Skip to comments.THE GOLDWATER MYTH
Posted on 03/06/2009 4:35:47 PM PST by yongin
It's CPAC weekend - the grand rallying of the conservative clan here in Washington. It's a season where conservatives from across the country meet to compare notes, share stories, and seek political consensus. The consensus forming this year however is an ominously dangerous one - ominously dangerous to conservatives themselves that is.
Conservatives live in thrall to a historical myth, and this myth may soon cost us dearly.
The myth is the myth of the Goldwater triumph of 1964. It goes approximately as follows:
In 1964, after years of watered down politics, Republicans turned to a true conservative, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. Yes, Goldwater lost badly. But in losing, he bequeathed conservatives a national organization and a new champion, Ronald Reagan. Goldwaters defeat opened the way to Reagans ultimate triumph and the conservative ascendancy of the 1980s and 1990s.
This (the myth continues) is the history we need to repeat. If we can just find the right messenger in 2012, the message that worked for Reagan will work again. And even if we cannot find the right messenger, losing on principle in 2012 will open the way to a more glorious victory in 2016.
The Goldwater myth shuts down all attempts to reform and renew our conservative message for modern times. And it offers a handy justification for nominating a 2012 presidential candidate who might otherwise seem disastrously unelectable. Altogether, the myth invites dangerous and self-destructive behavior by a party that cannot afford either.
What happened in 1964 was an unredeemed and unmitigated catastrophe for Republicans and conservatives. The success that followed 16 years later was a matter of happenstance, not of strategy. Thats the real lesson of 1964, and it is the lesson that conservatives need most to take to heart today.
1964 was always bound to be a Democratic year. The difference between Barry Goldwaters 38.5% candidacy and the 44% or 45% that might have been won by a Nelson Rockefeller or a William Scranton was the effect on down-ballot races.
Republicans lost 36 seats in the House of Representatives in 1964, giving Democrats the biggest majority in the House any party has enjoyed since the end of World War II. Republicans dropped 2 seats in the Senate, yielding a Democratic majority of 68-32, again the most lopsided standing in any election from the war to the present day.
This huge congressional majority - call it the Goldwater majority - liberated President Johnson from any dependence on conservative southern Democrats. In 1964, only 46 Senate Democrats voted for the great Civil Rights Act; 21 opposed. Without Republican support, the Act would not have passed. (And indeed while 68% of Senate Democrats voted for the Act, 81% of Senate Republicans did.)
While dependent on southern Democrats, President Johnson had to develop a careful, pragmatic domestic agenda that balanced zigs to the right (in 1964, Congress passed the first across the board income tax cut since the 1920s) with zags to the left (the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 which created Head Start among other less successful programs).
Then came the Republican debacle of November 1964. Goldwater's overwhelming defeat invited a tsunami of liberal activism. The 89th Congress elected in 1964 enacted both Medicaid and Medicare. It passed a new immigration law, opening the way to a surge of 40 million newcomers, the overwhelming majority of them from poor Third World countries. It dramatically expanded welfare eligibility and other anti-poverty programs that together transformed the urban poor of the 1950s into the urban underclass of the 1970s and 1980s.
Suppose history had taken a different bounce in 1964. Suppose somebody other than Sen. Goldwater had won the Republican presidential nomination. Suppose his narrower margin of defeat had preserved those 36 Republican seats in the House or even possibly gained some seats. (The big Democratic gains in 1958 and 1962 were ripe for a rollback in 1964 and indeed were rolled back in 1966, when the GOP picked up 47 seats in the House and 3 in the Senate.)
Under those circumstances, the legislation of 1965 might have looked a lot more like the more moderate legislation of 1964. The Voting Rights Act would surely have passed, and so too would some form of health insurance measure for the poor a measure supported by the American Medical Association and health insurers as well as by congressional liberals. But Medicare might never have happened, or might have taken a less costly form. The immigration bill might have been more carefully written so as to achieve its declared purpose: eliminating racial discrimination in immigration without expanding the overall number of immigrants from the modest level prevailing in the 1950s and early 1960s.
