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Right Turn: John T. Flynn and the Transformation of American Liberalism

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John T. Flynn, a prolific writer, columnist for the New Republic, Harper's Magazine, and Collier's Weekly, radio commentator, and political activist, was described by the New York Times in 1964 as “a man of wide-ranging contradictions.” In this new biography of Flynn, John E. Moser fleshes out his many contradictions and profound influence on U.S. history and political discourse.

In the 1930s, Flynn advocated extensive regulation of the economy, the breakup of holding companies, and heavy taxes on the wealthy. A mere fifteen years later he was denouncing the New Deal as “creeping socialism,” calling for an abolition of the income tax, and hailing Senator Joseph McCarthy and his fellow anticommunists as saviors of the American Republic. Yet throughout his career he insisted that he had remained true to the principles of liberalism as he understood them.

It was America's political culture that changed, he argued, and not his values and views. Drawing on Flynn’s life and his prolific writings, Moser illuminates how liberalism in America changed during the mid-twentieth century and considers whether Flynn’s ideological odyssey was the product of opportunism, or the result of a set of deep-seated principles that he championed consistently over the years. In addition, Right Turn examines Flynn’s role in laying the foundations for the “culture war” that would be played out in American society for the rest of the century, helping to define modern American conservatism.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Provides a helpful backdrop to current debates over social welfare and foreign policy, which have their roots in another time.”
-Washington Examiner


“How did an eloquent progressive who voted for Norman Thomas in the 1930s become a cheerleader for Joe McCarthy? This well-crafted biography rescues the memory of John T. Flynn, a true American original, and illuminates a large and neglected terrain of twentieth-century political history.”
-Michael Kazin,author of The Populist Persuasion: An American History and co-author of America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s

“An informative, insightful account of the career of a once-popular opinion-maker.”
-Journal of American History


“Given current debates over global intervention and government's role in the economy, this volume could not be more timely.”
-Justus D. Doenecke,author of Storm on the Horizon: The Challenge to American Intervention, 1939–1941

“John T. Flynn is a subject richly deserving of a scholarly and readable biography, and, thanks to John. E. Moser, he now has one.”


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814757000
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2005
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

John E. Moser is assistant professor of history at Ashland University. He is the author of Twisting the Lion’s Tail: American Anglophobia Between the World Wars (NYU Press, 1998) and Presidents from Hoover through Truman, 1929-1953.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
1 Irish Exaggerations 7
2 Business Must Be Governed 21
3 An Empty Collection of Syllables 35
4 Pay as We Fight 49
5 A Pretty Sorry Board 64
6 A Plague of Promisers 83
7 A Great and Grand Guy-Once 96
8 A Very Responsible Committee 112
9 The Nazi Transmission Belt 123
10 The Good Name of a Noble Cause 138
11 The Smear Offensive 151
12 A Bitter and Disheartening Struggle 166
13 God Bless Joe McCarthy 180
14 It Sickens My Soul 192
Conclusion 202
Notes 211
Bibliography 255
Index 267
About the Author 277
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