. [For more, see's "The Right's Made-Up Constitution."]

Now this doctored history -- hostile to any federal government actions that would "promote the general Welfare" -- is leading the United States and the world into an economic crisis.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at

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I agree that "the racist Right has often moved in ... by E. J. N. on Saturday, Sep 28, 2013 at 8:37:40 PM
I must add that I disagree with your conclusion th... by E. J. N. on Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 12:37:12 AM
Read Jefferson quotes on slavery, from Monticello.... by E. J. N. on Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 1:57:28 PM
Read Madison quotes on slavery:"American citizens ... by E. J. N. on Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 2:12:19 PM
People who see the Tea Party as a political moveme... by John Sanchez Jr. on Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 7:50:44 AM
An old battle cry of mine while trying to stir up ... by Michael Dewey on Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 10:49:04 AM
Mr. Dewey, thank you for your comment.Did the New ... by rob Chapman on Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 1:53:47 PM
The New Englanders I grew up with in the 70s, knew... by Michael Dewey on Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 2:45:43 PM
British King "has waged cruel war against human n... by rob Chapman on Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 2:06:20 PM
The British King, through his London Company, intr... by E. J. N. on Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 2:22:26 PM
Reading the article and comments exposed me to ide... by Diana L on Monday, Sep 30, 2013 at 7:13:25 PM