The John Birch Society is still influencing American politics, 60 years after its founding

Source: Christopher Towler, The Conversation, December 6, 2018

The retired candy entrepreneur Robert Welch founded the John Birch Society 60 years ago to push back against what he perceived as a growing American welfare state modeled on communism and the federal government’s push to desegregate America.

Although Welch’s group has never amassed more than 100,000 dues-paying members, it had garnered an estimated 4 to 6 million sympathizers within four years of its 1958 formation.

As a scholar of political history and social movements, I find many parallels between today’s far right and its predecessors. Just as the John Birch Society emerged in the midst of the civil rights movement, today’s far-right movements formed as a reaction to the election of Barack Obama – a milestone for racial equality…..

…. Even though Welch understood racism and bigotry would hurt his cause, the John Birch Society’s opposition to the civil rights movement attracted Americans sympathetic to racist paranoia. For example, it consistently published reports accusing civil rights leaders of communist subversion and alleging that people of color were plotting to divide the country and control the world. ….

…. The John Birch Society is also directly linked to conservative politics today.

Most notably, Fred Koch, the father of David and Charles Koch, was among the Birch Society’s first 11 members and its main financial backers. The billionaire Koch brothers have pumped massive amounts of money into libertarian causes and conservative political campaigns for decades. ….