A Short History of Right-Wing Populism Until the Birth of Matt Bai

New York Times political analyst Matt Bai writes in a post-election piece (11/4/10):

A powerful force in the party, Ms. [Sarah] Palin represents an aggrieved, anti-elitist strain of conservatism that goes back to Richard M. Nixonâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s Silent Majority. It is a rural conservative impulse, rooted most firmly in the South and West, that equates liberal government with tyranny and anti-Americanism.

Matt Bai was born in 1968–perhaps not coincidentally, the year Nixon was elected president, and a year before he gave his “Silent Majority” speech that Palin’s politics “go back to.” But angry right-wing populism has been a major strand in American politics even before Bai was born–or before Nixon was born, for that matter–linking together the Know Nothings of the pre-Civil War era and the Ku Klux Klan in the war’s aftermath, the followers of Father Coughlin in the Great Depression, Joe McCarthy in the era that bears his name and the John Birch Society soon after.

Not that all of this needs to be mentioned in an article speculating about Sarah Palin’s response to the ’10 midterms–but it would be nice if you got the sense that New York Times political analysts understood that history started before they were born.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.