Front Page Titles (by Subject) JOHN WEICHER, INDIVIDUALISM AND POLITICS: The Next Four Years: An Appraisal - New Individualist Review
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JOHN WEICHER, INDIVIDUALISM AND POLITICS: The Next Four Years: An Appraisal - Ralph Raico, New Individualist Review 
New Individualist Review, editor-in-chief Ralph Raico, introduction by Milton Friedman (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981).
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INDIVIDUALISM AND POLITICS
THE PHILOSOPHY of individualism is on the offensive among scholars and students, but its practical counterpart, political conservatism, is still on the defensive, fighting a rear-guard holding action in day-to-day events. It is not entirely successful in doing even that; the conservatives have just lost one valuable short-run bulwark, as a result of the new Administration’s success in packing the Rules Committee of the House of Representatives. This defeat, substantial as it is, has significance only in regard to domestic policy; there never was anything that Judge Smith and his fellow conservatives could do about the continuing unpoliced moratorium on nuclear tests or the disintegration of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization in Laos or any of a large number of international problems where mistakes in policy could make the question of the minimum wage purely academic.
But for the time being, at least, the minimum wage and the welfare measures of President Kennedy’s domestic program are very important, and despite his victory, about all the new President has accomplished is that his program will not be stillborn. Every Representative who voted against the packing scheme did so with the knowledge of what would happen to the President’s legislative plans if the scheme failed. In effect, each took a stand on those legislative plans. Among that 212, the conservatives can expect to lose as many as 15 or 20 on specific issues, but it should also be pointed out that about as many conservatives voted with the President; virtually all of these can be expected to vote against him on his specific proposals. Whatever impelled Thomas Curtis of Missouri, for example, to vote to give life to the Forand bill, he cannot be expected to support the measure itself, since he has been its best-informed and most effective opponent; nor can the Administration expect much further support from old Joe Martin, the former Speaker, or William Bates of Massachusetts, or Bill Ayres of Ohio. And the Louisianans and Texans and Arkansans who bowed to party pressure cannot bow further without committing political suicide, if they have not done so already.
The Rules Committee itself is by no means a tool of the President. Judge Smith is still Chairman and, like Adolph Sabath, his left-wing Democratic predecessor, even in the minority he will probably be able to stop a good deal of the legislation he opposes. The Judge’s still formidable strength, added to the second line of conservative defense which is the House itself, will be likely to defeat most if not all of the President’s proposals.
Therefore, since the general fate of the New Frontier has probably been settled by the conservative strength shown in the Rules Committee vote of January, the present offers a good opportunity to take a longer-range view of the political situation in the country. Here the prospects are much less encouraging than they are in the short-run Congressional skirmishing. In the longer view, the Rules Committee packing, important as it was, has simply ended a war which the Republicans could never have won as long as they remain the minority party in the House. It is no accident that Judge Smith and Congressman Colmer are the first- and second-ranking Democrats on the Committee; both were first appointed to it in the 1930’s, before the Southerners formed their alliance with the Republicans. Both are in their 70’s. Should either retire or die, their replacements would be far to the left of them. The other two holdover Southern Democrats on the committee, Trimble of Arkansas and Thornberry of Texas, generally vote with the Northern wing except on civil rights or states’ rights issues. The Democratic leadership has long since stopped appointing conservatives to Rules Committee vacancies.
The Republicans can sterilize the Administration’s victory by regaining control of the House. In 1962 they will be aided by the natural advantages of the “outs”—the normal opposition that any administration creates will be working for them. But the 1962 election will be complicated by redistricting, particularly in the larger states, and the Republican failure to win the important state legislatures will probably cancel out their normal off-year gains. For instance, the Democrats are in full control in California, and have promised to gerrymander as many Republicans as possible out of their seats, especially in Los Angeles County. What they do could easily nullify all the Republican gains in the states west of the Mississippi River. Pennsylvania is also dominated by the Democrats, though there the gerrymandering danger is less. Of the large states which must redistrict, the Republicans hold only New York, and any conservative gains there are likely to be small. Elsewhere, the Republicans have at best a split with the Democrats. Moreover, many of the smaller states which lose Congressmen are conservative, such as Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska and North Carolina. It would not be too surprising if the Democrats were to show some small gains in 1962, barring a political rock by Kennedy.
Despite all the talk to the contrary, the Republicans did not do very well last year. Nixon ran well ahead of his party in most of the nation, but the party itself, which he supposedly has been directing politically since 1954 and rebuilding since 1958, rebounded very slightly from the collapse of 1958. It failed to regain even one-half of the Congressional seats it lost that year, and the untimely death of Keith Thomson in Wyoming deprived it of one of the two Senate seats it was able to win (and also deprived the conservatives of their only Senate gain). It was a singularly inauspicious record for a party which has been claiming that it only gets its total vote out in Presidential election years; it raises the question of whether the Republican slide which began in 1954 has yet bottomed out.