True, the liberal triumph of 1964 set in motion the train of disasters that laid liberalism low in the 1980s. But those disasters followed from choices and decisions that liberals made not from some multiyear conservative grand strategy for success in 1980. It was not Goldwater who made Reagan possible. It was Carter. Had Carter governed more successfully, the Goldwater disaster would have been just a disaster, with no silver lining. And there was nothing about the Goldwater disaster that made the Carter failure more necessary, more inevitable.
And anyway, as the years pass, the consequences of Reagans victory look more temporary and provisional, at least in domestic policy while the consequences of Goldwaters defeat look more enduring and more consequential. The Reagan tax cuts are long gone. Medicare is still here.
Its important for Republicans to absorb and remember this history as they prepare to make their next political choices. Right now, Republicans are gripped by a strong martyr complex. They want to stand up for their beliefs, damn the consequences in fact the worse the consequences, the more it proves the rightness of our beliefs. If this mood persists further into the 2012 cycle, we will pay a heavy price. 2010 is already shaping up as an inhospitable year for Republicans, especially in the Senate, where the map favors the Democrats. 2012 could be much better unless we doom ourselves by our own bad choices.
It is this alternative possibility of success or failure down the ballot as well as up that makes it so urgent to disenthrall ourselves of the 1964 myth. Goldwaters defeat was a prelude to nothing except defeats on the floor of Congress in 1965-66. As the next presidential cycle begins, our priority should be to identify presidential candidates who can run strongly in every region of the country not because we expect to win every region of the country, but because we want to help elect Republican congressional candidates in every region of the country. Our present strategy is one that is paving the way not merely to another defeat at the presidential level, but to a further shriveling of our congressional party and an utterly unconstrained Obama second term that will make LBJs ascendancy look moderate and humble in comparison.
Frum discounts the Flower ad against Goldwater.
I don’t care what Frum thinks. We don’t field a RINO to win over the electorate.
Frum, that was already tried and it failed. Now, shut the heck up, you idiot.
Bull Frum. It was Reagan who made Reagan possible.
Goldwater was absolutely correct. You don’t go fight and pussyfoot around. You go to win or you don’t go.
Nobody likes Frum anymore..doesn’t he get it?
Who cares what he has to say?
Would this rat-faced Canadian milksop please shut his yap?
Don’t you go talkin’ ‘bout Goldwater like that.
What's his suggestion? More watered down ceeding the debate to the liberals and acting like we're just not quite as guilt-ridden as those other whiney-assed bedwetters?
One word Mr. Frum, ENOUGH!
I've had quite enough of seeing the inmates in charge of the asylum
I've had quite enough of watching immature children pretend to know how to lead a nation and the world
We just tried Frum's strategy last year. We ran a moderate maverick who was supposed to appeal to Democrats. Didn't work out too well.
The assassination of President Kennedy killed Goldwater’s chances. Revisionist history notwithstanding, Goldwater brought energy and ideas to a Republican Party that needed both. I guess you had to be there to appreciate the enthusiasm he generated.
ANNNHHHH! Wrong! Tax rates are way lower than where they were when Reagan took office in 1981 and comparable (if not lower for many people) than where they were in 1989 when he left office. Either way, federal taxes are far lower than during the dark day of Carter.
Frum is a fool. If you don't have principles, why bother? You must first have principles before you can articulate and sell others on them. That's what Reagan excelled at. He was the great communicator and champion of conservative values because he believed in them. Reagan didn't need a teleprompter to tell you how he thought.
Americans (most of us, anyway) are still fiscally conservative and care passionately about being good stewards of our money, land and other precious resources. Reagan knew how to connect with fiscal conservatives of all parties and walks of life.
