This book outlines the growth of the political Right in Southern California from the late s into the s. Lisa McGirr traces the Right’s. Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right Lisa McGirr. Princeton University Press, $ (cloth). Before the Storm: Barry. Lisa McGirr: Suburban Warriors not to be an ordinary suburban coffee klatch. Next to the coffee in suburbs such as Garden Grove, Orange County (the place.

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The Origins of the New American Right. Reprint, Princeton University Press, Having found little commonality and support with the Eisenhower administration and fearful of what the new minds of the Kennedy presidency would produce, these conservative-thinking individuals looked as far right as they could for someone who valued the same kind of America as they did. They found this in the Senator from Arizona — Barry Goldwater. While Goldwater and the men and women who supported him in the presidential campaign were not attempting to turn back the clock to an era of America long gone, they were attempting to return morality and faith in the Christian God — values that they believed were essential to the survival of America – back to the warrikrs.

In her book, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American RightLisa McGirr examines how these men and women were able to redefine what it meant to be a conservative through a case study of Orange County, California.

By examining this particular county, McGirr hopes to gain mcgir better understanding of what went into the grassroots movement in Southern California that allowed the ultra-conservative Goldwater to essentially steal the California primary and assure his spot on the national ticket as the Republican candidate for president in While McGirr concedes that the situation in Orange County was not necessarily similar throughout the United States, she does insist that by studying Orange County the reader can get a better understanding of the values and energy that went into this conservative movement and its attempt to redefine what it meant to be a Republican in the United States.

McGirr begins her study with an in-depth overview of the history of Orange County. She believes that this is an important process to go through; by examining the history of the county, she hopes to instill in the reader a notion that this was a county in the midst of tremendous transition. First, many of the native ranchers whose families had been living on the land for generations became frustrated by what they saw occurring warrirs them.

Second, as Cold War tensions increased between the United States and Soviet Union, the Defense Department needed land to expand upon in order to build the sophisticated weapons that would become prominent throughout the lisx.

Suburban warriors: the origins of the new American Right

Orange County offered the government the space and work force needed for these activities. Population growth in Orange County was phenomenal; it grew fromintoin to almost 2 million in The military and military-industrial complex, including high technology industries like electronics, instrumentation, missiles and aircraft, attracted workers to the county from across the United States. Along with workers, came businessmen. As educated white men and their families began to move into the county from various parts of the country, mcyirr had a unique opportunity to create their own culture and rules that would govern their new lives.

Taking from their experiences, these individuals, especially mothers who stayed at home to raise their children, began subugban organize politically in an attempt to have this new value system transplanted into their county and neighborhoods.

Beginning with the public school system that served their children, these mothers were willing to take on those aspects of life in California that they disagreed with, including the liberal education that the public schools offered to their children. By organizing into small associations that were based around the family and its immediate social network, this group of conservative men and women were able to get their ideas out onto the street.


Eventually local activists “intersected with a national conservative movement” p. McGirr claims George Wallace found little support in white collar Orange County because of his attachment “to New Deal programs, the welfare state and unions. While the campaign for Goldwater is seen ultimately as a failure due to his sweeping defeat, those individuals supporting him did not lose faith in their ability to change America.

Instead of continuing down the political path, many instead warriorrs to religion in hopes of converting others to the proper way in life. Where these men and women were unable to bring about the changes they desired through political means, by turning to religion, they hoped to convert those living throughout Southern Lisw to the value systems that they wanted.

Conservatives learned from the Goldwater defeat and found “new opportunities brought about by the social turbulence of the decade. They felt Nixon had compromised his conservative principles and taken a moderate stance to obtain national support. In an ironic case of unintended consequences, the activists and counter-culture of the left in the late s and early s, not only motivated the right to action but enabled them suubrban find sufficient support to secure sufficient political clout to affect local, state and national politics in succeeding years.

However, Watts was close by and demonstrated another reason to support law and order. Racism was rarely expressed but Orange County conservatives were up in suburbzn about the Rumford Open Housing Act to prevent discrimination in housing. They voted suburbaan for Proposition 14, a constitutional amendment to repeal the law. There were a number of independent mega-churches with evangelical ministers like Bob Schuler and Charles Fuller.

