The ""New Right"" was thought to have triumphed, in the 1980 presidential election, on the basis of the so-called social...


SPEAK OUT: Against the New Right

The ""New Right"" was thought to have triumphed, in the 1980 presidential election, on the basis of the so-called social issues: pro-school prayer, anti-busing, antiabortion, anti-gay, anti-ERA, etc. In areas of national defense and free-market ideology, it was harder to draw the lines between the New Right and the old conservative Republicans; but the social issues provided the true test. Now, as the Reagan administration dismantles the New Deal, the anti-New Right forces are organizing; but not always with a clear idea of who the enemy is. This collection of 20 essays, most of them previously published, shoots out in all directions. Norman Lear, producer of All in the Family and founder of the anti-Moral Majority organization People for the American Way, flails away at religious intolerance, anti-abortionists, and book banners; blames US moral decay on business preoccupation with the bottom line; and ends with professions of love for the country and its flag. George F. Kennan, meanwhile, calls for an immediate 50 percent reduction in American and Soviet strategic weapons; and Helen Caldicott, head of Physicians for Social Responsibility, describes the terrible consequences of a nuclear war. These two essays, while of great value, are included to counter the New Right's positions on foreign policy; but the conservative Kennan would not necessarily go along with everything else in this collection. The fact that Phyllis Schlafly is both anti-abortion and pro-bomb does not absolve opponents of the New Right of responsibility to connect the two positions (many American Catholic bishops, after all, are anti-abortion and anti-bomb). Lester Thurow predicts that Reagan will ""wreck the economy"" through a combination of increased defense spending and tax cuts, just as Lyndon Johnson's guns-and-butter policies did; while Harvard's John Kenneth Galbraith ties the Reagan policies to Margaret Thatcher's Tories. For Galbraith, the question is one of ideology; for Thurow, it's a technical question with ethics on the side. Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, and Stephen Jay Gould are called upon to denounce creationism--and the reader is left to figure out what this has to do with Lear's profession of faith in God or Gloria Steinem's suggestion that Hitler would be on the side of the New Right's anti-feminists. In short, this anthology has let the opponent stake out the terrain of battle. Thrown together, the essays make no coherent sense of the positions on either side.

Pub Date: May 1, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1982