My mom told me a story once about being a little girl when she and my grandparents drove from their home in South Dakota to California. It was sometime in the 1940s, after the war, and she might have been ten years old or so. Lord knows how long that must have taken in those pre-Interstate Highway days. Obeying some rules of travel known only to her, my grandmother insisted that my mom sit in the front seat between the two adults for the entirety of the trip. My grandmother, with the reasonable patience for which the German people are known, spent a lot of time criticizing her daughter for not having Sitzfleisch.
As difficult (and boring for any normal 10-year-old girl) that trip must have been, it must have been immeasurably more difficult for African American travelers of the time. The South, of course, was legally segregated, but things were not any better in the North or the West. The law allowed any private business to refuse service to African Americans simply because they were African Americans. When travelling, African Americans could never be sure if they would be refused service at the restaurant they stopped at for lunch, the gas station they stopped to refuel, or the motel they stopped in to rest. One resource they had was the Green Book, a guide that showed them the places where they would be welcome. As the introduction stated:
With the introduction of this travel guide in 1936, it has been our idea to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trips more enjoyable.
The legend on the cover has a rather ominous warning: “You may need it.” It was not even a matter of your kids going hungry because you can’t find dinner or sleeping in the car because you can’t find lodging. It was also a matter of avoiding a violent reception in an area where the police could not be counted on to enforce the law.
Libertarians are a strange bunch. They are the most predictable of political thinkers since the answer to every social problem is the exact same thing: The cause of the problem is government and the solution is less government. Full stop.
You have probably never heard of Frank Chodorov (1887-1966). Born in New York City as Fishel Chodorowsky, he is considered one of the pioneer libertarians of the twentieth-century United States. At the very least, libertarians remember him for a letter he wrote to Bill Buckley’s National Review in 1956, wherein he declared, “I will punch anyone who calls me a conservative in the nose. I am a radical.”1 Chodorov’s fightin’ words reflected Libertarians’ delight in considering themselves rough-and-tumble, independent thinkers. I can’t help noticing however, that their fierce independent thinking often matches perfectly with powerful business and corporate interests. Chodorov, for example, first made his mark by busting a union in 1923. Union busting for freedom!
Chodorov is often credited with keeping the libertarian flame alive during the dark days of World War II. A staunch isolationist, Chodorov founded a small newsletter he named analysis which he published between 1944 and 1951 before it merged with Human Events, which is still going strong. analysis was a pure distillation of Chodorov’s libertarianism, his own vision with no compromises—this is what blogging was like in the 1940s. As historian George Nash wrote:
It is a vivid illustration both of the virtually underground character of much of the “classical liberal” movement in this period and of the perseverance of its devotees that this little journal appeared at all. Frank Chodorov was a practicing individualist; he produced his own magazine in a few rooms in an unpretentious building in Manhattan.
In his obituary to Chodorov, Murray Rothbard claimed that analysis was the one place where Chodorov could present his pure gospel of individualism. I thought therefore that reading through analysis might be an important part of the history I’m writing.
Steve Bannon, who has been pulling Trump’s strings, has hit some setbacks. He got booted from his post at the National Security Council and there are whispers that he’s feuding with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who is suddenly very important in the administration. Still, there are reasons to believe that “Bannonism” will live on, even if Bannon has a reduced (or no) role in the administration. But what is “Bannonism?” Bannon’s agenda is outside mainstream politics and his “worldview comes across as a fairly incoherent hodge-podge of incompatible ideologies whose common thread is hatred of elites.” Part of my goal in this blog is to show that Bannon’s ideology, or at least as much as we can see of it, has a specific history in the postwar American right.