Historians have tended to characterize the ‘white ethnic’ identity politics of the 1970s in the United States as a significant feature of the conservative counterrevolution, especially the rise of populist racial conservatism and its splintering of the Democratic New Deal coalition. Seeking to provide a broader, more representative portrait of white ethnic mobilization, activism, and institutionalization in government, with particular focus on the work of Rev. Geno Baroni, the National Center for Urban Ethnic Affairs, and the Carter administration's Office of Ethnic Affairs, this article challenges that assumption. It posits that the politics of white ethnicity was a far more complex, diverse phenomenon, of appeal to liberals and conservatives in an era of considerable political flux. This reconsideration also reveals that the 1970s were not conservative in the United States, but a watershed decade of uncertainty, volatility, and experimentation, in which ethnic identities and affiliations were reshaped, political norms upended, and new forms of organization and mobilization trialled out, with great significance for today's ‘post-ethnic’ United States. White ethnic politics was of considerable importance to American political development in the late twentieth century, but not in the way usually thought.