On the more cheerful side, one of last November’s significant results was the defeat of a disproportionately large number of Democrats who took extreme leftist positions on foreign policy or internal security matters. For example, Jimmy Roosevelt was forced to drop his campaign against the Un-American Activities Committee after the defeats of several of his supporters. Also, two of the three avowed advocates of recognizing Communist China were retired by their constituents. While William Meyer of Vermont would probably have been defeated regardless of his opinions on anything, his pacifism and stand on China undoubtedly contributed to the unusually large size of his defeat. Perhaps more important was the upset of Charles Porter while the other two Oregon Democrats were winning by their usual margins or more. Both Porter and his opponent, Edwin Durno, attributed Porter’s loss to his views on foreign policy; he supported the Fair Play for Cuba committee, at least until recently, as well as advocating Red China recognition. This leaves only Thomas Ashley, from Toledo, who has voted against “sense of the House” resolutions opposing Communist China’s admission to the United Nations, claiming the House doesn’t need to pass such resolutions year in, year out. Thus the voters have rejected the open advocates of recognition while electing a President whose foreign policy advisors are at best wobbly on the issue. (Picture Adlai Stevenson at the UN denouncing Communist China as an outlaw nation and the murderer of Tibet. It is inconceivable.)
It will be interesting to watch the fireworks in the House when and if Stevenson speaks on this issue, for the majority leader, John W. McCormack, is one of the nation’s most outspoken opponents of Red China. If he does not bring up another “sense of the House” resolution before the next UN debate, it will be a sign that the administration is dropping the firm Truman-Eisenhower policy and is trying to prepare the public for the eventual recognition and UN admission of the Chinese Communists.
But these are just a few conservative gains, and while they may indicate a potential Republican issue for 1962, the Republicans will have redistricting and weak organizations going against them at the same time. In addition, 1962 offers little hope for Republican gains in the Senate; more Republicans than Democrats will be up for re-election. Senator Morse in Oregon and Senator Clark in Pennsylvania offer about the only chances for important Republican gains. Morse’s likely opponent will be Governor Mark Hatfield, who has proclaimed himself a Modern Republican, so there is little comfort for conservatives there. A few smaller fry, such as Church in Idaho and Carroll in Colorado, will also be running, as well as some members of the Republican left, such at Javits, Kuchel and Wiley. But the over-all picture here is as gloomy as it is for the House. The Republicans have not yet begun to revive.
And the Republicans offer conservatives their only hope for recapturing political power. The conservative Democrats in the South and elsewhere are not a force in their party nationally, and there is simply not time to build a new individualist party; the exigencies of the international situation do not permit it. The Republicans are the only short-run possibility, and it is too dangerous for the individualists to put all their hopes in a long-run new party.
The picture is not entirely black, among the younger Republicans, individualism is becoming more and more popular, as it is on the college campuses. But there is likely to be a gap while these younger men gradually move into positions of leadership in the party and while the rebirth of individualism is diffused through the voting population. During that gap the conservatives and the Republicans will be in their greatest danger. It is always possible, though not very likely, that Kennedy might make a major mistake that would bring down the wrath of the voters on his head and sweep the Republicans into power. Or the Republicans might rejuvenate themselves during the next two or four years, possibly under the leadership of Senator Goldwater, who seems to have an ability to excite people that might be the touchstone for a rapid Republican-conservative comeback.
There are, however, other forces that would like to rejuvenate the Republican party under their own leadership; during the next four years, while Kennedy battles Judge Smith, the more important battle will be fought between Senator Goldwater and Governor Rockefeller, both as persons and as representatives of different political philosophies. While the Republicans in Congress are creating a conservative record for the party, Governor Rockefeller’s natural strategy will be to ally himself with the Republican governors. In many ways, their situations are similar to those of Senator Taft and General Eisenhower in 1952, but complicated by the presence of Nixon. Moreover, all three men are young enough to plan not only for 1964 but also for 1968. If any of the three runs for President four years from now and loses, he will automatically be out of contention later.
It is this circumstance that puts the individualists in such a ticklish situation. Goldwater may offer a great opportunity to them, should he win the Presidential nomination in 1964 and go on to win the election. At the same time, unfortunately, he would also present the last such opportunity, for the Republican left might be willing to concede him the nomination in 1964 on the certainty that he would lose. And if he should lose, no matter by what margin, political conservatism would take a very, very long time to recover from his defeat.
[* ] Formerly a writer for Human Events. John Weicher is currently a graduate student in the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago. He received his B.A. from the University of Michigan.