Paranoid Patriotism: The Radical Right and the South

by BETTYE. CHMAJ The emerging power of the radical right-wing groups in the South is a source of concern in national politics. The combination of two fears — fear of Communism and fear of the Negro — forms a particularly explosive threat to politics, education, and calm thinking. BETTY B. CHAMAJ, who teaches at the University Center for Adult Education in Detroit, analyzes the types, traditional background, and possible effect on this fall’s elections of the Southern radical right.

SINCE the story of the John Birch Society broke in the national press, more than a year ago, Americans have been astonished to learn that some two thousand organizations with a total membership of perhaps eight million (according to figures cited by Senator Herbert Lehman in the New York Times last December) are fervently engaged in fighting an “internal Communist menace.” At first, the Birchers and their sympathizers were dismissed as hatemongers, lunatics, and simpletons. But as their numbers multiplied, national leaders everywhere rushed forward to warn and to explain. The new “super-patriotism,” they said, was the reaction of the frustrated to such international crises as the U-2 incident, the failure of summitry, and the problems in Cuba and Berlin. The right-wing extremist was defined as an individual who sought refuge from these realities in the conspiracy theory of history and the either-or cosmology of the paranoid. “Men who are unwilling to face up to the danger from without are convinced that the real danger comes from within,” said President Kennedy last year, and many observers found his analysis sound.

While several of the larger anti-Communist organizations have attracted a nationwide following, the rightist movement is most pronounced in the Southwest and the South — that is, the South of the old Confederacy, which extends, these days, to Fort Worth. Why some regions should be especially vulnerable to an epidemic of paranoid patriotism at this time is a pertinent question. The South is a particularly intriguing subject for study, since the current anti-Red reaction in the South can be traced to events which antedate both the John Birch Society and the recent international crises.

The most important of these events was the 1954 Supreme Court decision on school desegregation, to which the South responded by organizing the White Citizens Councils. Another was the news of the brainwashing of Korean prisoners of war, to which the National Security Council responded with its directive of 1958, urging military officers to enlighten their troops and the public on cold-war issues, a directive which received a warm welcome at the many military bases located in Dixie. By 1957, it had become standard procedure for Citizens Councils to equate the Supreme Court and the N.A.A.C.P. with Communism. By 1959, projects and seminars like those introduced to the military bases by newly organized anti-Communist groups were spreading into communities and schools throughout the South. By 1961, the two forces of reaction had discovered their common enemy, internal Communism, and encouraged by the general resurgence of conservatism throughout the nation, had greatly expanded their size and power. Today, the Southern right-wing groups range on the political spectrum from a proper “pro-blue” to a vile ultraviolet, but they unite in their desire to save the nation from its alleged swing toward the infra-Red, and also in their common insistence upon calling themselves “conservatives” with a dogmatism not unlike that of the lady who declared, “I am not an extreme rightist, but I am extremely right.”

A SURVEY of these groups logically begins with the most regional among them, the Citizens Councils. As early as November of 1956. William Simmons, a leader of the Councils movement, called its half million members “much more than a white supremacy group,” claiming that they were “working side by side with other patriotic groups in the North” and that they represented “fundamentally, the first real stirrings of a conservative revolt in this country.” There is reason today to believe he was at least partly right. The Councils sought to establish their larger patriotism by linking integration with Communism. Scholars with Communist-front records were said to have contributed to Gunnar Myrdal’s An American Dilemma, which, in turn, influenced the Supreme Court’s decisions on desegregation. The drive to link these decisions with Communism has been led by Senator James O. Eastland of Mississippi, who told the Senate in 1955 that the Court had been “influenced and infiltrated by Reds" and has since reiterated his assertion that the decisions were “dictated by political pressure groups bent upon the destruction of the American system of government and the mongrelization of the white race.” The Councils and their allied groups go out of their way to pass credit to the John Birch Society, which professes no discrimination on the basis of race, creed, or national origin, for initiating the drive to impeach Earl Warren.

