AT A TIME WHEN the nation has turned to the left, one of the more liberal universities in the nation will be studying right-wing movements. Although the timing is odd, investigation of the right is a welcome academic pursuit.
Thanks to an anonymous $777,000 donation a Center for the Comparative Study of Right-wing Movements will be established at UC Berkeley. Researchers will analyze right-wing groups in the United States and abroad and compare them.
Larry Rosenthal, a sociologist who will oversee the center, is on target in saying that conservative movements have been overlooked in academia, which tends to be populated by left-leaning professors. University studies generally have focused on liberal movements.
However, outside of academia, conservative and right-wing forces have had a major impact on U.S. government policy and have been responsible for the election of conservatives from the president on down.
Right-wing voices have long dominated talk radio and continue to have considerable influence.
Just what constitutes a rightist or conservative movement is debatable because of the broad range of views among those who consider themselves to be right of center. There are libertarians who generally agree with liberals on social issues, but favor smaller government, especially at the national level.
Included among right-wingers are religious groups that seek to include traditional moral values in public policy. Some right-leaning people are simply tightfisted about spending, while others have no qualms about spending huge amounts of borrowed money in areas they support, such as defense.
More research about right-wing groups is long overdue. In many national polls over the past few decades, more Americans consider themselves conservative than liberal, although they may disagree on what it is to be conservative.
We trust that the center will be comprehensive and objective in its study of right-wing movements and will be able to shed light on their diversity of thought as well as the impact they have had on policies in the United States and abroad.