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[From the Archive]

The Radical Right

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In tracing the pedigree of the American conservative movement we must note that from, say, 1935 to 1955 (from the rise of Father Coughlin to the demise of Joseph McCarthy), the emergence of a powerful radical “right” in America was a possibility. This followed a development in Europe, though with the usual time lag. There, 1920 to 1945 was a quarter-century during which radicalism was no longer the monopoly of the left; when neither Communism nor capitalism but what is—inadequately and imprecisely—called “fascism” was the rising and dynamic political phenomenon, eventually leading to the Second World War, when men such as Hitler and Mussolini proved to be the dynamic world statesmen once Wilson and Lenin were gone. In the United States, too, the Depression was followed by the rise of the popular appeal of radical nationalists. When in 1941 Senator Robert A. Taft said that the danger to America was not Hitlerism but Communism—for fascism appeals but to a few, and Communism to the many—his diagnosis was entirely wrong; yet less than a decade later most Americans agreed, having convinced themselves that Communism was a far greater danger than fascism had ever been.

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