the center

In their conclusions the White House betrayed a constellation of unspoken assumptions about race relations — about social relations — in the United States: introduce bold legislation and the troublemakers would quit, like kidnappers who had been paid their ransom.  Theirs was an almost desperate belief that America wad by definition a placid place, if only “extremists” could be kept in check.  That didn’t just mean the racists that perpetrated the violence — but also those who “disturbed the peace” on the other side by protesting racism.  The assumption was shared alike by Birmingham’s “moderate” mayor-elect, who proclaimed the citizens of Birmingham “innocent victims”; and by Jackson, Mississippi, cops who charged pistol-whipped folks with disturbing the peace.  All of them implied that everything had been just fine before irresponsible people began stirring the pot.  It was the zeitgeist.  “Responsibility” was a mantle even militants craved.  Barry Goldwater was one of the very rare politicians who actually welcomed identification as a partisan.  But his supporters in the Los Angeles Republican Central Committee called themselves the “Responsible Republicans” — to distinguish themselves from Howard Jarvis’s breakaway Conservative Party.  “Americans for Democratic Action are more extreme than we are,” Young Americans for Freedom’s Richard Viguerie assured a reporter.  Colonel Laurence E. Bunker, General MacArthur’s old aide-de-camp, now a Birch leader, was quoted in the New York Post in a series called “Far Right and Far Left”:  “We’re right down the middle.  Some groups advocate violence, others shrug their shoulders and read a book.  We don’t believe in either.”  The editor of The Worker, the paper of the American Communist Party, was quoted as saying: “This is the headquarters for the resposible left.  Over there–” pointing downtown in the direction of the office of the Trotskyite Progressive Workers Party — “is the irresponsible left.”

— Rick Perlstein, Before the Storm, 206-207

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