The Sagebrush Rebellion was a populist protest movement that took part in the Western United States during the 1970’s that involved the participation of Western Americans, natural resource industries and state government’s. The “Rebellion” was caused by the belief that the federal government as a result of its intent to preserve federal lands had denied the use of natural resources to the people of the American West (Turner, 2009).
The Sagebrush Rebellion was crucial in the shaping of the “New Right” in the sense that it created an evolution of pre-existing conservative doctrine. To be specific, according to the reading, “In the 1970s the sagebrush rebellion was significant in the changing politics of the Republican party in the West, both in its resemblance to ascendant conservatism and the New Right nationally–for example, the involvement of citizens and growing political cooperation among conservative interests–and in its emphasis on long-standing themes in conservative thought, such as states’ rights.” (Turner, 2009). To put it simply, the Sagebrush Rebellion acted as a medium for expressing conservative philosophies such as states rights against federal regulation and control. This creates a situation where basic conservative philosophies become forever intertwined with ideas that oppose environmental regulation and preservation. Similarly, the Sagebrush Rebellion was actually controlled by those who would go on to form the basic structures of the “New Right” as according to the reading, “Behind the sagebrush rebellion were the emerging institutional structures of the New Right, joining citizens, corporations, and think tanks in promotion of conservative goals. In the sagebrush rebellion, foundations (such as the Mountain States Legal Foundation), wealthy conservative donors (such as Joseph Coors), industry groups (such as the Western Timber Association), and companies (such as Texaco, Amoco, and Boise Cascade) provided logistical, financial, and political support.” (Turner, 2009). To put it simply, the Sagebrush Rebellion caused large natural resource corporations to provide massive support for the Republican Party and the power dynamic associated with it led to the foundation of the “New Right” that exists today.
The Wise Use Movement was a conservative movement in the 1990’s whose membership was mostly limited to the Western United States. This movement was strongly opposed to government regulation of natural resources in the United States and advocated for the preservation of traditional western communities. At the same time the movement openly acknowledged that it is heavily funded by the mining industry in the United States (Turner, 2009). The Wise Use Movement had a significant impact on the formation of the “New Right” in the sense that it helped to transition conservative thinking from an opposition based movement to a cause-based movement. To be specific, according to the reading, “Indeed, wise use tracked broader shifts in the political strategies of the New Right. Elsewhere in the country, conservatives had already begun to shift attention away from old issues, such as race and states’ rights, and toward positive rights-based claims of individuals. That is, instead of positioning themselves against something, they portrayed their conservatism as for something–and something resonant for many Americans.” (Turner, 2009). To put it simply, the Wise Use movement was part of a transition in conservative thinking–that is, it moved away from being oppositional to its democratic counterparts and instead focused on creating its own causes that it saw and advertised as noble missions.
- Turner, James. “‘The Specter of Environmentalism’: Wilderness, Environmental Politics, and the Evolution of the New Right.” The Journal of American History 96, no. 1 (June 2009): 123–48. Accessed April 23, 2023.
One thought on “Blogpost #10”
I like how you talked about the fact that the Sagebrush Rebellion was backed by a number of wealthy conservative donors, industry groups, and big companies. It’s interesting to note how this was kind of the beginning of the biggest supporters of the right. I find it pretty cool to see how the Republican party that is active in politics today really established their power dynamics and supporters during this time, and in part thanks to their anti-environmentalist campaigns. This was also the time where a lot of people active in politics got a lot more support and money from private companies like these natural resource corporations.