Examining the "right-wing Green" critique of current-day America (Part One)
By Mark Wegierski
Based on a draft of a presentation for the 2013 Conference of the Polish Association for American Studies (PAAS) (Eating America: Crisis, Sustenance, Sustainability) (Wroclaw, Poland: University of Wroclaw, Department of English Studies), October 23-October 25, 2013. The paper was accepted for publication in The Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 8 (2014), but additional work on the paper, necessary for publication there, was not completed because of unforeseen personal circumstances.
Green or ecological/environmentalist ideas, which are sometimes instantiated by capital-G Green parties, are usually identified today with the Left. For example, there has been a Green-Red alliance in Austria. In Canada, the Green Party won its first seat in the federal Parliament in the May 2011 election. The leader of the Canadian Greens, Elizabeth May, has been generally supportive of the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party (Canada's social democrats), and opposed to the Conservative Party. In the highly important 2000 U.S. Presidential election, Ralph Nader ran as a third-party candidate under the banner of the Green Party. Some have argued that, in drawing away some support from Al Gore, Ralph Nader coincidentally assisted George W. Bush in eking out a narrow win.
Despite its strong association with left-wing parties, Green philosophy has also appealed to tendencies that could be denominated as "right-wing".
Some academic and popular political discourse in America has been very critical of these "right-wing Greens". It is often considered that they are hijacking or appropriating Green ideas to promote a "far right" agenda. Among their most vociferous critics is the so-called watchdog body, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has branded most of these tendencies as "hate groups". However, the labeling policies of the SPLC have themselves begun to be considered as excessively tendentious, especially in more recent years. Perhaps people should make up their own minds about the right-wing Greens, by examining the evidence.
The main publication of the right-wing Greens is probably The Social Contract journal, based in Petoskey, Michigan. In their self-understandings as voiced in the journal, these figures want to be seen as eschewing extremism. For example, they express their support for large elements of the early twentieth century capital-P Progressive movements in America. In their very pointed opposition to mass, dissimilar immigration, they frequently mention its deleterious effects on poorer Americans, especially African-Americans.
On the basis of the ideas of "pessimistic scientists" – who have sometimes been termed "the right wing of the Enlightenment" – the right-wing Greens have worked out, over the last five decades – what could be seen as a fairly consistent and thoroughgoing critique of current-day America. Unlike most persons on the self-described right, this critique is delivered with minimal reference to organized religion.
The leading American politician associated with the right-wing Greens is probably Richard D. Lamm, formerly the Democratic governor of Colorado.
To be continued.
(An earlier version of this essay has appeared at Quarterly Review (UK) (April 22, 2015).)
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.