The latest in a line of authors to ask ‘Where did Donald Trump come from?’, Matthew Dallek points an insightful finger at the John Birch Society, a postwar club for conspiracy theorists. It was founded in October 1958, after Robert Welch, a retired candy manufacturer, delivered a mammoth two-day lecture to a group of colleagues in Indianapolis. The subject was communist infiltration.
Welch revealed that the reds were conquering America not by force but by subtly eroding its ideals, culture, economy and institutions. Free enterprise was undermined by the New Deal, harmonious race relations by the civil rights movement and Christianity by liberal judges, while the United Nations diluted American sovereignty and ungrateful nations gobbled up its aid. For all the treasure spent on this new welfare/warfare state, half of Europe was behind the Iron Curtain. China, once an ally of America and a magnet for missionaries, was gone too. Welch kept a special place in his heart for Captain John Birch, a handsome soldier killed by Chinese communists in 1945. Birch was the first casualty, said Welch, of the Cold War.
The only way to make sense of the rapid transformation of America was to attribute it to a conspiracy led by communist traitors and facilitated by liberal dupes – and to beat a red you had to act like a red. Don’t bother with electioneering, argued Welch; let’s