The N.A.A.C.P., meanwhile, was called the inspiration of the pro-Communist Negro W. E. B. DuBois and was outlawed in several states on the grounds that its leaders had “front records.” Rightists do not, of course, mention that the N.A.A.C.P. was founded before the October Revolution in Russia, long before most Americans even knew what the word “Communist” meant. Louisiana has disqualified Negro voters in its drive to “victory”—so says the 1959 Manual of Procedures for voting registrars — in “the life and death struggle with the Communists and the N.A.A.C.P. to maintain segregation and the liberties of our people”; while Mississippi has imported professional anti-Communists to “earn their fee,” as Hodding Carter puts it, “by implying that those who challenge the segregationist line are members of the Communist apparatus.”

The amalgam that always includes the Communists, the Warren Court, and the N.A.A.C.P. was, from the first, designed to take in other enemies of the South as well. Early Councils folders warned Southerners to be wary of “socializers” in labor unions, churches, and schools, and told them flatty: “This integration scheme ties right in with the new one world, one creed, one race philosophy fostered by the ultra-idealists and the international left-wingers.” The same theme is echoed by the Shreveport Journal’s Dr. Medford Evans, who writes a regular column entitled “The South: Soviet Target,” in which he argues that the Communists are promoting integration in order to “destroy the South — the nation’s largest region and the location of its main military defenses”; and by speakers at anti-Communist rallies who blame “self-styled intellectuals” in Washington for helping the Communists by encouraging “those young toughs who call themselves Freedom Riders.”

Joining the fear of desegregation with the fear of international Communism produces an emotional knot strong enough to paralyze reflective thought. The tactics are even more effective when they receive the official blessing of the law. The triple alliance of segregationists, anti-Communists, and local law enforcement agencies, established on the state and community levels in about 1955, was tightened last year by a new region-wide organization called the Southern Association of Intelligence Agents. The association’s stated purpose is to aid the F.B.I. in combating subversive activities on the local level, where “different problems” are said to confront the law. Attempts to maneuver the opposition to the side of force and violence by canting of “law and order” and “local control” are combined with contradictory efforts to invoke the codes of the battlefield, so revered in Dixie, through references to “war,” “victory,” and “struggles to the death.” The appeal to honor and the awe inspired by official authority reappears in frequent quotation of J. Edgar Hoover on the imminence of the internal Communist threat, and frequent requests for military officers to attend anti-Communist rallies, if only to sit in uniform on the platform.

BUT if the appeals to honor and the law are strong, the appeal to religious authority is stronger. Today, as in the past, the church is a central force in the South, shaping social attitudes and reflecting regional conditions. Recently, historians have noted a growth in the ranks of fundamentalist churches and an increase in the prosperity of roving evangelists of the region. A revived suspicion of the Northern liberal pulpit, reminiscent of Southern sentiment at the time of the Scopes trial, appears in the concerted attack upon the National Council of Churches. Opposition to liberalism, especially liberalism that comes in the form of social gospel, is the plank that unites the views of religious ultraconservatives with the political platform of right-wing extremists. The connection is frequently made by equating the Communist conspiracy against America with Satan’s ancient conspiracy against the church. Evangelists like Billy James Hargis turn political by declaring, “This war-to-death struggle between freedom and Communism is actually a battle between good and evil, the Christ and the AntiChrist,” while politicians like J. Strom Thurmond turn evangelist by asserting, “This war we’re in is basically a fight between the believers in a Supreme Being and the atheists.”

