Right Turn: John T. Flynn and the Transformation of American Liberalism by John E. Moser
In this much-needed and well-researched biography, Ashland University history professor John Moser traces the long, strange career of an American journalist prominent from the 1930s to the 1950s. John T. Flynn's ability to convey complex economic issues in winning prose made him an influential voice at the onset of the Great Depression, which he blamed on corrupt, unregulated Wall Street financiers.
Initially a supporter of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, Flynn later wrote two books attacking the president. He thought Roosevelt incapable of grappling with the Depression and prone, as Moser recounts, to "save his presidency by promoting war hysteria." Flynn became a founding member of America First, though he did everything he could to distance the organization from Nazi defenders and Communists. By the 1950s, he embraced Senator Joseph McCarthy, whom he thought deserved "the whole-hearted support of every loyal American." Flynn eventually became a pariah on both the Left and the Right, and today he is remembered only by groups like the John Birch Society.
Moser argues that throughout it all, the irascible journalist remained-as he himself always claimed-a political liberal. Yet Flynn was not a classical liberal; he rejected free-market capitalism and favored business regulation. Nor was he a modern liberal; he opposed both the New Deal and the Fair Deal. If anything, Flynn was closer to the old progressives like Gerald Nye, Burton Wheeler, Gifford Pinchot, and Hiram Johnson, self-proclaimed advocates of the people against the interests. If these men had been active public figures following World War II, they may have made a "right turn" similar to Flynn's.
—Gregory L. Schneider
Emporia State University
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This article appeared in the Spring 2006 issue of the Claremont Review of Books