All the Rage

Our politics seem to have reached a new level of discord. But history tells us otherwise. Today there are so many more ways to shout

Steve Bloom / The Olympian / AP

In 1964, the year after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, historian Richard Hofstadter published what is probably his most enduring essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." Hofstadter contends there has been an angry, suspicious, apocalyptic strain in American political life going back to the very beginning of the Republic. From anxieties about the Illuminati in the 18th century to concerns about the Masons in the 19th century to the John Birch Society's assertion that President Dwight Eisenhower was an actual communist agent, Hofstadter suggests there has been a fear about hidden conspiracies that has animated those on the right...

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