There are larger Southern followings for such religiously oriented groups as Hargis’ Christian Crusade (formerly called the Christian Conscience Crusade), Fred C. Schwarz’s Christian AntiCommunist Crusade, and Gerald L. K. Smith’s much older Christian Nationalist Crusade. Hargis has been enjoying singular success in the South. Born in Texas, educated at the Ozark Bible College in Arkansas, and in Puerto Rico, Hargis was a pastor in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, before establishing headquarters for his Crusade in Tulsa. His central stress is that the Communists, who have “practically destroyed traditional Americanism” through their control over public and private institutions, are “completely, militantly, and ruthlessly atheistic” and motivated solely by hate. He maintains that the “infamous” segregation controversy has been stirred up by “neither the Negro people nor the White people” of the South but by the “envious Communists, the fellowtravelers, the so-called ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives’ and the ‘social reformers’ ” who feel “no love for the Negro people.”

Symptomatic of the new relationships between fundamentalist religions, conservative politics, and racial interests was the prompt response of the Southern radical right to the Supreme Court’s ruling last June holding that the school prayer prescribed by the New York Board of Regents was unconstitutional. Although reaction against the ruling was marked throughout the region (all of the senators sponsoring bills to nullify the Court’s action were Southerners), the strongest language came from the superpatriots of the Bible Belt, who branded it as “a furthering of the antiGod forces” in the land, a sign that “the Red flag is going up in America,” and proof that the “twisted thinking” of Court members “fits beautifully with the Communist Master Plan.” To the

segregationists, the ruling offered one more pretext for intensifying their assault on the Court.

The crusade against Communism in Southern public schools and colleges has also been effective. The intellectual center for all the new right-wing programs, North and South, is located at Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas. Harding’s National Education Program boasts that twenty-five million people a year come into contact with its literature, kits, workshops, traveling experts, and films. In Texas, education for the right wing has become a booming concern. A group of businessmen is offering $10,000 to every Texas school that agrees to teach “Americanism” from its approved material and is providing free lectures for the teachers of these courses. Houston has educational programs for the entire community, including a “Teens Against Communism” forum. Dallas, which alone supports over one hundred anti-Communist groups, requires that a course called “Ways to Fight Communism” be included in the public school curriculum.

A factor which has strengthened the arguments of extremists who have long been concerned over the slanting of young minds by sly educationists is the recent shift in public sentiment away from progressive education. Ultrarightists are now taking credit for having said all along that “Progressive Education is Red-ucation.” From Sapulpa to St. Petersburg, according to Robert Iverson’s report, books have been burned and teachers dismissed in the effort to purge schools of “socialism and sex” or “sex and slanted history.” Lieutenant H. A. Poole of the Southern Association of Intelligence Agents told the press last fall that Communist infiltration in the schools was a major Southern problem, explaining, “When you’re dealing with educational institutions, you’re dealing with dynamite. They’ve got this academic freedom” ! Antisegregation leaders contend that Poole’s organization is a new excuse for extending the drive against racial desegregation in the schools, related through its founders to the Florida congressional investigations which, ostensibly hunting for homosexuals and Communists in the colleges, succeeded in obtaining the dismissal of at least fifteen university faculty members who favored integration.

THUS far, I have noted the interaction among anti-Communists, segregationists, law enforcement agencies, religious leaders, and educational institutions. Four groups remain to be added to the network of Southern right-wing alliances: military leaders, politicians, businessmen, and a group I shall call the fanatics.

On military bases in Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana, officers have cooperated with Hargis, Schwarz, and Harding College in preparing their “pro-blue” programs. The success of this cooperation may be illustrated by Florida’s Project Alert, which is based at the Pensacola naval training station. Initiated in 1959 through the joint efforts of the Chief of Naval Aviation Training and the National Education Program, Project Alert rapidly spread the anti-Communist message through the community and the state, and into Georgia and South Carolina. Today, the project is a permanent community agency, operating its own library and bookstore, sponsoring broadcasts, and, of course, mailing out literature. A sample of the organization’s influence was the achievement, in May of last year, of one of its main goals, the passage through the Florida legislature of a bill requiring high schools to teach a course in “the evils of Communism.”

The activities of Southern politicians like Eastland and Thurmond reflect the multiple facets of the right-wing movement. Eastland, as chairman of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, has fallen heir to McCarthy’s role as chief investigator of Communist infiltration. Thurmond, symbol of Dixiecrat sentiment, has led the attack upon the alleged muzzling of such military officers as General Edwin A. Walker.

