Witness to the Radical Right
Claire Conner was a first-hand, in-the-room witness to the fear, paranoia, and hate unleashed by the radical John Birch Society. This unique perspective gives her the ability to connect the dots between the right-wing extremism of the 1960s and today’s radical right.
Her experiences come from years inside the John Birch Society, the radical anti-government movement of the 1960s. Her parents were the first two members in Chicago and her father served in national leadership of the society for over thirty years. The Conner home in Chicago was “Birch Central,” giving Claire the opportunity to hear the plans of the Society’s leaders.
“Taking the country back” was the Birch mantra that turned her father and mother into lifelong crusaders.
When the Birch Society labeled President Dwight Eisenhower a Communist agent, the accusation sparked a national scandal. Despite the media storm, her parents remained staunch Birchers for the rest of their lives.
At age 13,she became a member of the society and at age 15 was part of a LIFE magazine photo of Birchers; a photo that has become an iconic image of right-wing extremists.
For fifteen years, Claire embraced her parents’ views, helped with scores of Birch projects and defended her parents and the society. Gradually, Claire came to doubt the John Birch ideology. When she finally repudiated the extreme Birch ideology, her parents called her a traitor to God and country. The rift between Claire and her parents never healed.
Hard Right Turn
For many years, Claire believed — like most Americans — that the radical ideas of the John Birch Society would never gain mainstream acceptance. Then the Tea Party emerged and the Republican Party took a hard right turn, and she recognized the new shift for what it is: the rebirth of the John Birch Society in a 21st century framework.
Her book, Wrapped in the Flag — named one of the Best of 2013 in Nonfiction by Kirkus Reviews and the Tampa Bay Times — goes deep into the heart of the Birch society, exposes the extreme ideas of that powerful political fringe group, and shows how they continue to impact America today.
Policies of Birch Society become the platform of the GOP
In her book, Claire Conner digs into the specific policies of America’s uncompromising right wing and exposes the danger they pose to all Americans. Among the long-held positions of the John Birch Society, which have morphed into the positions of the Republican party and its candidates for President in 2016 are these:
- Slash the federal government and privatize as many functions as possible
- Block grant money to the states for poverty programs without any federal oversight or regulation
- Shred the safety net
- End regulations of the environment and deny the findings of Climate Science
- Restrict women’s reproductive choices including abortion and family planning services
- Cut taxes in ways that benefit the wealthy and corporations
- Oppose increases in the federal minimum wage
- Destroy public unions
- End Social Security and Medicare
- End regulation of business and banking
- Roll back all healthcare reform
- Deport undocumented immigrants without exceptions
Today’s radical right, has a chokehold on the Republican Party. All of the GOP candidates support these radical goals. They base their support on the idea that their extreme ideas are the “intent of the framers” and the “will of God.”
The Republican Party has devolved into an unruly and dangerous coalition of political extremists, anti-government libertarians, right-wing billionaires, and Christian zealots. Their plans for American would set us back years — to the days of the early 1900s when the government was tiny, workers had no protection, and the wealthy had it all.
Featured in New Documentary
Claire is thrilled to be one of the featured commentators in Jen Senko’s new documentary film, “The Brainwashing of My Dad,” in theatres and on demand March 18.
Education and Family
Claire holds a degree in English (with honors) from the University of Dallas, Irving TX and a Master’s degree in Teaching English from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point.
She’s the mother of four and grandmother to three precious girls. Her family and her husband, Bob, are the great loves of my life. In the perfect world, she’d spend days digging in the garden, playing with her Boykin spaniel puppy, Daisy, and taking in the beauty of SW Florida.
With America mired in anger and fear, she spends a lot of my time doing social media, podcasts, and interviews. She’s determined to bring the dangers of the radical right into sharp focus. Her experience with the radical-right extremists and her understanding of their plans for America are vital to stopping a right-wing win in November.
After the election, she’ll be working on a new book about the radical right and its impact on real people.