Just a few years after an historic presidency and things aren’t looking so good nationally:
- Decade-old war efforts loom over national policy, costly in both money and blood.
- New threats lie on the horizon, with the establishment appearing eager for pretexts.
- The incumbent leftist president pushes massive healthcare legislation.
- The incumbent leftist president promotes expansions of “civil rights”.
- National debt and deficits are an obvious national threat which will have to be dealt with.
Things on the Right start to shape up before the next election. At first you had a choice between a diverse group of players, including:
- A New England establishment Republican connected to all the big bankers and high finance (two actually).
- A devout Christian woman of conscience who was once quoted as saying, “we need more religion and less politics in our country.”1
- A dark-skinned minority businessman.
- A white-haired “tell it like it is” ultra-conservative proponent of fiscal conservatism, opponent of foreign aid, and quasi-libertarian with a reputation for drawing huge crowds.
But the real contest in the primary finally ended up between the New England establishment Republican, and the freedom-fighting, fiscal conservative. This is the choice for conservatives.
So this is where we’re at, right?
Yes and No. First: this was 1964.
The establishment man was Nelson Rockefeller (although Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. had also been in the race, and would have been a near clone to Romney as well), and the freedom-fighter was, of course, Barry Goldwater.
In that setting, Goldwater won the nomination, despite the fact that Rockefeller was presented as the front-runner. Rockefeller and the eastern establishment held a grudge. They sold out Goldwater, refused to endorse him, and abandoned him during the general election. Among establishment guys, only Richard Nixon came to Goldwater’s side.
Abetting the establishment’s stubborn refusal was Michigan governor and powerhouse establishment Republican George Romney, Mitt Romney’s father.
When there was a choice between a liberty movement and the socialist Great Society, the Romney family snubbed their nose at Goldwater.
Since Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act, LBJ and the left was trashed him publicly, and wrongly, as a racist. The establishment GOP sat there and let it happen. It was, therefore, complicit in leftist Johnson’s landslide victory.
We got the nation’s first Health Care overhaul (Medicare) because the GOP refused to stand for individual liberty.
So much for “party first.” “Party first” guys say “party first” and “anyone but” only when they want principled conservatives to compromise for the establishment’s favorite. They refuse to do it when the people’s choice of candidate is too truly conservative for their taste.
The Dawn of “Morning in America”
Another backer arose, however, amidst the campaign: a young former democrat and former proponent of FDR New Dealism who had recently converted to conservative views, particularly in opposition to federal intrusions into people’s lives (including opposition to the Civil Rights Act).
The young man was Ronald Reagan. Read the basics about his early political development here.
Reagan spoke in behalf of the Goldwater campaign in 1964. His speech is now-famous. It is also now almost totally ignored by the GOP, except for quaint sound-byes they have no idea of acting upon. More on the content of the speech below.
If someone gave Reagan’s exact same speech today, word-for-word, without revealing that it was from Reagan, they would be dismissed by most Christians and conservatives as a radical libertarian hack.
This is how far we’ve come since 1964. The primary candidates look pretty much the same, and party political pressures are running much the same. We are still told who is the front-runner, and the establishment still uses blackballing and dirty tricks to get its way. But the only major success of the Republican Party during the interim period was the so-called Reagan revolution, and that revolution was a clear expression of Barry Goldwater-style libertarian-conservatism. And this is entirely buried by the establishment today.
The Farce of “Anybody but ______”
In this story is both bad news and good news.
The bad news is that lesser-of-two-evils voting, the failure to back truly principled candidates out of unfounded fears, and “anyone but” voting is still with us, still perpetuating elitism, tyranny, social decline, and causing gradual decline in quality of candidates.
The perpetual “anybody but ____” mantra that keeps turning the American election merry-go-round has done absolutely nothing, politically, but lead to decline in all three branches of government. If you disgree, then tell me what major political advances have conservatives made since 1964?
If you qualify that question to mean major advances that are not offset by subsequent losses in related areas, you probably can’t name a single one.
“Anybody but ____” has given us “anything but freedom.”
As long as there are party hacks in both major parties who profit from one form or other of big government, it will not change. The two party system was created for and protects a corrupt system. As insider (and mentor to Bill Clinton) Carroll Quigley wrote,
The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can ‘throw the rascals out’ at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy. . . .
But either party in office becomes corrupt, tired, unenterprising, and vigorless. Then it should be possible to replace it, every four years if necessary, by the other party, which will be none of these things but will still pursue, with new vigor, approximately the same basic policies.2
The irony is that I went to find that quotation, and then recovered this in Quigley’s very next paragraph:
The capture of the Republican National Party by the extremist elements of the Republican Congressional Party in 1964, and their effort to elect Barry Goldwater to the Presidency with the petty-bourgeois extremists alone, was only a temporary aberration on the American political scene.3
In Quigley’s view, this “petty bourgeois (lower middle class)” was driven to support Goldwater due to its “clinging to its particular version of the middle-class outlook” and “passing it on to its offspring in an even more intensified form” while the rest of the middle class was disintegrating around it.4
Ring any bells about “cling to their guns and religion”? And in Quigley’s day, the establishment right was just as exasperated about Goldwater as the left was.
The establishment, left and right, has not changed.
A Way Forward
The 1964 general election was a landslide unmatched until 1980 when Reagan annihilated Carter. But here’s the good news: it was the legacy of grassroots workers after Goldwater’s campaign that grew into the Reagan revolution.
It was Richard Viguerie’s compilation of a few thousand names of Goldwater supporters into a single mailing list that launched, in seed form, that revolution. That list eventually enabled conservatives across the country to realize that others like them existed. It began a movement.
But it was Reagan’s political outlook and platform—individual liberty and self-government—that put him over the top, first as governor of California, then as President.
In short, no Goldwater, no Reagan.
Today we have a “Liberty Movement” far larger than the ripples Goldwater created. But we are told that Goldwater was “a temporary aberration.”
Quigley was right with Goldwater, and even Reagan succumbed to huge deficits while in office and never challenged the banking establishment.
The question for today’s Christians and conservatives who love liberty is, are we going to be another temporary aberration? Or shall we consolidate, stand firm, and send that message to the establishment at every level of every party and government?
Below is the speech Ronald Reagan gave at Goldwater’s 1964 nomination campaign. The issues he emphasized were these:
- fiscal conservatism
- the freedoms intended by the founding fathers
- the American Revolution and self-government
- the rejection of an intellectual elite in Washington
- rejection of “greater government activity in the affairs of the people”
- defense of free markets and individual freedoms
- return to the Constitution
- criticism of government “force and coercion”
- an end to government subsidies and programs that interfere with the private sector
- criticism of the growth of federal bureaucracy
- critique of “urban renewal”
- promotion of strict private property rights
- critique of federal government in housing and mortgage
- critique of federal government involvement in “employment”
- critique of envy
- critique of massive spending on welfare programs
- exposure of the bankruptcy and fraudulent accounting of Social Security
- a plan to make social security voluntary
- “stop the advance of socialism”
- honesty and integrity in elected leaders
These are all biblical issues which Christians should embrace.
We are now still in the primary season in many levels of elections throughout this country, including the presidency. It’s no longer 1964, but there are still candidates who still speak to these issues like Reagan did in 1964. And as Reagan said, “Perhaps there is a simple answer. Not an easy answer, but simple.” We should seek that answer. Christians don’t have to settle for “anybody but.”
Nor should they. Ever.
Consider. Vote wisely. Vote morally.
And then teach your children to do so in an even more intensified form.