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The Other Side of the Sixties: Young Americans for Freedom and the Rise of Conservative Politics (Perspectives on the Sixties series) Paperback – June 1, 1997
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Meticulously researched, with often repetitive detail, this monograph analyzes the rise and development during the 1960s of the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), a group of politically active college-age students that claimed to represent politically conservative ideas ("the New Right") just as the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) attempted to promote politically liberal ideas ("the New Left"). Andrew (history, Franklin & Marshall Coll.) sets his study in a narrow context, focusing on the factionalism between adherents of antistatist libertarianism and statist anticommunism. He also shows how this intraorganization struggle affected the group's reaction to JFK, LBJ, and the activities of the New Left on the one hand and the movement to elect Barry Goldwater and defeat the Eisenhower-Rockefeller moderate wing of the Republican Party on the other. Although Andrew uncovers a great deal of new information on the subculture of the New Right and how the movement's political opponents reacted to it, he ignores the larger picture. JFK's assassination and LBJ's campaign against Goldwater are only alluded to, and the social ferment of the decade emerges only as a backdrop to what was taking place within the YAF. For academic collections.?Jack Forman, Mesa Coll. Lib., San Diego
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The Other Side of the Sixties: Young Americans for Freedom and the Rise of Conservative Politics is a particularly interesting act of historical recovery. Not only does Andrew, a liberal historian at Franklin & Marshall College, document just what young conservatives were up to in the '60s (activity largely ignored by previous historians), his identification of YAF as one of the era's three major student groups (along with Students for a Democratic Society and the Student Non-Violence Coordinating Committee) suggests a reading of the decade that provocatively complicates conservative castigations of student "radicals." -- Reason, Nick Gillespie
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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!
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.