Paul Harvey at Breakfast: A Stilled Voice of the Old Right
When I was seven years old or so growing up in the small town of Albert Lea, Minnesota, Paul Harvey was one of the first voices I heard in the morning. His memorable over-the-top delivery kept me entertained as I gulped down my mother’s signature “mush” (which, contrary to the name, was a tasty Norwegian dish of cream, cinnamon, and butter). None of the reserved Minnesota adults I knew sounded like that! Harvey’s bracing “Good Day!” helped get me in the right frame of mind for the coming day in school--one my least favorite activities.
After we moved to Minneapolis, I rarely heard him on the air. Even the old fogie stations didn’t seem to carry him. His fan base was always in small towns, where he often preceded or followed the daily crop report. Like many, I eventually came to dismiss Harvey as an antiquated vestige from a 1950s time warp, a sort of precursor to such bumbling and pretentious fictional new announcers as Les Nessman (“WKRP in Cincinnati”) or Ted Baxter (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”)
Later, however, in my research for my book on tax revolts I gained a new appreciation for Harvey. He stood out as one of the last prominent survivors of the once powerful Old Right of the 1940s and 1950s. Old Right conservatives had fought a dogged rear-guard action against the New Deal welfare and warfare states. The man who published Harvey’s first books in the 1950s was none other than John M. Pratt. An ardent FDR hater, Pratt, while in Chicago during the 1930s, had led one of the largest tax strikes in American history. He obviously saw something in young Harvey.
While Harvey moved away from his earlier Old Right isolationism, events sometimes pulled him back to it. It was Harvey, along with Walter Cronkite, who was instrumental in turning the heartland against the Vietnam War. In 1970, when Richard Nixon was still popular in countless small towns Harvey announced dramatically in his daily commentary: “Mr. President, I love you ... but you're wrong." He was deluged with angry mail and phone calls.
For this expression of old fashioned Midwestern horse sense alone, Paul Harvey deserves the recognition and thanks of all Americans who value peace.
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James Otteson - 3/4/2009
Many years ago I heard Harvey give a talk about the importance of competition, how it makes everyone better, and how the effort to suppress it was one of the chief problems of the American education system today. I'm not sure whether that makes him "Old Right" or not, but he was certainly right on that one--and not many high-profile commentators were saying such things.
Jeff Riggenbach - 3/4/2009
I first heard Paul Harvey when I was working my way through college as a radio disc jockey in Houston, Texas in the 1960s. I got a gig at an old fogey station - KXYZ, 1320 on your AM dial. We played "beautiful music" and also offered a fair amount of news. My daily shift included running Paul Harvey's prerecorded newscast. He wasn't heard only in small towns.
As for the "Old Right," that's really a figment of Murray Rothbard's overheated imagination - a case of nostalgic wishful thinking. The writers and politicians who fought the New Deal and FDR's foreign policy were almost all liberal Democrats who broke with the Democratic Party after, as they saw it, Roosevelt hijacked the term "liberal" and started applying it to policies that were liberal by no stretch of the imagination.
These people were never on the Right in any meaningful sense; in fact, the very assertion that they were is utterly ridiculous. The fact that some of them foolishly joined the GOP, despite the fact that that party had never in its history cared a fig for individual liberty, doesn't make them conservatives.
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