Republicans failed in 2006 and 2008 because voters perceived them to be no better than Democrats when it came to fiscal conservatism. They saw Bush's $5 trillion debt and said enough is enough. I'd never be stupid enough to be duped into voting for Obama based on that evidence (as though liberals are ever fiscally conservative) but it's easy to see why many have lost faith in the GOP and doubt its credibility on fiscal issues.
Abandoning our principles is what got us into the fix we're in. Frum is a fool if he thinks reinventing our principles and becoming poll driven populists (like the Democrats) is the answer for the GOP. Our principles did not fail us, our failure was failing to adhere to them.
It's no different than a God fearing Christian who has lost the faith... it wasn't the principles of Christianity that failed them, it was their failure to live the Word through works and not merely recite the Word while failing to live it.
I watched McCain last night on TV trying to wrap himself in the Mantle of Barry Goldwater. He failed miserably.
I will give McCain credit for being against most Pork legislation. But not much else.
Don’t agree with him on Immigration, Don’t agree with him on big government, Don’t agree with him on where the Republicans need to direct the party.
I wished I did not feel that way, but none the less I do.
Interesting take on the man McCain replaced in the Senate.
After Goldwater left the Senate, he turned into a full blown liberal.
Indeed. Barry contributed greatly to conservative thought. Not the eloquent speaker and communicator that Reagan was, but Barry would hit you right in the gut and make you think hard about what he was saying. A true fiscal conservative and a social libertarian (which in the post Roe v. Wade world means he would never get very far in today's GOP). We could use a lot more real fiscal conservatives who understand that states shouldn't be welfare queens begging for federal handouts. We need the GOP to grow some cojones and stop feeding the unsustainable growth of the federal beast before we go the way of the Roman Empire and collapse from the weight of massive debt, taxes, overspending and resource depletion.
Frum was born in 1960. In Toronto. He comes from a generation that believes: if it didn't happen to me, it didn't happen.
As a consequence, he has no idea who Barry Goldwater was, what he believed nor what his followers believed (I'm one of them).
Nor does he have any knowledge of the paramount importance of Kennedy's assassination, nor it coitus interruptus impact on politics.
In short, David Frum is an over-educated, misinformed fool.
I was there. We said:" In your heart you know he's right! The left said: "In your guts you know he's nuts". Two years later when LBJ was tanking, billboards throughout the mid west proclaimed: "Now you know he was right."
Frum is not Frum. Deport this RINO back to Canada.
I know. I was on the Board of NY Youth for Goldwater.
He completely ignores the Kennedy Assisignation, which was the biggest influence on the election.
Nice try RINO. We just are not buying it anymore. As soon as you start with the update our “message” stuff, just can’t read ... any .. more ... Can’t ......
We need someone running on conservative principles who can win in the general. In short we need both principles and electability.
And I was a precinct captain for Goldwater in Cincinnati.
My first presidential campaign...
The Reagan Revolution started with Goldwater. And Frum has no idea. Without Goldwater, there wouldn't have been a successful and important National Review to hire his sorry ass.
Well he has left NRO to go to the RINO - centrist Daily Beast, with Christopher Buckley, among others. They have been making many snarkey comments about Buckley, Brooks, and Frum at NRO these days.
Say is it true that turkeys can't fly? OK, bad WKRP reference.
Nope - Carter did that all on his own.
Frum discounts the Flower ad against Goldwater.
Agreed, but I would also point out that a lot of people voted on emotion, just like today. A lot of them stupidly voted to continue the legacy of a murdered President. LBJ was lucky, too.
If nothing else, the 1964 Republican Convention was momentous for propelling Ronald Reagan onto the national stage. Someone (it may have been Mark Levin) replayed his speech at the convention on the radio a while back, and what really stood out for me was just how few REPUBLICANS today are willing to publicly stake out those positions.
