Contributed by Glen Davis
The presidency of Donald Trump saw a mobilising of conspiracy theorists, and other far right groupings, in the United States of America (USA). Trump as President, was a member of the
Republican Party. This is not the first time the conservative, Republican Party has had an entity to its Right trying to control/direct it.
Way back in the 1960’s the John Birch Society became a well-known player in ranks of the right-wing politics in USA and around the world. It was set up in December 1958 by Robert W Welch junior, and had links to other wealthy identities. The organisation remains active today.
The Koch organisation, which went on to fund the Tea Party, and then the Donald Trump campaign, was one of the principal backers of the John Birch Society.
To them, the enemy was clear: it was Communism, which meant anything to the left of Adolf Hitler. They maintained a conspiracy theory that the aim of their enemy was
a One World Socialist Government. sound familiar? They said that communism was
omnipresent across the globe, particularly in the U S and adjacent countries. For them it was a crusade for God, the American Way, and most importantly profit; pretty much all one, and the same.
One-time USA President Dwight D Eisenhower was accused of being a communist and leading a communist controlled government. The judiciary and most of the bureaucracy were apparently communists. Even the Vietnam War was said to be a proxy war that helped communism.
The John Birch Society spread its message far and wide. Billboards, publications, leaflets, public meetings, all carried their messages. Regular letter/postcard writing to politicians saw up to 600,000 supporters actively involved.
They demanded actions such as abolishing income tax, preserving/strengthening the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee, that the USA withdraw from the United Nations, which was apparently a communist front group, as well stopping the fluoridation of water, as it was a communist plot.
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan was one who was aware of them early on. His 1962 released Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues, contributed to an awareness of the mindset of the John Birch Society.
Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues
Video from Xavier Essex
By the early 1960’s there was possibly 100,000 members, and there was a concerted effort to take over the Republicans. We saw well known right wingers like Richard B Nixon, and Ronald Reagan, find the John Birch Society even too extreme for them.
When Nixon ran for Governor of California in 1962, he attacked the John Birch Society as being extreme. They mobilised against him, splitting his support base,
We then saw, Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater accepted their support in his presidential campaign of 1964, before he was thumped by Lyndon B Johnson.
Ronald Reagan won the California Governorship. After initially being a John Birch Society fellow traveler, he found them an electoral liability, especially after Goldwater’s defeat in 1964
Reagan spoke of a ‘lunatic fringe’ taking over the John Birch Society. Though they fiercely attacked him, Reagan managed to defeat the Democrat incumbent.
Let’s not pretend Reagan was a moderate. His election campaign spoke of cleaning up the ‘welfare bums’, as well as taking action against anti-Vietnam war protestors, though even this was not enough for the John Birch Society.