Right-Wing Populism in America

Too Close for Comfort

Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons

Paperbacke-bookprint + e-book
November 2, 2000
ISBN 9781572305625
Price: $30.00
499 Pages
Size: 6.12" x 9.25"
May 6, 2016
ePub ?
Price: $30.00
499 Pages
print + e-book
Paperback + e-Book (ePub) ?
Price: $60.00 $33.00
499 Pages

Right-wing militias and other antigovernment organizations have received heightened public attention since the Oklahoma City bombing. While such groups are often portrayed as marginal extremists, the values they espouse have influenced mainstream politics and culture far more than most Americans realize. This important volume offers an in-depth look at the historical roots and current landscape of right-wing populism in the United States. Illuminated is the potent combination of anti-elitist rhetoric, conspiracy theories, and ethnic scapegoating that has fueled many political movements from the colonial period to the present day. The book examines the Jacksonians, the Ku Klux Klan, and a host of Cold War nationalist cliques, and relates them to the evolution of contemporary electoral campaigns of Patrick Buchanan, the militancy of the Posse Comitatus and the Christian Identity movement, and an array of millennial sects. Combining vivid description and incisive analysis, Berlet and Lyons show how large numbers of disaffected Americans have embraced right-wing populism in a misguided attempt to challenge power relationships in U.S. society. Highlighted are the dangers these groups pose for the future of our political system and the hope of progressive social change.

Winner—Outstanding Book Award, Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America

“This book shines brilliant light on right-wing populist movements that have undermined democracy throughout U.S. history—and are still influencing politics and policies today. The book shows how populist rhetoric has been used by far-right and mainstream politicians alike to divide people with scapegoating and deflect them from achieving greater social and economic equity.”

—Holly Sklar, author of Chaos or Community?: Seeking Solutions, Not Scapegoats for Bad Economics

“This long-awaited history and critical analysis has arrived right on time. The increased presence of the Right in this country has confused many people with its varied shapes and forms. This book gives the context needed for students and monitors of the Right to understand why these antidemocratic forces continue to thrive in our society.”

—Suzanne Pharr, author of In the Time of the Right: Reflections on Liberation, and Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism

“This book makes significant strides toward a greater understanding of right-wing social movements in the United States. Berlet and Lyons present a holistic sociopolitical history that avoids many common theoretical pitfalls and oversimplifications. Instead of separating right-wing organizations into 'mainstream' and 'extremist' groups, these authors examine shades of populist ideologies that lead to both convergence and contradiction on the American political landscape. Their timely and compelling arguments lead us to reevaluate our definitions of these social movements and call for a reexamination of ineffective social policies aimed at containing right-wing groups. This accessible and engaging book is appropriate for use in undergraduate and graduate classes and will also be useful for a more general readership.”

—Stephanie Shanks-Meile, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Indiana University Northwest

“Chip Berlet has been a valuable resource for many years to everyone concerned about the potentially dangerous right-wing ideological strains that operate in this country. His work with Political Research Associates has been a most important source of data and analysis. Now he and Matthew Lyons have made yet another major contribution. Right Wing Populism in America builds on their years of expertise to provide a sweeping historical account of the tradition of such tendencies in American politics....This is an important analysis for everyone—scholars and nonspecialists alike—who wishes to understand the complex, sometimes ugly forces that have participated in shaping the American political landscape.”

—Adolph Reed, Jr., author of Class Notes

Table of Contents


1. Rebellious Colonizers: Bacon's Rebellion and the American Revolution

2. The Real People: Antimasonry, Jacksonianism, and Anti-Catholic Nativism

3. A Great Mongrel Military Despotism: The First Ku Klux Klan and the Anti-Chinese Crusade

4. Barbarians and Plunder Leagues: Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressives

5. 100 Percent Americanism: World War I-Era Repression and the Second Ku Klux Klan

6. The Industrialist as Producer: Henry Ford's Corporate Empire

7. Driving Out the Money Changers: Fascist Politics in the New Deal Era

8. From New Deal to Cold War: Political Scapegoating and Business Conflict from the 1930s to the 1950s

9. The Pillars of U.S. Populist Conspiracism: The John Birch Society and the Liberty Lobby

10. From Old Right to New Right: Godless Communism, Civil Rights, and Secular Humanism

11. Culture Wars and Political Scapegoats: Gender, Sexuality, and Race

12. Dominion Theology and Christian Nationalism: Hard-Line Ideology versus Pragmatism

13. New Faces for White Nationalism: Reframing Supremacist Narratives

14. Battling the New World Order: Patriots and Armed Militias

15. The Vast Clinton Conspiracy Machine: The Hard Right on the Center Stage

16. The New Millennium: Demonization, Conspiracism, and Scapegoating in Transition




About the Authors

Chip Berlet has written about right-wing movements for over 20 years, with bylines in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Progressive, and scores of other publications. He is senior analyst at Political Research Associates in Somerville, MA, and editor of Eyes Right! Challenging the Right Wing Backlash. He has contributed articles and chapters to several scholarly books and journals and his media appearances and citations as an expert include Newsweek, National Public Radio, and Nightline.

Matthew N. Lyons is a historian, activist, and writer whose work has focused on systems of oppression and social movements. He is research associate for the Hansberry-Nemiroff Archival, Educational, and Cultural Fund, and author of The Grassroots Network: Radical Nonviolence in the Federal Republic of Germany, 1972-1985.


Interested general readers; students and scholars of politics, sociology, and U.S. history.

May serve as a text in undergraduate and graduate-level courses.

Winner—Outstanding Book Award, Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America