Here's an amazing irony . . . as I was listening to Reagan's speech and trying to think of which public personality today reminded me most of what that speech stood for, the name that came to mind over and over again was Rush Limbaugh.
I had to laugh about Sean Hannity and others claiming how "this is the year American Journalism died," in 2008. Not even close. If you think the liberal media was in the tank for 0bama, you didn't live through the 1964 election.
Johnson received a huge sympathy vote from the Kennedy assassination, and Goldwater received a tremendous amount of negative coverage as a result of his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Goldwater's stand was a principled conservative stand for Federalism. Of course, it was portrayed as racism pure and simple. At that time the South was not Republican, so Goldwater's position hurt him in what were then Republican strongholds in battleground States.
Add to this that in 1964 the highest career military people (except LeMay) were unwilling to buck the civilian leadership on the complete inadequacy of our war effort in Vietnam; consequently most Americans were not tuned into the requirements of the conflict and Goldwater's approach sounded crazy, while Johnson's (who knew the truth, and lied) sounded measured and sensible.
Reflect on this: in the 20th century, the supposedly conservative party produced exactly two conservative presidential nominees and one libertarian. One conservative -- Reagan, and one libertarian -- Coolidge were elected. The other Republicans you can pick were advocates of activist government except for Eisenhower (who was NOT a conservative.)
So, the truth hurts: the 2008 election was NOT an aberration. The Republican Party almost never nominates conservatives. We nominate McCain types, and then get lectures for idiots like Frum, who tells us we've failed because we haven't nominated enough of them.
May they keep it up.
Some people deserve public disdain by their peers.
Frum is wishing that Giuliani won in 2008. He’s upset that the GOP did not clear the field for him in the primary.
Absolutely. Kennedy was in trouble in the polls. The pubbies were split, and Goldwater always came across as a cranky old guy, but Kennedy getting assassinated was the best thing that ever happened to Johnson politically.
Whatta buncha pelosi.
“They want to stand up for their beliefs, damn the consequences in fact the worse the consequences, the more it proves the rightness of our beliefs”
i will agree with him on this point ... know plenty of right-wingers who love lose elections.
“The assassination of President Kennedy killed Goldwaters chances.”
Absolutely correct. AUH2O ran against LBJ AND the ghost of JFK
Good one! Of course, we had some from that generation (Sarah Palin, for example, my kid brothers, for another) who were born with their heads screwed on straight because their parents had their heads screwed on straight.
Those of us born in the mid-boomer years (roughly 1953-1960) got to grow up on the tail end of Viet Nam and when the Ford/Carter recession was in full bloom with severe competition for even the poorest of jobs. Some of us were stupid enough to trust Carter and vote for him in 1976. Fewer of us would repeat that error in 1980.
So let it be with Zer0.
Mother always said that Goldwater told the truth as to what he’d do in Vietnam, LBJ lied through his teeth and won the election.
A common post-election line was "They told that if I voted for Goldwater we'd end up in an unwinnable war on the Asian mainland. Well, I voted for Goldwater anyway. And, sure enough, we did."
As to the congressional coatails for LBJ, I don’t think that mattered too much (ick Tom Foley elected), his crap probably would have passed anyway. in 1966 the GOP rebounded big time.
The lasting damage from 1964, his vote against the Civil rights act with taken as racist by blacks though it wasn’t in the case of the few northern Republicans who voted against it, and they’ve voted 90% (more for Obama) rat since due to whole thing turning into some kind of “GOP is racist” meme virus. If they only got 70% of the black vote, they’d never win.
Fieldmarshaldj told me the rat in 1980 ran to his right.
In 1992 he was backing rat Karen English for congress for some silly residency reason allegedly (or abortion, suspected reason).
Yeah, Bill Schulz ran to the right on the pro-life issue. Goldwater lied to pro-life activists that he wouldn’t go against them.
He backed English in AZ-6 over Doug Wead, the Republican, because Wead was one of “those” (Religious Conservatives).
