Stuck in the sixties: Conservatives and the legacies of the 1960s
AuthorRising, George Goodwin
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation examines recent (post-1980) conservatives' views of the 1960s era and its legacies by analyzing the discourse of right-wing scholars, journalists, politicians, pundits, grassroots activists, and mass-media entertainment. The chapters are organized around conservatives' perceptions of emblematic 1960s individuals and movements and their legacies: John F. Kennedy and his presidential administration; Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement; the Warren Court; the Great Society; the Vietnam War and the antiwar movement; and the New Left and the counterculture. While analyzing conservatives' views about these sixties' figures and movements, this dissertation advances several general arguments. First, most conservatives shared a rough consensus about what symbolized "the 1960s era" and its legacies. Second, they remained obsessed with the decade and its continued influence. Third, they viewed themselves as a countermovement to the sixties movement, focusing their agenda on reversing trends associated with the decade. Fourth, they disseminated a negative caricature of the era and its effects to justify their own agenda. Fifth, conservatives criticized emblematic 1960s movements and their legacies. For example, they denounced the Warren Court and the Great Society for using federal power to bolster "big government" and to inculcate "permissive" values; they condemned antiwar protestors and New Leftists for preaching "anti-Americanism"; and they charged the counterculture with promoting immoral behavior. However, this dissertation also argues that, ironically, the recent right emulated the 1960s left. For example, many neoconservatives appropriated the legacies of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Moreover, the recent right, like the sixties left, espoused rigid ideology, passionate conviction, and inflammatory rhetoric. Conservatives also copied sixties leftists' tactics. For example, pro-life activists used King's civil-disobedience strategy; conservative judges, like the Warren Court, made activist rulings; Republicans followed Great Society Democrats by employing federal power to implement their agenda; many conservatives sounded like Vietnam "peaceniks" when opposing President Clinton's use of military force; and some conservatives embraced trends associated with the "hippie" counterculture, including sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, drugs, rock music, and feminism. In sum, post-1980 conservatives' obsession with, and emulation of, the 1960s revealed that they remained "stuck in the sixties."
Degree ProgramGraduate College