Also of significance has been the emergence of Barry Goldwater as the acknowledged political leader of the far right in the nation as a whole. In areas where economic issues predominate, the same Southerners who looked so approvingly upon the policies of the late Robert A. Taft find the Arizona conservative even more to their liking. Goldwater has openly courted Southern political support by such tactics as maintaining that the Supreme Court’s decision on desegregation is not the law of the land, insisting that the Republican Party has spent too much time trying to “woo Negro voters,” and telling Georgians last November that his native Arizona was “Confederate territory.”

His statements led Strom Thurmond to declare in December, when Goldwater’s political fortunes were at an all-time high, that the Arizonian could win the South’s 1964 presidential vote at the head of either party. But Atlanta’s Ralph McGill angrily noted that Goldwater had become the “unexpected hero of the klans, klaverns, and councils” and had “stolen the play” from party leaders seeking to direct the South’s renascent Republicanism further toward the middle of the road. Since then, having denounced the American Nazi Party and Robert Welch, and having been denounced in turn by the right-wing Courtneys of New Orleans, Goldwater has emerged as something of a moderate, with the extremists now to his starboard side. From among these extremists, Kent and Phoebe Courtney must be singled out for attempting to mobilize citizen patriots behind unified “political action” programs. Their Solid South Conference of 1960 was noteworthy for its presumption that all Southerners were rightists, or vice versa. Though the conference made little progress, they now have a new society which supports “candidates to oppose Liberal and/or Socialist-voting Congressmen, regardless of party affiliation.”

Much has been written about the big-money support for the radical right from individual corporations and from multimillionaires in Texas and California. More important, perhaps, is the money that comes from the broad segment of middle-income business classes— the people who make the regular donations, buy the books, subscribe to the newspapers, and pay the dues of the flourishing organizations. All available data indicate that such business support has been increasing steadily and that much of it comes from newly wealthy or moderately well-to-do groups.

The fanatics, those whose intense bigotries and bizarre schemes for repulsing the Communists place them at the outer fringes of the extreme right, are also discovering that the South today offers a fertile field for exploitation, one that may even rival southern California. Historian Thomas Clark finds in the region more “opportunists” and “demagogues” than it has ever seen, expressing themselves on a broader range of subjects than ever before. The words of Admiral John G. Crommelin will serve to illustrate how even the fanatics envision an intertwining of regional, international, and supernatural phenomena. Crommelin announced his candidacy for governor in 1958 by declaring that the state of Alabama had been “selected by the Communist-Jewish Conspirators as the proving ground,” to test means for carrying out their “satanic plot to mix the blood of the White Christian people of the South with negroes” in order to achieve their “ultimate objectives,” which are:

to use their world-wide control of money to destroy Christianity and set up a World Government in the framework of the United Nations, and erase all national boundaries and eliminate all racial distinctions except the so-called Jewish race, which will then become the masters — with their headquarters in the State of Israel and in the UN in New York, and from these two communications centers rule a slave-like population of copper-colored mongrels. . . .

Ralph Ellsworth and Sarah M. Harris, who analyze several such statements in The American Right Wing, leave no doubt that in their opinion Crommelin and those like him believe absolutely in the validity of their theories.

THERE is, then, a strong rightist movement in the South, a region-wide phenomenon affecting religion, education, military and economic affairs, and the politics of both major parties. This is not to say that the movement is not strong elsewhere in the country also, nor to imply that the majority of Southerners accept the platforms of the rightwing extremists. In the South, as in the rest of the nation, the far right remains a political minority. A third party, especially in the region where the Dixiecrat failure of 1948 is still a fresh memory, is out of the question; rightists themselves, with the conspicuous exception of the Courtneys, firmly dismiss the idea as political suicide.

