Many commentators have expressed shock at the so-called rise of the far right in America at the expense of “responsible” and “respectable” conservatism. But as David Austin Walsh shows, the mainstream conservative movement and the far right have been intertwined for nearly a century, and both were born out of a “right-wing popular front” linking racists, anti-Semites, and fascists in a broad coalition opposed to socialism, communism, and New Deal liberalism.
This coalition included Merwin Hart, a New York business lobbyist active in far-right circles who became a lobbyist for the Franco regime in Spain, the original “America First” movement, the movement to prevent Jewish immigration to the United States after World War II, the John Birch Society, the American Nazi Party, the George Wallace campaign of 1968, the fight over the NEH, and Pat Buchanan’s support of Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk during the Reagan Administration.
Far from being outliers in the broader conservative coalition, these extremist elements were foundational in the creation of a right-wing political culture centered around shared political enemies, a penchant for conspiracy theories, and a desire to restore America to its “authentic” pre–New Deal values.
“This is going to be a book to reckon with and I think it will take its place as one of the most important studies that we have not just of modern conservatism but of twentieth-century American political culture.”—Lawrence B. Glickman, author of Free Enterprise
“A masterful unearthing of the deep connection between America’s Far right ‘lunatic fringe’ and ‘respectable conservatism,’ showing how they were brought together by anti-Black racism, anti-Semitism, hatred of labor unions, and opposition to the expansion of the welfare state. Walsh’s research shows that far from being a sudden turn in the age of Trump, this toxic partnership has been active in American politics since the 1930s.”—Hasia Diner, New York University
“Walsh digs deep into the archives to provide shrewd, fresh insights into one of the most pressing questions in modern American politics: how did a conservative movement that had supposedly 'purged' its extremist fringe give us Donald Trump and his epigones.”—Rick Perlstein, author of Reaganland: America’s Right Turn, 1976-1980