The John Birch Society and the Republican Party

The John Birch Society and the Republican Party May 10, 2024

The John Birch Society and the Republican Party

People smarter than I and more “in the know” are claiming that the current Republican Party is adopting many of the ideas and policies of the John Birch Society. (You can look them up on Youtube if you doubt me.)

What is the John Birch Society (JBS)? Well, I don’t have time or space here to go into its history or ideology. Look it up on Wikipedia. I found the article there generally reliable. No axe to grind that I could detect.

When I was a teenager I worked part-time for a business owned and operated by a member of the JBS. I don’t know if he held any office in the society, but he seemed very knowledgeable about it. He talked about it often and gave me literature to read that was published by it.

I should say that I have no proof that all my employer’s views on politics reflected official teachings of the JBS. I have no evidence of that. However, he certainly seemed to think he was speaking for the society when he talked about it and about American and world politics and affairs.

My employer, who is now deceased and whose business is now defunct, passionately supported George Wallace for president and labeled President Eisenhower, if not Nixon, a “dupe of the communists.” He thought America should have used nuclear weapons on North Korea during the Korean conflict and he expressed belief that the US should “nuke” North Vietnam.

Do contemporary Republicans think the US should use nuclear weapons on its enemies? No, I don’t think so. But I detect a strain of “hawkishness” that goes beyond what I consider reasonable or ethical.

My boss expressed belief that government should be as small as possible and “market” should be totally free, free of government interference. Any government interference in the economy was, in his mind, “creeping socialism.” He did not believe in welfare or the social security system.

My employer was actively involved in the then “fluoride in the water” controversy. He vehemently opposed governments adding fluoride to public water. Now that controversy is being revived by conservatives across the country. A county in North Carolina has no voted to remove fluoride from the water system.

My boss thought Barry Goldwater was “soft” on communism. He opposed government ownership of land (except military bases and government buildings) and said, to me directly, that all roads should be privately owned such that people who use them pay for their use of them—to the owners.

He was a strong supporter of General Curtis LeMay for president after Wallace stopped running. (Wallace was shot by a would-be assassin, something I saw on television news. You can still see it on Youtube. He never fully recovered.)

So in what ways might the current (2024) Republican Party be influenced by the JBS? That remains somewhat unclear to me. And I would not go so far as to say that it is. I see some similarities, that’s all. But ever since the “Reagan Revolution” I have thought back to my employer and wondered how he would have felt about that. I think he would have been pleased. Of course, he would have thought that it didn’t go far enough.

One story about my employer. He strongly opposed minimum wage laws which the federal government had put in place for businesses that had contracts with the government. My employer did not pay me minimum wage. There were no other jobs for me or most teenagers in that time and place, so I quietly complied even though at least half of all checks he gave me “bounced.”

I received a letter from the federal government saying he owed me several hundred dollars because he had at least one contract with the federal government (probably to clean a building) and therefore should have been paying me minimum wage. I took the letter to him and he lectured me about the evils of government interference with privately owned businesses. He refused to pay me the back wages he owed me.

Eventually I quit his employ. That happened when he ordered me to clean up the tenement “apartment” of a man who died there whose body was not found for several days. I approached the single room apartment. The stench was overwhelming. The door was open; the body was gone. But there was coagulated blood all over the bed and floor. I never found out how the poor man died. But he must have bled out. I told my employer that he could clean it himself, that he didn’t pay me enough to do that. He told me it was my “Christian duty” to clean it up. I told him that if it was a Christian’s duty, he should do it. He was a member of the local Episcopal cathedral. He insisted that I do it so I quit. I was only seventeen years old and had found another job anyway. Just an episode and a memory from my early life.

*Note: If you choose to comment, make sure your comment is relatively brief (no more than 100 words), on topic, addressed to me, civil and respectfully (not hostile or argumentative), and devoid of pictures or links.*

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