Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Republicans Should Heed the Lessons of 1964 and 1974

The media is highlighting the “Civil War” within the Republican Party; Donald Trump’s “doomed” campaign is supposedly tearing the Party apart, as distinguished Republicans repudiate him, seemingly en masse. Dump Trump, they say. Oh, the memories of 1964. A conservative Senator from Arizona, Barry Goldwater, wrestled the Republican nomination away from the eastern Republican establishment, which would be referred to today as Rhinos. Goldwater’s supporters were as ardent as this year’s Donald Trump’s. The Rockefellers, et al, were enraged. Goldwater was conservative. He questioned Social Security. Primary opponent after primary opponent, ending with Governor Scranton of Pennsylvania, fell to the Goldwater onslaught. The outrage from the Republicans was even greater than that today against Donald Trump. The media piped in, trashing him as a dangerous, radical, reckless conservative. It’s echoed in the anti-trump animus of today’s media. He was dangerous war mongrel. President Johnson’s campaign piled on with the Daisy Ad, all the while LBJ was secretly plotting to escalate the Vietnam War. I was an impressionable 18 year old who bought into the anti-Goldwater hysteria. LBJ won in a landslide. The Republicans went down in flames in the November election. Yes, the turnout for the Democrats was high. But the turnout of dispirited Republican was low. The Republican establishment lost. 1964 marked the beginning of the end for the then traditional Republican establishment. They candidates, including incumbents, went down in the Democratic landslide. The Democrats picked up 37 House seats giving then 291 to 144 Republicans, a 2:1 ratio. They gained 2 Senate seats to 68 compared to a sparse 32 for the republicans. GOP candidates and incumbents across the board in state houses and local races were overwhelmingly defeated. Conservatives, from the West lost the battle in 1964, but won the GOP in 1980. Barry Goldwater may have lost, but he gave rise to Ronald Reagan, who chose George H.W. Bush from the eastern establishment as his Vice President. 1968 witnessed the election of former Vice President Richard Nixon. President Nixon won a landslide reelection in 1992, but the Democrats held onto the House of Representatives and Senate with large majorities. Watergate broke. The media was up in arms and the Democrats used their control of Congress’ committees to destroy the Nixon Administration through nationally televised Congressional hearings. Republicans abandoned President Nixon. Indeed, Senator Goldwater led a committee of Republicans to tell Nixon it was time to resign. The dispirited Republicans stayed home in November. The Democrats thereby achieved enormous majorities in both branches of Congress. They gained 5 Senate seats to 61 and 1 House seat to 291. 1976 was no better for the Republicans. The Democrats retained their 61 Senate seats, but gained the Presidency and an additional seat in the House. It’s looking like Déjà vu all over again. Republican office holders abandon their candidate, alienating the base of the Party. If the base stays home, the omens are poor for the Republican control not only of Congress, but the state houses. Donald Trump may be this year’s version of Sharron Angle, Christina O’Donnell, Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock. He may be the wrong messenger, but the Republican base likes the message. If the Republican turnout is low, the resulting Clinton landslide will be devastating to the GOP, as in 1964 and 1974. The establishment may blame trump, but the republican voters will take it out on the republican establishment in future elections.

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