“Yeah, Bill Schulz ran to the right on the pro-life issue. Goldwater lied to pro-life activists that he wouldnt go against them.”
But If that was the only thing I would have still backed Goldwater. Schulz was a Republican and switched I read, one wonders what he was thinking switching to the rat party, I’d be more sympathetic to lifelong pinto dem.
Backing English was inexcusable especially if he lied about the reason. I’m sure he backed AZ newcomer John McCain in 1986.
As it turned out, Johnson's management of the war resulted in the deaths of 58,226 American troops and 304,000 wounded out of the more than TWO MILLION AMERICANS who served there.
Things might be very different today if JFK still lived. MLK was frustrated with JFK dragging his feet over the Civil Rights Bill. JFK needed Southern Dems to support him on other issues. Northern GOP Senators opposed JFK for the sake of being partisan. The GOP Senators supported the Civil Rights Bill due to goodwill on JFK’s death. If JFK didn’t die, the Civil Rights Bill may have not passed during JFK’s term. MLK would have grown frustrated with the Dems and given the GOP another look. As result, blacks wouldn’t be addicted to the Dems.
1964 was always bound to be a Democratic year. The difference between Barry Goldwater's 38.5% candidacy and the 44% or 45% that might have been won by a Nelson Rockefeller or a William Scranton was the effect on down-ballot races... While dependent on southern Democrats, President Johnson had to develop a careful, pragmatic domestic agenda that balanced zigs to the right (in 1964, Congress passed the first across the board income tax cut since the 1920s) with zags to the left (the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 which created Head Start among other less successful programs). Then came the Republican debacle of November 1964. Goldwater's overwhelming defeat invited a tsunami of liberal activism... Suppose history had taken a different bounce in 1964. Suppose somebody other than Sen. Goldwater had won the Republican presidential nomination. Suppose his narrower margin of defeat had preserved those 36 Republican seats in the House -- or even possibly gained some seats. (The big Democratic gains in 1958 and 1962 were ripe for a rollback in 1964 -- and indeed were rolled back in 1966, when the GOP picked up 47 seats in the House and 3 in the Senate.)On the one hand, he says that 1964 was bound to be a Demwit year, but on the other, says that the Demwit gains in 1962 were ripe for a rollback in 1964. He's exactly correct about this: "Goldwater's overwhelming defeat invited a tsunami of liberal activism." Republican candidates in 2010 will be less conservative than ever before, because they saw what happened in 2008 -- count on it. The public perception is always that the Pubbie is a conservative, or at the very least more conservative, than the Demwit; since that was a miserable failure, there's no way there will be deeply conservative candidates in the primaries and general in 2010. But whomever runs won't be able to raise money, won't be able to count on volunteers, won't win. To some extent that will be true of all Republican candidates in 2010, but it will be particularly true of conservative ones. Count on it.
Democratic Debacle (1964 convention, repercussions today)
America Heritage | July 2004 (cover date) | Joshua Zeitz
Posted on 07/27/2004 9:59:49 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
That meshes with the theory that LBJ himself was a player in the JFK assassination. There's some pretty good overall evidence to support that in a book by Barr McClellan (estranged father of one of W's WH press secretaries) titled "Blood, Money, and Power."
I'm not accusing him of being a 'Rat in GOP clothing, but his Republican credentials aren't all that formidable, other than his two years or so as a speechwriter in the W White House.
I understand he's a transplanted Canadian, possibly a dual national.
I went to the YAF convention in New York which resolved to draft Goldwater.
The little girl plucking the daisy petals was the pinnacle of the Left's attack on Goldwater.
Johnson was beseeched by the Joint Chiefs November 1965 for permission to mine Haiphong and bomb Hanoi--he cursed them and shooed them out of the White House.
Johnson did as much as anyone to damage the nation--as much as anyone in its history--before the Islamo-Communist from Kenya.
Frum has an odor about him--he smells like surrender.