James M. Buchanan: The Architect of the Radical Right - the Atlantic
No relation to President James Buchanan, this is the 20th century southern academic who definitively linked racism and states’ rights with libertarian economics, essentially creating the political right as we know and loathe it today. The article is a long and detailed review of a new book, Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains.
Buchanan got his first plum teaching job at the University of Virginia, in 1956, during the single most crucial event in the birth of the modern conservative movement, the rise of the strategy of “massive resistance” to the Supreme Court’s mandate for school desegregation. Since the New Deal, conservatives like Herbert Hoover and Robert A. Taft had pushed back hard against the expanding federal government and its tentacular programs. But it was an uphill battle; the public was grateful for Social Security. Brown changed all that. More than the economic order was now under siege. So was a way of life, with its cherished “mores and folkways,” in the phrase favored by defenders of Jim Crow. A new postwar conservatism was born, mingling states’-rights doctrine with odes to the freedom-loving individual and resistance to the “social engineering” pursued by what conservative writers in the mid-1950s began to call the “liberal establishment.”
Today we remember ferocious civil-rights struggles waged in Birmingham and Selma. But ground zero for the respectable defense of Jim Crow was Virginia, where one of the nation’s most powerful politicians, Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr., ruled with the authority of an old-style feudal boss. His notorious “machine” kept the state clenched in an iron grip; the oppressions included a poll tax that suppressed black voter turnout so that it was on a par with the Deep South’s (and kept overall turnout under 20 percent). Byrd had allies in the president of the University of Virginia, Colgate Darden, and the newspaperman James Jackson Kilpatrick, who, long before his lovable-curmudgeon TV role on the “Point-Counterpoint” segment of 60 Minutes in the 1970s, was a fanatical and ingenious segregationist.