What makes the movement astonishing is that, for several reasons, the South is the last place in the world one might expect to find a fervent antiCommunist drive. To begin with, there is virtually no Communism in the region; the enemy is a phantom. Despite the poverty and racial unrest which ought to have provided Communist organizers with great opportunities, the South has been one area of the country where, much to their chagrin, they have experienced signal failure among both white and Negro populations. For that matter, few radical leftists of any kind are to be found in the area. The survey completed by Ralph Ellsworth last year revealed that the rightist organizer has been enjoying “better luck there than his left-wing counterpart” for a number of years. The most telling proof that the South as a region is not especially attracted to the antiCommunist issue as such was its indifference to the hysteria of the McCarthy era. According to polls analyzed by Nathan Glazer and Seymour Lipset, it was “the most anti-McCarthy section of the country.”

Most important, the South today is poignantly aware that it has been cast as a villain in the international drama which portrays the Soviet Union and the United States vying for the support of the new anticolonial powers. The Soviets, quick to take advantage of the tendency of African and Asian nations to equate imperialism with racial discrimination, have countered America’s claims to the traditions of freedom and democracy with such persistent questions as “What about Little Rock?” and “What about the lynchings in the South?” American diplomats who have had to answer these charges have, in effect, apologized for the traditional behavior of white Southerners. When the South replies by blaming the Kremlin for the activities of racial minorities, it succeeds in making the Communists the champions of freedom at the very time it boasts of its own anti-Communist loyalty.

These paradoxes can be explained, in part, by examining the historical behavior of the South when faced with a crisis requiring change. The arguments just cited serve less as a foil than as an incentive to superpatriotism. A region or group, like an individual, tends to be most vocal about its patriotism at the very time it is accused of disloyalty, as if to vindicate its wrongs by advertising its good intentions. The South has proved itself peculiarly adept at such behavior. It has, in the past, sought moral respectability before the world by professing religious fidelity and national patriotism. It has projected its own failings upon its accusers (the Negroes are worse off in the North) and embraced the paranoid delusion that an ancient, secret, many-tentacled conspiracy — of Yankees, infidels, carpetbaggers, the tariff gang — was plotting to destroy its regional integrity.

The perpetual need of the South to justify its lost causes and peculiar institutions in terms of high moral principles has often led it to rely more upon fantasy than upon mere fact. This is the region, after all, which fought a civil war not for slavery but for freedom — the freedom to enjoy the Southern way of life, the freedom promised to the states by the Constitution, the freedom to drive “foreign invaders” from its sacred soil. This is the region that compensated for its ugly industrialism after the war by imagining the mansions, magnolias, and moonlight of its glorious past. This is the South that staggered to the polls, as Will Rogers put it, to vote for Prohibition. And this is the South that, above all, professes its capacity for love — love of God, love of tradition, love of its land and its neighbors, love of America, love of the Negro. It should not be difficult to imagine a part of this same South saying today, “We’re not fighting the Negro, you see. We’re not fighting for hate. We’re fighting the Communists and the atheists. We’re fighting for Christian love, for law and order, for freedom and victory, for the way handed down by the founding fathers and hallowed, somehow, by the memory of the Confederate dead.”

The radical rightist, taking advantage of this historical sense of injury, makes his appeal to the Southern mind by modernizing what Thomas Clark calls “the eternal triangle of the Yankee, the Negro, and the Southern conscience” into a new triangle which simply substitutes the abominable Commie for the abominable Yankee and keeps the rest of the age-old arguments intact.

