I start with three names:
These names are not synonyms.
There are those who are members of The Right but are not Republicans.
There are Republicans who are not conservative.
There are Conservatives who are neither of the Right nor Republican. (I put myself in that last category.)
I begin with The Right. The word can hold meaning which is valid and supportable but the people who have constituted The Right for the last 60 years are not interested in that benign finding. The Right is a mean-spirited, sometimes vicious, movement which harms individuals, weakens the social fabric, and damages the nation.
Since the late 1940's, The Right has provided a never-ending series of charges, accusations, claims, and falsehoods. Being fearful themselves, they spread fear among the people. They create distrust because it works to keep them in power.
The Right began with the accusatory bleat "Who lost China?" Then it was "Who promoted Peress? Then came an assault on the 1st Amendment in their zeal for finding communists and communist sympathizers. The House UnAmerican Activities Committee. Loyalty oaths. Subpoenas. Citizens persecuted for their beliefs. The McCarthy committee. The assault on the loyalty of the United State Army.
President Harry Truman and Secretary of State Dean Acheson were accused of treasonous actions. A new word 'pinko' appeared, to stain people with the red color of communism. Call it communism lite.
(I pause here to affirm there was a serious communist spy network in the US even as we were developing one in the Soviet Union. But Daniel Patrick Moynihan, another conservative neither of the Right nor a Republican, in his book "Secrecy", describes how the US Government had cracked the Soviet code used to send messages between the Kremlin and agents here. We knew who the agents were, their code names, and what they were up to. All the famous names are there: Hiss, Bentley, White, Fuchs, Rosenberg, etc. This was called the Venona Project. When this secret information was released in 1995-96, analysis showed that President Truman was never informed about the code breaking. The American people were not told about it because no one wanted Russia to find our we had broken their code. When Kim Philby, the British mole, defected we learned that he had informed the Soviets but still we kept it secret. Moynihan maintains that if we had made this news public, we may have avoided the witch hunt hysteria that distracted and damaged the nation. The spy threat was real, but under control and we knew who the spies were.)
(I digress again. Today Truman and Acheson are praised by The Right for their staunch defense of the US. Go figure.)
During the 1950's and 1960's, China was the main fear promoted by The Right. The John Birch Society was named for an American military man killed in China. When Adlai Stevenson suggested in the late fifties that it might benefit our security to open up dialogue with Red China, Vice President Nixon criticized him for being soft on communism.
During the Kennedy-Nixon Debates in 1960, the islands of Quemoy and Matsu were the source of heated argument over which man would be strong enough to defend them IF red China were to invade them. After the election, we never heard of those two islands again.
When Nixon was President, he opened up dialogue with Red China. The Right disapproved but kept their mouths shut. Today China is no longer referred to as 'Red China'. Today China uses free market and entrepreneurial enterprise to improve their economy. Today China loans us billions of dollars to fund our wars and social programs because we lack the courage to pay for it ourselves or to reduce the number of people we help socially. Nor do we scale back the number of military wars and operations that we conduct around the world. (All this military activity is called 'protecting the national interest' or 'meeting our obligations abroad.' )
Then Vietnam. LBJ knew the war was a mistake, and was unwinnable. But he kept going because he knew the Right would slam him for any deviation from the decision to fight communists wherever they were. This was (and is) the kind of fear The Right has instilled in us for too many years.
There is nothing wrong with debate over conflicting ideas and philosophies. Even name calling is acceptable. Even hateful speech of a personal character ought to be permitted but admonished.
Where The Right does wrong is their poisonous accusations of TREASON.
Year after year after year Right Wing zealots charge Americans with whom they disagree with slanderous names that smacked of treason or disloyalty.
That divides the country. That damages the First Amendment. That is totalitarian in nature and kind.
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