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Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. In a major reassessment of modern conservatism, noted historian Kathryn S. Right Out of California tells how this brief moment of upheaval terrified bus In a major reassessment of modern conservatism, noted historian Kathryn S.

Right Out of California tells how this brief moment of upheaval terrified business leaders into rethinking their relationship to American politics—a narrative that pits a ruthless generation of growers against a passionate cast of reformers, writers, and revolutionaries. The business leaders who battled for the hearts and minds of Depression-era California, moreover, would go on to create the organizations that launched the careers of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

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To ask other readers questions about Right Out of California , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about Right Out of California. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Mar 22, Mal Warwick rated it really liked it Shelves: nonfiction. They point to the works of Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Ayn Rand; the political campaigns of Barry Goldwater, George Wallace, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan; the pro-business decisions of the United States Supreme Court; and, perhaps more than any other factor, the decades-long efforts of extremely wealthy Americans to build a network of right-wing think tanks and other organizations to move public opinion to the right.

Op-Ed: The GOP’s California roots

There is, of course, a great deal of truth to this. Social Security, the minimum wage, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and a plethora of alphabet agencies such as the WPA, the CCC, and others undoubtedly made life far more livable for millions of seniors, out-of-work men and women, and industrial workers.

What is less well known today is that Roosevelt was only able to push his legislation through Congress with the support of racist and right-wing Southern Democrats, who prevented him from including agricultural workers in any of his signature programs. The large majorities of farm workers, both in the South and in California, who were African American or Mexican gained virtually nothing from the New Deal. When their wages were slashed by the owners of the factory farms who even then dominated California agriculture, consigning millions of agricultural workers to starvation, labor conflict broke out in the fields.

Motivated by the mistaken belief that New Deal legislation covered them, and encouraged by labor organizers who arrived on the scene to support them, California farm workers soon found themselves in often pitched battles with local law enforcement and the vigilantes egged on by the owners. She traces the emergence of right-wing organizations funded by California agribusiness to the selection and support of Richard Nixon as their champion and thence in a virtually straight line to the presidential campaigns of Goldwater, Reagan, and Nixon himself.

The Party then organized its own radical unions. Sometimes alone, and sometimes in competition with existing unions, Communist organizers took on the toughest assignments — and it was in the agricultural fields of California that the conflict became most violent. Communists were often in the forefront of the clash with agribusiness. Where the argument grows thin is in later years. As President, Nixon proved unreliable at best on domestic issues as he sought a place in history through his opening to China.

Around the Capitol Sofa Degree in California Politics

Younger people, coming of age with the Goldwater, Wallace, and Reagan campaigns, became dominant in the Republican Party. Their links to the pitched battles of the s were indirect, at best. Surely, the establishment of think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and other right-wing institutions founded in the s and 70s played a far larger role in the development of what passes for conservatism today than the efforts of former president Herbert Hoover and the Hoover Institution at Stanford that Olmsted mentions so prominently.

About the author Kathy Olmsted heads the department of history at the University of California, Davis, where she has taught since A specialist in the study of anti-Communism, she has written four books. Right Out of California is the most recent.

The Rise of Conservatism: Crash Course US History #41

Dec 20, Myles rated it really liked it. At the end of the current US election cycle, regardless of who ends up in the White House, I think people will remember Barak Obama as fundamentally a decent man. That is important to remember as we reflect back to the origins of the new new conservatism in American politics as drawn by Kathryn S. Many were either running or in the pay of powerful corporations.

Much of her book centres on the big farm strikes, the avowedly Communist organizers of the strikes, and the corporate bosses who learned over time how to squelch dissent. The big growers -- really agribusiness owned by utilities and railroads -- used racism and xenophobia to drive a wedge in the voting base to drive their agenda. For me, the most shocking revelation was how John Steinbeck sanitized his version of events in The Grapes of Wrath by removing blacks and Mexican workers from California fields. Today, almost 90 years later, Hispanics are still not getting their due in building Califormia.

Donald Trump's pledge to build a wall on the Mexican border is so out of touch with reality that it begs the question: how little does America retain of its own history? In the 's agribusiness wasn't opposed to Mexican labour, they simply wanted to exploit it as efficiently as possible.

Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal government was lockstep with the growers. Strike organizers clipped at a very fundamental contradiction in the New Dealer's platform. On the one hand, Roosevelt took steps to level the playing field in industrial America by sanctioning the rights of industrial labourers to form unions and bargain collectively. We read it, memorized it, quoted it For those of us wandering in the arid desert of Eisenhower Republicanism, it hit like a rifle shot. In the early sixties one could find Goldwater badges and clubs at universities across the country. Expressing the sense of rebellion that Goldwater's book helped inspire, one student conservative explained the phenomenon: "You walk around with your Goldwater button, and you feel that thrill of treason.

In July, Nixon met with Nelson Rockefeller, the governor of New York, and agreed to change the party platform to win moderate-Republican support. Conservatives were outraged, referring to the pact, in Goldwater's words, as the "Munich of the Republican Party.

The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism

A few days later, at the Republican National Convention, an angry Goldwater called on conservatives to "grow up" and take control of the party. And that, according to Brennan, is exactly what they set out to do.


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At a time when "liberal and moderate Republicans, like the rest of the country at that time and like historians ever since, continued to view conservatives in a one-dimensional mode," conservatives believed that Goldwater's popularity, the rise of a conservative press, and the growing strength of conservative youth groups boded well for the future. Increasingly disillusioned with Republican moderates and with the whole tenor of American political debate, the right began to see organization as the key to political power. In the midst of the presidential campaign, for example, William Buckley, the conservative fundraiser Marvin Liebman, and almost a hundred student activists met at Buckley's estate in Sharon, Connecticut, and formed Young Americans for Freedom.

Within six months the organization could claim more than a hundred campus and precinct-level political-action groups and at least 21, dues-paying members. Using newsletters, radio broadcasts, and frequent rallies, YAF had almost overnight become a powerful nationwide movement. Had Young Americans for Freedom and other grassroots organizations remained isolated from one another, their impact would have been weak.

But in the political activist F. Clifton White organized a movement to nominate a conservative for President. Traveling around the country, White exhorted conservatives to seize control of their local party organizations and elect conservative delegates to the national convention.

Kathryn Olmsted on the Roots of Modern Conservatism

The movement orchestrated by White gave conservatives control over the Republican Party and helped to persuade Goldwater to run for President. Capturing the presidential nomination was one thing; winning the presidency proved much more difficult. In the early s conservatives tried to distance themselves from the radical right.

No group troubled conservatives more than the John Birch Society. With organizations in all fifty states, thousands of members who, according to Brennan, were "zealous letter writers, demonstrators, and voters" , and a full-time staff, the society wielded significant influence. But Birchers, many of whom believed that Dwight Eisenhower and other government officials were Communist agents, tarnished the reputations of more-rational conservatives.

Buckley understood the problem: conservatism, he explained, had to bring "into our ranks those people who are, at the moment, on our immediate left--the moderate, wishy-washy conservatives. I am talking If they are being asked to join a movement whose leadership believes the drivel of Robert Welch [the founder of the John Birch Society], they will pass by crackpot alley, and will not pause until they feel the warm embrace of those way over on the other side, the Liberals.

But in Goldwater could not escape the taint of extremism.


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Brennan points out that despite their sporadic attacks on the radical right, conservatives were still political neophytes. Goldwater and his supporters believed that all they had to do was expose Americans to conservative ideas. But Goldwater had no positive program, and spent much of the campaign railing against Social Security and threatening to roll back the Communist tide.