An interesting take on the origins of contemporary U.S. conservatism is offered in an interview with Kathryn Olmsted in Salon today, “We’re Getting the Right All Wrong: The Surprising Origins of Modern Conservative Movement.” The interviewer, Ellias Isquith, frames the conversation:
With the notable exception of #tcot and National Review’s Kevin Williamson, most informed and engaged observers of American politics understand how central the civil rights movement — and the backlash against its successes — was to the creation of the conservative movement. The narrative has many well-known manifestations; there’s the (perhaps apocryphal) story of LBJ claiming the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would “lose” the South for the Democratic Party for “a generation.” There’s the Southern Strategy. There’s the GOP’s embrace of “states’ rights.”
But what if that narrative is wrong — or at least incomplete? What if the conservative movement’s creation happened earlier, and westward? What if the archetypal founder of the modern right is not a former Dixiecrat or a resentful “Reagan Democrat,” but rather a mega-tycoon like, say, one of the Koch brothers? What if the foundation of conservatism as we know it wasn’t laid by recalcitrant segregationists in the Deep South in the 1960s, but by anti-labor big businessmen in 1930s California instead?
Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco, CA. For more on the “Waterfront Strike of 1934” in San Francisco pictured here, see “Found.”