He then goes further. He adds to these timehonored arguments the almost equally sacrosanct shibboleths of the New South. Often the same men who boast loudest about the South’s recent economic growth under free enterprise will be most vehement about resisting social change, particularly if change means unions, taxes, and government “interference” with business. Fearful of losing regional advantages of cheap labor and low tax rates, certain industrialists find they can benefit from the suggestion that unionism and government spending are tainted with Red, an impression stronger in this region than anywhere else. The economic revolution which has industrialized and urbanized America during the last few decades has occurred much more recently and about three times more rapidly in the South than in the other sections of the country. The language of laissezfaire economics, long ago abandoned by most Northern businessmen, is still very current in parts of the South, and the rightist needs only to incorporate the capitalist’s versions of individualism (the rugged variety) and freedom (free enterprise) into his programs for traditional Americanism in order to gather respectable businessmen and rabid racists under a single tent. Common opposition to “welfare socialism" designed to aid minorities, economic or racial, unites economic rightists with racial rightists in a common demand for repealing the New Deal, the Fair Deal, and the New Frontier; and economic motivations go far to explain why the radical right has pre-empted the word “freedom,” much as the Communists have taken over the word “peace.” Moreover, in the deferential society of the modern South, the wealthy industrialists have replaced the old planter class at the top of the social ladder, lending an aura of status to certain extremist groups flourishing in the more exclusive suburbs. Related to the deference for wealth is an older deference for military rank, with retired admirals and generals who champion a hard anti-Communist line fitting neatly into the roles heretofore reserved for Confederate officers. The result is that the so-called military-industrial complex of the radical right has a powerful appeal to certain areas of the South.

Yet racial intransigence and economic selfinterest are not by themselves sufficient to account for the strength of the Southern rightist movement, especially since the pro-segregation and business interests frequently conflict. There is a third force to which the Southern right consistently appeals, one which operates to obfuscate internal differences and effectively paralyze dissent. Let me call this force naïve conservatism and define it as a utopian longing to revive the simpler society of a bygone time; a dogmatic insistence upon the cleavage between good and evil, right and wrong, loyalty and treason; and a capacity to romanticize these dogmatisms with a glow of unreality and an air of innocence that serve to blunt their cutting edges. The politician appealing to naive conservatism characteristically explains that he is fighting the Communist menace because he loves his children. Or because America is a Christian country. Such attitudes have deep roots in Southern history. At: its worst, naive conservatism can produce “an institution of Chivalry, Humanity, Mercy, and Patriotism” — as the Ku Klux Klan called itself in 1867 — to cloak terrorism in the white robes of virtue.

At its best, it can produce a program as intellectually respectable as Southern Agrarianism, the program which Virginia Rock in her definitive study of the twelve Agrarians lias described as “utopian in its vision of restoring a way of life that was being threatened” and “conservative in its defense of . . . a ‘natural aristocracy,’ a stable, ordered society rooted in family, a code of conduct, a proclivity for absolutes, a love of tradition, a strong Protestant faith.” Although the naïve conservatives of our own day cannot be classed with either the best or worst among those of the past, they share the same mood of nostalgia and the same penchant for making themselves martyrs to lost causes, indeed, often reveling in the strength and stature of the opposition.

Their fear of Communism usually takes the form of outraged passion for naïve religion, naïve patriotism, and naïve educational orthodoxy, and one has only to hear the congregations at the antiCommunist rallies shouting amens and singing “God Bless America” to realize the intensity of these emotions. When the demand for a return to the old-time religion, McGuffey’s Reader, and the political faith of our fathers becomes as much a part of the right-wing movement as the demand to impeach Earl Warren, outlaw the N.A.A.C.P., or “Get the US out of the UN and the UN out of the US,” the interaction between regional and national forces is complete.

AGAINST this background of regional history and psychology, the influence of Southern right-wing elements upon this year’s elections can be examined. Already the primaries have shown that political realities can have a chilling effect on the fervor and fantasy which sustain the impression of ultraconservative unity. Right-wing candidates, having tied their political ambitions to the two major parties at a time when Southern politics is in a state of flux, are being divided and in many cases defeated at the polls.

The economic rightists, whose efforts are sparked by the profit motive, supported by the “military-industrial complex,” and organized around the catchwords “victory,” “spending,” “free enterprise,” and “right to work,” tend to find their natural home at the far side of the Republican Party, where Barry Goldwater stands unchallenged as their spokesman. Among them are many who have strong ties with the John Birch Society.

