Forgotten Heroes of Conservatism- Chapter Three: Gerald L. K. Smith
In this chapter, I want to continue with another right wing predecessor of today's Conservative movement, who was massively popular in the thirties through the fifties, but who has been virtually pushed out of the historical record at this point: Gerald L. K. Smith. Like Billy James Hargis and Father Coughlin, he started out as a religious figure, and over a period of years migrated into politics, promoting a political viewpoint which I believe will be familiar to anyone watching the Republican party of the last few decades, although perhaps in a less varnished form. I mention this because it is important, I believe, to understand that the current view that the Republican party has somehow coopted the Evangelical movement is actually backwards- standard American Conservatism actually grew out of Evangelical Christianity and has been manipulated by it, not the other way around. Anyway, decide for yourself.
Smith was born in 1898, and spent the early part of his adulthood as a preacher. He met Huey Long in 1929, and worked for Long until Long's death in 1936, after which he struck out on his own. After Long was assassinated, Smith took over leadership of Long's "Share our Wealth Society" for a short time, during which he steered it toward an overt anti-Semitic platform. I'll quote Wikipedia about his subsequent activities:
"In 1944, Smith formed the America First Party, essentially appropriating the name. He became a member of William Dudley Pelley's pro-Nazi Silver Shirts organization, which was patterned after Hitler's brown shirts..."
Pelley who was later convicted for violating the Espionage Act in 1942 and sentenced to 15 years in prison, is due for his own chapter in this series.
"The Cross and The Flag was an eight-page monthly magazine founded in April 1942 and published until December 1977. Reverend Gerald L. K. Smith was editor and publisher. The publication was started to replace Father Coughlin’s Social Justice magazine which was banned in 1942 by the Justice Department from the mails...Smith wrote the vast majority of the articles in the publication. "The Cross and The Flag" was a common phrase and reference used by the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s and 1930s...The Cross and the Flag regularly ran articles with titles like “The Satanic Will to Mongrelize,” “The Tolerance Racket,” “The Black Devil of Race Destruction,” and “The Brotherhood Bunk.”
In the late 1930's, Smith moved to Detroit, where he was befriended by Henry Ford, author of the infamous early 1920's book "The International Jew," a viruently anti-Semitic work which was a major influence on the thinking of Adolf Hitler.
To quote "The Cross and The Flag:"
“The day came when I embraced the research of Mr. Ford and his associates, and became courageous enough and honest enough and informed enough to use the words: ‘Communism is Jewish.’”
By the way, please note that, even at this time, angering liberals was as much a goal of the right as anything else. Even in this, the behavior of modern day right wingers has a history that stretches back far beyond Reagan.
His adjective-laden sentences with their hard hitting analogies and humor was hateful to all liberals. He was living in a world controlled by far left villains and jewish conspiracies."
Too get a feeling for those "adjective-laden sentences," I want to recommend that you watch this one minute excerpt from a speech delivered by Smith in 1936:
Notice first of all the similarity in speaking style to that of a man for whose ideas Smith had tremendous sympathy, Adolf Hitler. But even more importantly for our purposes, pleas note the glorification of the rural masses coupled with a threat to forcibly take back the supposedly stolen government, which is a clear precursor to the central propaganda line of the current Republican party.
Smith's active career continued through the fifties, incorporating an extreme form of holocaust denial and similar anti-Semitic tropes, along with the now-standard hostility toward black Americans, and anything with the slightest hint of liberalism.
And here is a specimen of the sort of publicity issued by Smith's organization.
Sorry about the gap in the middle- the only readable copy of this I could find
was in two pieces, with a little missing between them.
I am going to depart from my normal style here, and devote most of the rest of this piece to excerpts from a piece written by Smith:
"THIS IS CHRISTIAN NATIONALISM.by Gerald L. K. Smith
The first principle for which we stand is: Preserve America as a Christian Nation being conscious of the fact that there is a highly organized campaign to substitute Jewish tradition for Christian tradition.
Safeguard American liberty against the menace of bureaucratic Fascism...Fascism, as we now have it, is confiscating independent wealth by way of the income tax and destroying the liberty of the States by way of the Supreme Court. At this very moment we face the risk of a nine-man Fascist dictatorship, posing as the Supreme Court of the United States, completely contrary to our Constitutional traditions.
Fight mongrelization and all attempts being made to force the intermixture of the black and white races...Subversive forces, exploiting sentimental nitwits, are reading into the Constitution a code of conduct which threatens to mongrelize our race, destroy our racial self-respect and enslave the white man.
America has given away her reserves. We have bankrupted our economy. Our national debt, our state and local government debts, plus our personal debts far exceed the assessed value of every visible piece of property in the United States. This epidemic of economic blood-letting began at a time when Jew internationalists, in control of propaganda , almost convinced a majority of our people that it was subversive to use the term America First.
Oppose a World Government and a Super-State...We believe that the whole U. N. project is a subversive conspiracy to destroy our independence. The original designer of this subversive Charter fought to give us a complete World Government in which America would be only a voting state
Safeguard America's tradition in relationship to immigration...The same conspirators who would destroy our Nation and its independence by treason from within, or by the establishment of a World Government - these same forces are ready to let down the bars and admit the Asiatic, African and European multitudes. This campaign to destroy our immigration tradition is supported by every Jewish and Communist organization in the world...if the wall ever breaks we will be invaded and destroyed without the firing of a shot, merely by the act of indiscriminate admission of aliens to our shores."
I think I hardly need point out that, with his racism, his hatred of immigrants, his opposition to the United Nations, his obsession on the national debt, his attacks on judges, his claim that the United States is a Christian nation, his railing against "bureaucratic fascism," i.e. government regulation, Smith shows himself to be in almost perfect accord with the platform of the post-Reagan Republican party. In this, he is a perfect illustration of the morphing of the intolerance of early twentieth century Evangelical Christianity into the ideological basis of American Conservative thought. At the risk of being repetitive, let me point out that this loathsome political movement grew out of Evangelical Christianity. It was Evangelical Christianity that manipulated the Republicans into becoming the party of hate, not the Republicans who manipulated Evangelicals into becoming a religion of hate.