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Conservatism and Racism, and Why in America They Are the Same

Robert C. Smith

Publication Year: 2010

Systematically illustrates the inescapable racism of American conservatism. In this provocative, wide-ranging study, Robert C. Smith contends that ideological conservatism and racism are and always have been equivalent in the United States. In this carefully constructed and thoroughly documented philosophical, historical, and empirical inquiry, Smith analyzes conservative ideas from John Locke to William F. Buckley, Jr., as well as the parallels between the rise and decline of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1970s and the ascendancy of the conservative movement to national power in 1980. Using archival material from the Reagan library, the book includes detailed analysis of the Reagan presidency and race, focusing on affirmative action, the Voting Rights act, the Grove City case, welfare reform, South Africa policy, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Conservatism and Racism, and Why in America They are the Same goes beyond a focus on the right wing, concluding with an analysis of the enduring impact of the conservative movement and the Reagan presidency on liberalism, race, and the Democratic Party.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page

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pp. vii-viii

List of Tables

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xii

I usually at the end acknowledge the assistance of my beautiful bird in the preparation of manuscripts. Th is time, however, I do so at the outset. For over thirty years beginning with my dissertation and through ten books and dozens of papers and articles my wife, Scottie, as critic, editor, typist, and word processor has been the indispensable person. She has provided this...

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pp. 1-6

I decided to write this book shortly after Ronald Reagan's funeral. In the long lines of mourners who gathered to pay their respects to the president at the Capitol in Washington and the presidential library in Simi Valley, California, there were very few African Americans. In the course of the nearly week-long commemoration of Reagan's life and legacy—where he was lauded as one of...

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Chapter 1. Defining the Terms of Discourse

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pp. 7-13

Most of the literature on the American political tradition asserts that the United States is a liberal society, without a significant conservative tradition. I contend that the American political tradition is pervasively conservative with, contrary to much of the literature, liberalism rather than conservatism being the "remnant," the "illusion," or the "thankless...

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Chapter 2. Lockean "Liberalism" as the Conservative Ideology in America

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pp. 15-32

The philosophy of John Locke, by any contemporary understanding, postulates an ideology of conservatism. Yet as C. B. Macpherson writes, "Locke has suffered as much as anyone and more than most, from having had modern liberal-democratic assumptions read into his political thought."1 Locke's ideology is fundamentally concerned with defending laissez-faire capitalism...

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Chapter 3. The Special Place of the South in American Conservatism

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pp. 33-39

The South is and always has been the most conservative part of America, conservative in an almost militant espousal of Lockean principles and institutions, as well as the only part of the country that claimed some sort of Burkean aristocratic or organic conservatism. The South also has always been the most racist part of the country. Here in a very simple and direct sense is...

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Chapter 4. The Rise of the Liberal Remnant

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pp. 41-62

Liberalism in the United States is understood as the rejection of the Lockean idea of the "negative" policeman state in favor of the Roussean "positive" welfare state, in which the government intervenes in the economy, society, and the states in order to secure the rights of individuals and provide them with some degree of social security in the form of education, housing, health...

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Chapter 5. African American Thought and the Conservative Remnant

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pp. 63-76

"Manifestly, the ideology has little appeal to anyone discontented with the status-quo" because "conservatism is not just the absence of change. It is the articulate, systematic, theoretical resistance to change."1 The African American people, with the exception perhaps of the native peoples, have been the most consistently discontented group in the United States. Thus, they and...

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Chapter 6. Racism and the Conservative Intellectual Movement, 1945–1970

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pp. 77-90

In some ways a civil rights movement in the United States is as old as or older than the union. Th e earliest petitions and pamphlets urging the debastardization of Locke may be understood as the inchoate stirrings of the movement. The abolitionist movement and the slave revolts and rumors of revolts represented the first organized expression of these stirrings and, as discussed...

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Chapter 7. Racism and Neoconservatism, 1968–1980

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pp. 91-105

Modern conservatism after 1945 was a reaction to the New Deal, modernity, international Communism, and the beginnings of the protest phase of the civil rights movement. Neoconservatism or the men and women who became neoconservatives generally supported the New Deal, modernity, Brown, and the early civil rights protest. Cold war liberals, they viewed the civil rights...

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Chapter 8. The Ascendancy of Ronald Reagan and the Parts Played by Ideology and Race

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pp. 107-141

This chapter examines the ascendancy of the conservative movement to national power, with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. The seeds of Reagan's election were first planted in the 1948 presidential election, replenished in 1964, and became fully flowered in 1968. By 1972 the fruits that would result in the 1980 election outcome were there for the...

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Chapter 9. The Reagan Presidency and Race

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pp. 143-183

Walter Dean Burnham's observation quoted near the end of the last chapter suggesting that as a result of Reagan's election blacks were isolated and that if the country really went conservative they would lose in an implicit endorsement of the thesis of this study about the relationship of conservatism to racism. Fears about a racist backlash were certainly widespread in the black community...

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Chapter 10. Conclusion

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pp. 185-194

After the ascendancy of Ronald Reagan, his landslide reelection, and the election of his vice president to succeed him, influential Democratic Party elites came to believe that the party could not recapture the presidency unless it disassociated itself from the interest of African Americans. From 1968 to 1988 issues related to race occupied an important place in national elections...


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pp. 195-259

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About the Author

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pp. 261

Robert C. Smith, professor of political science, San Francisco State University, is the author of the Encyclopedia of African American Politics, as well as many books including Race, Class, and Culture: A Study in Afro-American Mass Opinion; Racism in the Post Civil Rights Era: Now You See It, Now You Don't, We Have No Leaders: African Americans in the Post Civil Rights Era; and African American Leadership, all published...


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pp. 263-273

E-ISBN-13: 9781438432342
E-ISBN-10: 1438432348
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438432335
Print-ISBN-10: 143843233X

Page Count: 285
Illustrations: 2 tables
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Race relations.
  • Racism -- United States.
  • Conservatism -- United States.
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