Partisans of the Old Republic: Right-Wing Opposition to U.S. Foreign Policy

Brandan Buck

Advisor: Sam Lebovic, PhD, Department of History and Art History

Committee Members: Lincoln Mullen, Suzanne Smith

Research Hall, #402
June 03, 2024, 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM


This dissertation will advance the argument that right-wing noninterventionism emerged from a broader tradition of anti-imperialism and remained a persistent force within American conservative politics throughout the 20th century, albeit politically constrained and culturally isolated by the sociopolitical trends of postwar America. Unlike other treatments of the topic, this dissertation will begin in the earliest days of an organized and continuous noninterventionism that emerged in response to the rise of American power abroad at the turn of the 20th century. It will trace these lines of proto-conservative critique through what was once a broad political response to an assertive American foreign policy, arguing that what became known as a "right-wing" perspective on America's role in the world was rendered as such by the interplay of post-New Deal American politics and their relationship with events overseas.

This dissertation is grounded in two bodies of primary source material, one congressional and another drawn from conservative media. While political histories of noninterventionism often focus on the affairs of the presidency and the cultural forces that animated them, this study shifts its political gaze towards Capitol Hill. The analysis of political materials in this study relies on a conventional close reading of traditional primary sources available through the Congressional Record and a variety of traditional sources such as op-eds, campaign ads, personal correspondence, and speeches.

This dissertation also employs original computational analysis of congressional voting records and demographic data associated with members of Congress. This computational analysis draws on a dataset of over one million voting observations from 1935 until 2001, and it disaggregates American foreign policy into its constituent parts: military, diplomatic, and foreign aid. This analysis reveals wide fissures in the Cold War consensus, making a case for the political staying power of the noninterventionist right throughout the early Cold War.