She’s a familiar figure in American life, always latent, but coming to the surface in national emergencies. Richard Hofstadter described her mental world in detail. In the seventeen-eighties she lived in Sheffield, Massachusetts, during a period of tight credit and land foreclosures and was sympathetic to the farmers’ uprising known as Shay’s Rebellion that began there. In the eighteen-fifties she was a non-voting constituent of Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. In the eighteen-nineties she was the wife of a Nebraska farmer who joined the People’s Party and voted for William Jennings Bryan and free silver. In the nineteen-thirties desperate poverty drove her to fall for the simple solutions of Huey Long’s left-wing demagoguery, or Father Coughlin’s right-wing demagoguery, which often sounded similar. In the nineteen-fifties she listened avidly to radio personalities like Fulton Lewis, Jr., and Walter Winchell, thought President Eisenhower was a knowing agent of the Communist Party, and was a passionate supporter of Senator Joe McCarthy. In 2001 she knew that the Bush Administration orchestrated 9/11. In 2008 she showed up at Sarah Palin rallies.
February 24, 2010
George Packer distills American paranoid politics in one good paragraph