Lee's statement that "we are not a democracy" has a long genealogy on the American right, and is not that different from what others have said recently. /1
Remember that in 2016, Trump economic advisor, Stephen Moore, said, "I'm not even a big believer in democracy." /2
As Lisa McGirr shows in the "Preface to the New Edition" of her classic study of conservatism, Suburban Warriors, such statements are not uncommon. In 2014, Tea Party Rep. Fred Yoho confessed to "radical ideas of democracy" by limiting voting rights to property owners (p. xxi) /3
In 2010, Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips said restricting voting to property owners "makes a lot of sense." (Quoted in McGirr, p. xxii) /4
Going back further in time, the idea that we are a "republic" and not a "democracy" was central to John Birch Society rhetoric. This passage is from a full-page JBS advertisement in 1966. newspapers.com/clip/60727404/
According to this JBS member in 1961, "The country was considered a republic and NOT a democracy until the commies decided to call us this./6
Such rhetoric extends back to the anti-New Dealers. H.W. Prentis, Jr., later the president of the National Association of Manufacturers, complained in 1939 about the "favorable connotation that the word democracy possesses in the mind of the masses."/7
The distinction was also critical to the anti-communist columnist, Westbrook Pegler, who was both a New Deal opponent and, later, a JBS supporter. This is from 1950./8
Gore Vidal's 1961 analysis seems strikingly relevant today: "What the reaction really wants to say is that the will of the majority as expressed through elections should be circumvented." /9

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More from @LarryGlickman

29 Sep
I love this story so much because it replicates the story I tell to begin Chapter 4 of FREE ENTERPRISE: in 1948 the 15 y.o. son of DeWitt Emery, a leading free enterpriser, has to write an essay explaining free enterprise but can't find a definition for it any reference work. /1
Emery was so upset by this that he sent his secretary to the Chicago Public Library, where, despite being assisted by three top-notch reference librarians, she was unable to find a definition of free enterprise either./2
This set off what I call in my book a "free enterprise freakout," a periodic condition of free enterprise discourse, the first of which happened in 1943, when a Gallup Poll revealed that only 3 in 10 Americans could define the term "free enterprise."/3
Read 11 tweets
27 Sep
Echoes of Louis Hartz: "We are a country founded along the contours of a philosophy...liberalism...that underlies our founding documents and our national ethos of individualism, self-reliance, liberty, equality and tolerance."
Since Hartz wrote THE LIBERAL TRADITION IN AMERICA, scholars have challenged this view of a triumphant and monolithic liberalism, as well as the idea of "national ethos."
What about the competing traditions of civic republicanism or producerism, to name only two? What about the re-evaluation of Locke's work in the scholarship of the late Richard Ashcraft and many others?
Read 4 tweets
13 Sep
Excellent article by @KBAndersen but I think it is a misinterpretation, though a common one, to say that the Powell Memo was the "founding scripture for an economic crusade to discredit the New Deal consensus and rewrite the social contract." /1 nytimes.com/2020/09/11/bus…
In my book, FREE ENTERPRISE, I wrote that "the document is less important because it was original than because it synthesized so many elements of a pervasive free enterprise discourse" that had been around since the start of the New Deal. /2
What was different was less than the text than the _context_. Although the Powell Memo didn't say much that was new, it said it at a time when the New Deal order was beginning to fall apart and an emerging conservatism was becoming more popular. /3
Read 7 tweets
10 Sep
Whereas Trump thinks the way to reduce "panic" is to lie, in his First Inaugural, FDR, who also wanted to reduce "fear" and "terror," said in the 3rd sentence, "This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly."/1
In that speech, FDR claimed (with considerable exaggeration, it must be said) "In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor" has been met with the "understanding and support of the people."/2
Moreover, FDR didn't say the problem would magically go away. Instead, he offered a diagnosis of the problem and a series of proposed solutions: "Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously."/3
Read 10 tweets
3 Sep
No matter how often it’s repeated, it is not accurate to suggest that non-college-educated whites make up the entirety of the category of “blue collar workers.” The latter category includes many people of color. nytimes.com/2020/09/02/opi…
There is a frustrating slippage throughout Sandel's article. For example, he writes, "In 2016, two-thirds of whites without a college degree voted for Mr. Trump, while Hillary Clinton won more than 70 percent of voters with advanced degrees."/2
Shouldn't he be comparing _people_ without a college degree versus those with advanced degrees? Why does he only include "whites" in that category, particularly when we know that, since 1964, a majority of whites have supported the Republican in every presidential election. /3
Read 6 tweets
31 Aug
Thread: I have a new piece in the @washingtonpost about why Ronald Reagan’s laughably bad prediction that the passage of Medicare would destroy freedom is frequently recycled by conservatives, most recently by Eric Trump at the RNC. /1
Here’s a link to Reagan’s 1961 speech./2
As I show, Reagan’s 1961 prediction was itself recycled from anti-New Dealers who made similar incorrect predictions about being “the last generation to receive and cherish the legacy of liberty,” as one New Deal critic put it in 1936./3
Read 11 tweets

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