Obviously, Supreme Court decisions in these areas did little to win their support for the national government. McGirr sees Orange County conservatism as largely middle class. This middle class was more disappointed and disenchanted than disaffected. There was a component of anxiety in their thinking; their anticommunism was based on belief in a strong enemy. They believed the United States would prevail if the nation was not bogged down in social programs, had a strong military and little or no United Nations involvement.

The amorphous middle suburbzn includes educated doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and engineers but it also includes others with lesser status, e. A unique set of lisz arouse suubrban Southern California that allowed this conservative grassroots movement to take shape. While McGirr does argue that other parts of the country experienced similar situations, she does not expand on this other than to name a few. This is where I feel that she falls into a conundrum.

It is impossible to say that the support Goldwater received throughout the country in Republican primaries was based on a similar set of occurrences. suurban

SUBURBAN WARRIORS: The Origins of the New American Right

That is simply not possible. Something was uniting these people on a national level and McGirr was unable to account for this. She ignores this point completely. McGirr also does not account for the uniqueness of religious revival in southern California and why it only seems to have occurred there. While the southeast also has a tremendous spiritual rebirth at the same time, it was nothing like the revivals of California.

Overall, while the book does have some shortcomings in that watriors is too area specific to be useful to understand national patterns, it does provide a tremendous amount of information that helps the reader better understand the rebirth of the Republican Party.

Lisa McGirr provides an interesting analysis of the conservative movement, using Orange County, California, as a focal point.

Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right – Lisa McGirr – Google Books

Contrary to popular opinion, subuurban to McGirr, conservatives were not irrational “kooks” but instead were mainstream middle-class “men and women who rejected the liberal vision and instead championed individual economic freedom and a staunch social conservatism. McGirr says, “By failing to take into account the deep-seated conservative ideological universe of conservatives, liberal intellectuals underestimated the resilience and staying power of the Right in American life.


The book is a local study that seeks to explain the rise of a national movement. McGirr does not claim that Wareiors County is typical but instead finds that it provided fertile ground for conservatism through its socioeconomic, cultural, and warrkors patterns.

McGirr says, “Orange County exaggerated trends occurring elsewhere – trends that were harbingers of future national change. McGirr finds that conservative Christianity found a home in Southern California and helped infuse a conservative political culture. She specifically notes the influence of fundamentalist churches, like the Orange County Central Baptist Church, which supported right-wing groups such as the John Birch Society.

The fundamentalist worldview of an ongoing battle between good and evil fit well with the anti-communism of these groups. McGirr finds that postwar liberal intellectuals failed to take into account “the deep-seated conservative ideological trafditons on which the Right drew” and accordingly “underestimated the resilience and staying power darriors the Right in American life.

McGirr says, “The expansion of the scale and scope of the federal government, they believed, reduced civic autonomy and thwarted individual initiative and self-reliance, running counter to older Republican belief in the primacy of the locality and the state in determining the shape of public life.

McGirr views the Goldwater predidential campaign of as a watershed in the conservative political movement. McGirr says, “Goldwater’s entrepreneurial individualism and his references to the West as the repoitory of true American values elicited a strong regional appeal.

One of the most interesting aspects of Suburban Warriors is the prevalence of anticommunism. In Nightmare in RedRichard Fried makes claims that by the s anticommunism was a dead issue in politics. According to Lisa McGirr, there was still a tremendous amount of red-baiting taking place at the local level.

This would make sense because the s was the height of the Cold War.

It is possible that both authors are mcgidr and that anti-communism was a dead sburban at the presidential level but that at the local and congressional level it was still around.

McGirr even suggests that McCarthy skburban revered by some of the new conservatives as being a hero of some sort. It was not until Barry Goldwater won the primary in California that he was really considered a viable candidate. It is hard to believe though that Orange County was a “real center and symbol of American conservatism.

I do not believe that McGirr was successful in arguing that Orange County was representative of the rest of the country. Her study of the history, demographics, and geography of the county is interesting and helps explain why Orange County became so conservative.

But what does that tell us about regions that are nothing like Orange County except that they were really conservative? It may seem odd that a candidate who was beaten so handily could serve mfgirr a rallying point for a new movement but when Goldwater won the Republican primary it convinced millions of conservatives that their mcglrr movement could indeed influence policy. Democrats, who believed they had just gotten a mandate to undertake dramatic reforms, were unprepared when the newly energized conservative movement reared its head.

From The Mason Historiographiki. Retrieved from ” http: Views Page Discussion View source History. Personal tools Log in. Contents 1 Summary 2 Commentary 2.