Legal Insurrection has been following the fate of Detroit, where progressive policies and divisive rhetoric have combined to destroy a one vibrant city.

Hillsdale College student Walker Mulley offers this perspective on the situation, based on DePaul University associate professor Colleen Doody’s book, “Detroit’s Cold War”:

Postwar conservatives were united by anti-communism, but their anti-communism was directed more at the New Deal than the Communist Party.

….In the decades after World War II, unions agitated for larger government and for union shops—policies whereby workers are required to join unions in order to remain employed at a specific firm. Conservative opposition to these causes developed into a general suspicion of organized labor; suspicion was especially high, because Communists were historically at the forefront of labor agitation.

Racial prejudice also played a role in the development of conservatism. When the city of Detroit announced plans to build public housing projects outside the historically black neighborhood of Paradise Valley, it met fierce opposition. Some opponents were blatantly racist, others more concerned about their property values. Regardless of their feelings toward blacks, those opposed thought the government was overstepping its bounds. They argued the city should protect white homeowners’ property values, not advance black homeownership. They saw the plan as doubly injurious to themselves—the government would take white taxpayers’ money and use it to lower their property values by moving blacks into previously segregated neighborhoods.

The opposition further justified their position through anti-communism. Because Communists were heavily involved in the civil rights movement, whites wrote off the movement off as communist agitation. However, many black groups— particularly the NAACP—viewed the Communist Party primarily as opportunists who would happily work against black advancement if it served the their cause.

Catholics brought a religious and communitarian streak to the burgeoning conservative movement. Their primary concern was increasing secularization, a concern given urgency by the New Deal government’s growing involvement in needs traditionally provided for by Christian charity. Catholics opposed communism primarily for its atheism and for the USSR’s persecution of Christians. Catholics organized public devotions to pray for the conversion of Russia. In doing so they fought both communism and secularism, injecting religion back into the public square.

Businessmen contributed a libertarian and anti-statist streak to the conservative movement. Their primary concern was that the growth of the welfare state and the high taxes necessary to support it increasingly interfered with their ability to run their businesses. Businessmen opposed communism primarily as another form of statism; their main concern was the New Deal, not the USSR, though they saw little difference between the welfare state and Communist states.