Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Goldwater in "64

Goldwater in ‘64 A revolution occurred in American politics fifty years ago this week in San Francisco. The Republican National Convention nominated Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona as its nominee for President of the United States. The Eastern Establishment had controlled the GOP until the 1964 primaries. Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York was the assumed nominee, but he failed. The spotlight then shone on Governor William Scranton of Pennsylvania, the last call of the eastern Republicans, all to no avail. Senator Goldwater was the sweetheart of conservatives after he published his 1960 book, The Conscience of a Conservative. The conservatives of the South and West charted a new course for the Party. Senator Goldwater and his running mate, Congressman William Miller of Buffalo, went down in a landslide to Landslide Lyndon. The Senator received only 38.4% of the popular vote compared to 61% for President Johnson. The Democrats gained a supermajority in both houses of Congress. Incumbent Republicans and office seekers at the state and local level were swept away in the Democratic tsunami. Pundits wrote the obituaries of the Republican Party. The liberal Republicans during the primary campaign, and then President Johnson’s forces in the general campaign painted the Senator as a right wing extremist. He had recommended that social security become voluntary and argued that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) be sold off. He suggested in May 1963 solving the Vietnam War in six months by defoliating the country with low level nuclear weapons. He stated during a December 1961 news conference: “I think this country would be better off if we could just saw off the Eastern Seaboard and let it float out to sea.” His acceptance speech further alarmed America. It contained this immortal, horrifying line: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Senator Goldwater had no illusions about the outcome in November 1964. He knew he would lose to President Johnson, who he viewed as a purveyor of dirty tricks (Let the record show though that a nickname of Richard Nixon was “Tricky Dickie.”) A campaign of vilification ensued. The Johnson campaign painted the Senator as a dangerous, extremist warmonger who would take us into war. The Daisy Ad, which only ran once during the campaign, cemented the negativities of Senator Goldwater. We later found out that President Johnson misrepresented two incidents to get Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the authorization for the escalation of the Vietnam War. We also learnt that the President was secretly planning to escalate the war – that which the President accessed the Senator of doing. The Senator was also pictured as a racist because he voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He felt it was unconstitutional. He had previously integrated his family’s Phoenix department store, Goldwaters, the Arizona Air National Guard, and the Phoenix school system. Senator Goldwater ran an ad: “In your heart, you know he’s right.” The Democratic response was “In your heart, you know he’s nuts.” Senator Goldwater was a rarity in politics. He was a politician not only of conviction, but also of principle. He stated what he believed. He was a prophet of the modern Republican Party, but like Moses could not reach the Promised Land himself. He was before his time. He believed in limited government, a balanced budget, the freedom of the individual, and personal responsibility. He believed that increased dependency on the government would harm the American character. He was a fiscal conservative and social libertarian. He only carried six states: Arizona and five states of the Deep South – Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. He pointed the path to future Republicans, such as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Both of those future Presidents were active in the Goldwater Campaign. Former Vice President Nixon campaigned in 37 states for the Senator, building up goodwill for his successful candidacy in 1968. Ronald Reagan, still an actor, delivered a nationally televised speech, A Time for Choosing, during the last week of the campaign. Republican leaders in California decided the actor would be a great governor candidate, unleashing his political career. As a man of principle, and one who never trusted President Nixon, Senator Goldwater led the Republican contingent on August 7, 1974 that told President Nixon he had to resign or he would most certainly be voted out of office by the Senate. American history would have been very different had Senator Goldwater won the 1964 election. He would not have gotten America into a land war in Vietnam. Nor would he have enacted the Great Society. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ My 50 year retrospective has a personal memory. The 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco’s Cow Palace is the only political convention I ever attended. I was a college student working part time at an insurance brokerage. One of the co-workers was the cousin (or was it nephew) of Republican Senator Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania. I asked if he could get me tickets to the Convention. The answer was no, but if I showed up in front of the Scranton Office on Market Street at a given time I could board a bus to the Cow Palace to be part of the “spontaneous” Scranton demonstration on the floor of the Convention. We were given fake tickets (the ink wasn’t even fully dry) to enter the Cow Palace. We were also told this was a Republican tradition going back to Abraham Lincoln’s successful campaign in 1860 at the Republican Convention. We were on the floor for over 20 minutes, futilely exhorting the delegates to vote for Scranton. We heard, as we left the floor to wander around the Convention, that the Goldwater people realized the Scranton forces had flooded the Convention with faked tickets. My friends and I quickly discarded all of our Scranton paraphernalia and picked up Goldwater signs and buttons. We enjoyed the rest of the evening at the Convention. Alas, almost all the souvenirs disappeared over the decades. Thus, I was both a Scranton and Goldwater supporter at the 1964 Republican National Convention. Let us also note that Hillary Rodham was a Goldwater supporter in 1964.

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