In Texas, where economic issues predominate, the dilemma of these right-wingers is clearly illustrated. Following Senator John Tower’s surprise victory in 1960, many Birch members and their allies chose to cast their political fortunes with the Republicans. General Walker’s decision this year to run for governor in the Democratic primary undoubtedly split the vote of the Birchers, who had been “unofficially” urged to back ultraconservative Republicans. In Florida, South Carolina, and the more prosperous urban districts throughout the South, economic rightists have also entered several of the races in the Republican column. They are partly responsible for the fact that where Republicans are fielding opposition, the candidates tend to be more conservative than their already conservative Democratic opponents, a trend contrary to that in Northern states, where the Republican electorate has gone out of its way to choose moderates over Birch-supported conservatives.

The racial rightists, on the other hand, generally gather at the conservative extreme of the Democratic Party, accepting the leadership of the Deep South’s Thurmonds, Eastlands, and Talmadges. Determined to keep the South solidly opposed to both the Northern liberalism that has “communized” their own party and the Republicanism that, however conservative, still conjures up the vision of the Yankee abolitionist, these men seek to keep a controlling hand in national and local affairs. They rely upon the catchwords “states’ rights” and “constitutionalism”; they have strong ties with the Citizens Councils, and consistently oppose internationalism. In Alabama and Mississippi, rural and core-city areas — indeed, wherever the resistance to integration obscures all other issues — these right-wingers have shown impressive strength.

As might be expected, there is much overlapping between the two groups of extremists, with the ultras of both major parties attempting to raid each other’s ideological territories. In Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida, right-wingers of both parties have challenged their opponents to demonstrate their resistance, both in kind and degree, to the Kennedy Administration’s programs, in order to prove to the electorate that they are not only conservative but “conservative enough.” The net effect of their prodding may be to swing the South further toward the right, even if the ultras themselves are defeated at the polls. At the same time, too hard a push to the right may boomerang, if enough responsible conservatives are forced to repudiate their more extreme colleagues, leaving the impression that the resurgent right-wing movement is little more than a collection of fanatics and demagogues trading on the fear of Communism.

Already a cautious repudiation trend may be detected. In Georgia, ex-Governor Marvin Griffin, an arch-segregationist, was defeated in a primary decided by popular vote. In Texas, gubernatorial candidate John Connally has accused his Republican opponent, Jack Cox, of having past associations with a “hysterical” secret society called Freedom-in-Action; and Senator Tower has renounced both Robert Welch and the Courtneys. Elsewhere, several Republican candidates are also rejecting the Birchers. Perhaps the best single opportunity for repudiation occurred in Louisiana last May, when segregationist Leander Perez asked the Democratic State Central Committee to take a stand against Kennedy’s omnibus farm bill on the grounds that its provisions were similar to the agrarian programs of Communist China and Cuba. In his angry answer to Perez, Senator Russell Long gave voice to the repressed indignation of many Southerners: “The people are getting tired of being called a Communist just because they don’t agree with you,” Long shouted. “They call President Eisenhower a Communist, President Kennedy a Communist, Archbishop Rummel, Pope John a Communist! . . . It’s getting so it will be respectable to be called a Communist!”

The ultrarightists in the South have, in effect, touched a sensitive nerve and reactivated an entire system of discontents. The Supreme Court’s decisions may have exposed the nerve to begin with; power seekers may have exploited the resulting tensions for personal advantage; but the system was there all along, susceptible to exploitation. The cure for the unrestrained emotionalism spreading through the South may lie in the repudiation trend just cited. If it should now develop that extremism is as bad for Southern politics as racial strife has proved to be for Southern business, the unified structure of these various discontents may collapse. It will not happen soon; and meanwhile the “struggles to the death” against “perversion and subversion” in churches and schools, the picketing of mental health clinics and newspaper offices, and the purge of dissent from local communities can be expected to continue long after the extremism affecting Southern politics has gone into limbo.