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Born to Be WildThe Rise of the American Motorcyclist$
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Randy D. McBee

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781469622729

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469622729.001.0001

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Let Those Who Ride Decide

Let Those Who Ride Decide

The Right and Age-Old Biker Values, 1940s–1990s

(p.153) 5 Let Those Who Ride Decide
Born to Be Wild

Randy D. McBee

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter examines the end of the federal government's helmet regulation and the growing alliance between motorcyclists and the Right. It explores the motorcyclists' changing ideological struggles that gave rise to a grassroots movement, the different organizations that came together to oppose helmets, and the issues that attracted conservative politicians to the motorcycle rights movement. This alliance was by no means guaranteed. Motorcyclists directly challenged the Right's support of “law and order” and a politics of family that emphasized everything the outlaw was not, but the average motorcyclist's support of the individual and his opposition to regulation eventually attracted Republican politicians who were anxious to expand their constituency and bolster their own arguments about freedom and big government. By the mid-1970s, Reagan, in opposition to Ralph Nader, became one of the leading opponents of helmet regulation, and as president he defied his own free-trade ideology to save Harley-Davidson.

Keywords:   political Right, Republicans, Ronald Reagan, motorcycle rights movement, helmet regulation, politics, Harley-Davidson

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