on March 18, 1998
In this volume, Dr. John Andrew of Franklin & Marshall College provides an in-depth, scholarly look at the conservative and right-wing youth movements of the early 1960's. While innumerable volumes have been dedicated to the left-wing movements of 1964-1973, the legacy of such conservative groups as Young Americans for Freedom has often been neglected by historians of the "Sixties".
Yet Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) began organizing campus youth sympathetic to its "Sharon Statement" in 1960, two years before Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) wrote its "Port Huron Statement" as a left-wing counter to YAF. Indeed, YAF twice filled Madison Square Gardens in the early 1960's, and conservative youth formed a key element of Barry Goldwater's support in his 1964 nomination by the Republican Party.
But there is more to YAF's history then their public activism, and Andrew has carefully researched his subject. The Kennedy Administration's "Ideological Organizations Project" directed the IRS to target right-wing groups unfriendly to his policies, and YAF did not escape their scrutiny. Moreover, both moderate Republicans (such as Nixon and Eisenhower) and liberal Republicans (such as Rockefeller and Scranton) viewed the rise of a conservative youth movement -- dedicated to "abolition, not reform, of the welfare state" and "victory over, rather than coexistence with, communism" with alarm. When the Republican Party in 1964 rejected twenty-four years of moderation and nominated Senator Barry Goldwater, an ideological conservative, their worst fears were realized.
Professor Andrew's volume is based on detailed interviews with the principals in Young Americans for Freedom and their "mentors" (such as National Review's William F. Buckley and William Rusher). He has perused a huge amount of archives in reseaching this book, and the result is a truly original historical monograph.
To keep his book focused, Andrew deals solely with the early era of YAF -- from its founding on Buckley's estate in 1960 until the aftermath of the Goldwater election in 1964. One can only hope that future volumes will focus on the later years of YAF. During the Vietnam War, YAF was turned around from the pre-eminent campus group to a reactive group, trying to counter the vast left-wing sentiment generated by the war and the counter-culture. Both YAF and SDS were split at their 1969 conventions, but whereas SDS' stepchildren were the dogmatic "Progressive Labor" Maoists and the bizarrely violent Weathermen, one faction of YAF's 1969 convention went on to found the Libertarian Party, while the other faction continued to work within YAF to promote new conservative politicians such as Ronald Reagan. In the middle and late 1980's, YAF enjoyed another era of growth, as public protests on issues such as Contra Aid and nuclear disarmament pitted YAF activists against leftists once again.
"The Other Side of the Sixties" is a valuable contribution to the history of the Sixties youth rebellion in America. When 18-year-olds were allowed to vote in the 1970's, many pundits were surprised that half of these new voters were leaning to the right of center. Had John Andrew's book been available then, this might not have come as such a surprise!
on December 11, 1999
John Andrew provides a much-needed history of the early 1960s and the development of Young Americans for Freedom as a political force. What most historians forget (and Andrew's title confuses)is that there were two distinct aspects to that decade - perhaps generally described as pre and post Vietnam buildup.
Having graduated from college in 1965 and then attended grad school for the rest of the decade - it was clear these were two different worlds. The beanie I wore as a freshman in 1961 was alien to the college students of the late 60s. Andrew's book is about that early 1960s, culminating with the Goldwater campaign of 1964, the focal point of all early YAF efforts.
Like many historians, Andrew is engrossed in minute details (his Chapter 5 on internal YAF politics will put even former YAF members to sleep), providing a valuable reference source for future research. He accurately reflects much of the mood and enthusiasm of the period, a time when "the bright young men who want to go back to 1910" believed they were the cadre of a movement to turn America around.Little did we know what would await us in the late 1960s - or, for that matter, in 1980 as the triumph of Ronald Reagan brought the potentiality of conservatism into the White House.
Basically, Andrew's work stops with the aftermath of the Goldwater defeat and fails to carry forth the impact of YAF as an organization and as a molder of future leaders into the present day. Hopefully, there are libraries out there across this vast land that are buying Andrew's book to place it as the lone counter to their shelf of works on the 60s by the Haydens, Gitlins, Flacks, and other leftist activists of the time.
on June 15, 2015
Thorburn's book, A Generation Awakes, is much, much better. Far more detailed and factual, and told from the point of view of insiders--they were there. I was there,too, not as a member of YAF but more as a sympathetic observer working and living in DC at the time. Adored Barry Goldwater--his book, Conscious of a Conservative, woke me up.
on May 3, 2015
I would like to thank Mr. Andrews for finally stepping out in front of all the history revisionists and documenting what the infamous 60's really did -- and didn't -- accomplish. I was astonished (and disappointed) when I initiated an Amazon book search for an historical account of that decade only to discover that out of over 500 hits, his book was the only one to honestly write the truth. I am a 'child of the 60's'... living my entire teen years in that timeframe... and know that the romanticized version we all hear today is, for the most part, a bunch of half-truths and outright lies. The wanton lack of morals, personal integrity, self-control and disregard for anyone with a different point of view was rampant, and they sneered at those individuals who had the nerve to stand up to them. Did they know both sides of an issue and engage in honest debates to validate their positions? Absolutely not. And now many of those "revolutionary" thinkers (and I say that with all due sarcasm) are now teaching our college-age children and sitting in high places in Washington. Very sad.