‘Glo­ri­ous’ Gold­wa­ter loss in ’64 gave rise to con­ser­vatism

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Robert Stacy McCain

In 1964, Repub­li­cans were on the los­ing end of one of the big­gest land­slides in Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal his­tory, as Demo­cratic Pres­i­dent Lyn­don B. John­son beat Sen. Barry Gold­wa­ter by a mar­gin of about 15 mil­lion votes. Many ob­servers at the time thought the de­feat marked the end of the con­ser­va­tive move­ment that sup­ported Mr. Gold­wa­ter.

In his new book “A Glo­ri­ous Dis­as­ter: Barry Gold­wa­ter’s Pres­i­den­tialCam­paig­nandtheO­ri­gin­softhe Con­ser­va­tive­Move­ment,”J.William Mid­den­dor­fIII,whowastrea­surerof the Gold­wa­ter cam­paign, re­counts how that 1964 de­ba­cle laid the ground­work for fu­ture suc­cess.

Mr. Mid­den­dorf, who later served as Navy sec­re­tary and as an am­bas­sador in Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tions, is a mem­ber of the board of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion and lives in Rhode Is­land. The fol­low­ing are excerpts of a re­cent in­ter­view:

Ques­tion: Sev­eral books have been­writ­tenon­the1964Gold­wa­ter cam­paign. Do you feel that your book adds a new per­spec­tive to the story?


I think it prob­a­bly does, be­cause I sup­pose I had more to do with the cam­paign than just about any­body. [. . . ] The cam­paign re­ally op­er­ated on cash money. [. . . ]

Cu­ri­ously, our cam­paign was the first, and per­haps the last, to have a full au­dit. [. . . ] We were lauded for that, even by the lib­eral Democrats. Trans­parency was not some­thing that is gen­er­ally ex­pected in a cam­paign.

We started in ‘62, de­cided to get an early jump. Nelson Rock­e­feller, our ma­jor ad­ver­sary, was caught un­awares. We knew we had to line up del­e­gates early or we wouldn’t have a chance, be­cause the pre­vail­ing mood in the Repub­li­can Party then [. . . ] Eisen­hower, for ex­am­ple, called him­self a “mil­i­tant lib­eral.”

I was an eco­nomics stu­dent at Har­vard un­der [free-mar­ket econ­o­mist Joseph] Shum­peter and at NewYorkUniver­si­tyun­derLud­wig von Mises, and that’s what in­spired me to join the Gold­wa­ter cam­paign. [. . . ]

Q:Manyy­ounger­read­er­sprob­a­bly­can’tun­der­stand­how­dom­i­nant lib­er­al­ismwasintheear­ly1960s.At the time of the Gold­wa­ter cam­paign,didn’talotof­peo­ple­con­sider the­con­ser­va­tive­move­men­ta­hope­less cause?


Not only hope­less, but even worse than that, hereti­cal. [. . .] Ev­ery­one was a lib­eral, but the Repub­li­cans ar­gued that [. . . ] they could run things more ef­fi­ciently be­causethey­went­toHar­vardBusi­ness School. Ev­ery­one be­lieved in big gov­ern­ment — ex­cept Gold­wa­ter and the small band of con­ser­va­tives who started the Gold­wa­ter move­ment,[in­clud­ing]Bil­lBuck­ley and Cliff White. [. . . ]

Q:Iny­our­book,youd­is­cuss­some of the ways in which Nelson Rock­e­feller’s sup­port­ers un­der­mined the Gold­wa­ter cam­paign. Are con­ser­va­tives still bit­ter over some of those ex­pe­ri­ences?


Since then, the older con­ser­va­tives have been kicked around by ex­perts. [. . . ] They called us ev­ery name in the book. They called us ir­re­spon­si­ble, rad­i­cal, we were go­ing to de­stroy the coun­try. [. . . ] They be­lieved elites could run the coun­try bet­ter than the peo­ple. [. . . ] All that John­son did was pick up on Rock­e­feller’s pri­mary cam­paign themes. [. . . ] Not just Rock­e­feller, but [mod­er­ate Repub­li­can pri­mary ri­vals Michi­gan Gov. Ge­orge] Rom­ney and [Penn­syl­va­nia Gov. William] Scran­ton. [. . . ] Lyn­don John­son had an easy job of it — all he had to do was to quote th­ese guys. [. . . ] We were break­ing the back of the East­ern lib­er­als who had a stran­gle­hold on the Repub­li­can Party, what we called the coun­try club Repub­li­cans. [. . . ]

Q: Your book ex­plains a lot of the be­hind-the-scenes de­ci­sions of the Gold­wa­ter­cam­paign—or­ga­niz­ing, fundrais­ing, press re­la­tions, ad­ver­tis­ing. Why is it im­por­tant to un- der­stand the ba­sic me­chan­ics of pol­i­tics?


Phys­i­cally,no­cam­paign­canbe run un­less it is firmly rooted on three legs of a stool — the first leg is, of course, the can­di­date; the sec­ond leg is the cam­paign or­ga­ni­za­tion and is­sues; and the third leg has to be the fi­nances. Too of­ten, can­di­dates­get­intothe­ser­aceswith­outun­der­stand­ingth­eim­por­tance­ofthe­fi­nances. Many can­di­dates have a great mes­sage, but are fun­da­men­tally eco­nom­i­cally il­lit­er­ate — at their peril. [. . . ]

Q: One of the most fa­mous mo­ments in the Gold­wa­ter cam­paign was Ron­ald Rea­gan’s tele­vised speech,“ATime­forChoos­ing.”But you ex­plain in the book that many Repub­li­cans­didn’twant­that­speech to be broad­cast. Why?


Within the cam­paign, we had th­ese in­di­vid­u­als [. . . ] who felt that it might up­stage Barry. [. . . ] I fi­nally said, “All right, let’s show it to Barry.” [...]Bar­ry­tookalookatthe­filmand said [. . . ] “What the hell’s wrong with this? Run it.” [. . . ]

Q:TheColdWarandthe­me­n­ace of com­mu­nist ag­gres­sion were a cen­tral fo­cus of the con­ser­va­tive move­ment for 40 years. Since the col­lapse of the Soviet em­pire, has it be­come­hard­er­for­con­ser­va­tivesto unite the way they united be­hind Gold­wa­ter and Rea­gan?


We went for 10 years or so with­out a com­mon en­emy. [. . . ] Al­though there’s a de­vel­op­ing en­emy in ter­ror­ism [. . . ] that’s be­gin­ning to, in a sense, unite both par­ties. There’s very lit­tle temp­ta­tion on the part of the in­com­ing Democrats to cut off fund­ing for the mil­i­tary. [. . . ]

Q: Like 1964, the 2006 elec­tion was a dis­as­ter for Repub­li­cans. Do you see any ev­i­dence that Repub­li­cans have learned the kind of lesson­s­theylearned­fromtheGold­wa­ter cam­paign?


If they hear the mes­sage, they’ll learn. A lot of peo­ple elected to of­fice are lawyers and don’t come fro­maneco­nomicback­ground,and don’t un­der­stand that all pol­i­tics is eco­nomics. [. . . ]

The Repub­li­cans lost [Vir­ginia Sen.] Ge­orge Allen [who was de­feated in his re-elec­tion bid], so we are now sort of a party adrift. The party is strug­gling to find the can­di­date who is most con­ser­va­tive.

As­so­ci­ated Press

For­mer Sen. Barry Gold­wa­ter, the party’s 1964 nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent, was feted at the 1988 Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion.

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