The Far Right Hates Liberals, Government and the Media — And Now, QuarantinesRoundup
tags: conservatism, populism, Protest, far-right, coronavirus
Timothy J. Lombardo is an assistant professor of history at the University of South Alabama and the author of "Blue-Collar Conservatism: Frank Rizzo's Philadelphia and Populist Politics."
Behind these protests is an underlying rage at elites, liberals, government and the media that is part of a half-century tradition of right-wing populism.
It started a long time ago, but nothing stoked right-wing populist anger like the mid-20th century battles about desegregation. In the North and West as much in the South, and in rural areas as much as in cities, white rage followed everywhere that civil rights activists, court decisions or new legislation threatened the status quo of racial segregation. Images of snarling white students confronting the Little Rock Nine, rioting suburbanites in Levittown, Pa., and violent antibusing demonstrations in Boston became touchstones for an entire era of segregationist resistance and lingering symbols of the rage that underpinned efforts to maintain the nation’s racial caste system.
There was no shortage of populist firebrands who stoked this anger, but no one capitalized on “the politics of rage” quite like then-presidential candidate and Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who became notorious for promising “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” and made a career out of tapping into the anxieties and frustrations of the white electorate.
When he lambasted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as “fraud, a shame, and a hoax” in a now-famous speech, he not only attacked the Johnson administration’s signature piece of civil rights legislation but accused the federal government of tyranny for trying to enforce desegregation. Wallace’s sentiments were far from a regional phenomenon, and he swept predominantly white precincts in blue-collar areas of Indiana, Wisconsin and Maryland when he challenged President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1964 Democratic primary.
But Wallace found a litany of new targets during his third-party run for president in 1968, including anti-Vietnam War protesters, disruptive student activists, and “pointy-headed intellectuals.” That grievance against intellectuals and elites, not unlike his one against a tyrannical federal government, created a long-standing enemy for the populist right who think that intellectuals and elites forced unwanted new ideas that challenged society’s traditional foundations.
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