Since right-wing insurrectionists stormed the Capitol on January 6 with the vague but violent idea of taking over the government, observers are paying renewed attention to the threat of right-wing violence in our midst. For all our focus on fighting socialism and communism, right-wing authoritarianism is actually quite an old threat in our country. The nation’s focus on fighting “socialism” began in 1871, but what its opponents stood against was not government control of the means of production—an idea that never took hold in America—but the popular public policies which cost tax dollars and thus made wealthier people pay for programs that would benefit everyone. Public benefits like highways and hospitals, opponents argued, amounted to a redistribution of wealth, and thus were a leftist assault on American freedom.
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