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COMMUNICATION: The 1964 Election - 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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Rusher on Goldwater:
IT MAY BE USEFUL if I describe some of the considerations that motivated those who sought to draft Senator Goldwater, and who in the process seem to have annoyed Professor Rogge so vastly. (“Note on the Election” by Benjamin A. Rogge, New Individualist Review, vol. III, no. 4, Spring 1965)
First let me say that I agree with a large part of Professor Rogge’s underlying thesis. It is perfectly true that America, in 1964, “was simply not yet prepared to accept the conservative position.” Furthermore, I will cheerfully go the extra mile and concede that the probable outcome of the struggle was plainly foreseeable from the outset. One mild caveat here: No election is ever totally predictable, and it was always possible, even if only slightly so, that our expectations were unduly pessimistic, or that external events—the “deep crisis” mentioned by Professor Rogge—might arise to confound them. My own not terribly libertarian view was quoted in the November 1962 issue of Foundation: “there will inevitably come a time when the American people determine that world Communism must be destroyed. If that time comes before November of 1964, Goldwater will be elected. If it comes after 1964, he will be defeated.”
Yet Professor Rogge seems to think he has the argument won if he can only manage to establish that Senator Goldwater was doomed to lose. He throws in a few unkind remarks about the excessive zeal of the Draft-Goldwater forces, and concludes with a ringing appeal to conservatives “not to try to win elections but to try to win converts.”
This is sound enough as far as it goes, but I think it omits some important considerations. There is, first of all, the question of what obligation (if any) we owe to the democratic process. Granted that conservatives are a minority in this country, does it inexorably follow that they should not “fight the good fight, run the good race,” in Bryan’s hackneyed phrase? How, if conservatism is too delicate a bloom to be buffeted by the rough winds of the electoral process, are the American people even going to learn what it is, let alone be converted to it?
Beyond such considerations, and at a lower but by no means unimportant level, I urge Professor Rogge to consider the striking increase in the size, and the even more striking increase in the general articulation, of the conservative movement as a result of the Goldwater campaign. It will not, I think, be seriously denied that ten years ago there were far fewer conscious, committed conservatives in this country than there are today. Even two years ago, when the National Draft-Goldwater Committee was publicly proclaimed, conservatives were comparatively unaware of each other’s existence, and hence of their united strength. Today, despite the disappointment naturally engendered by Senator Goldwater’s defeat, conservatives are vastly better organized and infinitely more experienced in the ways of practical politics than they have ever been before.
A final observation. After the defeat of Richard Nixon in 1960, it was universally assumed that the inevitable course of the Republican Party was leftward—to Rockefeller, and perhaps even beyond him; but what is the comparable expectation today, nine or ten months after the “debacle” of the Goldwater drive? It is, of course, widely asserted in Republican Party circles that a “conservative can’t win”; but is one not struck by the paucity of voices arguing that its destiny lies with Rockefeller (or Kuchel, or Lindsay, or some other authentic modern-liberal) in 1968? The general assumption seems to be that we are in for Mr. Nixon or somebody more or less like him—perhaps Romney; and I have no hesitation in saying that this passion for the middle of the road is generated, and indeed dictated, by the show of force put on by the conservative Republicans under Senator Goldwater last year. No Republican convention in the near future will be able to ignore their wishes altogether—thanks to Senator Goldwater’s effort in 1964.
For all of the above reservations, I repeat that I agree with much of Professor Rogge’s central thesis. The real battle is, and will always be, the battle of ideas. Conservatives must labor to build that better mousetrap; only then will the world beat a path to our door.
—WILLIAM A. RUSHER1
Reply to Mr. Rusher:
IT MAY BE symptomatic of the general concern of conservatives with consistent principles that Mr. Rusher and I continue to dispute various points on the periphery of a central core of agreement. Were we modern-liberals, we could bed down together in the spacious accommodations of complete pragmatism, perhaps even co-authoring a book on the danger to society of “true believers.”
I agree with Mr. Rusher that the key to my thesis is the almost-fact that Senator Goldwater was doomed to lose, right from the start. He was running as a candidate of one of the two major political parties in the country, and the function of a political party at election time is to win the election—not to educate the electorate. A party can win only by offering a candidate and by taking a position near the center of the normal distribution curve of public philosophy; only by offering what, if not an echo, is at least only a semi-choice. If this be true, then the only way a real change can be made in the policies of the country is by moving this “locus of possible choice” to the left or to the right. What the modern-liberals have succeeded in doing is to move this locus significantly to the left. What we must do is move it back to the right.
Is there no role for political action then? Yes, but it is not the central role, which belongs to education in its broadest sense. Political action in local areas (including whole states) where the locus of possible choice is already to the right can be successful—witness the number of conservative voices in the houses of Congress in recent decades. In fact, one of the tragedies of the Goldwater candidacy was that his crushing defeat carried many of these men into at least temporary oblivion as well. As Congressmen or Senators they were in a position to educate the electorate; now the task is more difficult.
If a political party happens by chance to select a candidate not from the center, it will be forced to remake his image so that he appears to be so—and with this remaking goes most of the chance for the candidacy of a Goldwater to be educational. While the last campaign may have trained some conservatives in political action, it did not educate the public to conservatism, nor even sharpen the issues between conservatism and modern, social democratic liberalism. In fact, these issues were hardly debated. For Goldwater to have really taken his stand on these issues would have been immediate political suicide. Thus he was forced to make concessions that will not help conservatives in their long-run battle for men’s minds. For example, when I now criticize social security, I am told that “even Barry Goldwater wasn’t that reactionary.”
I come out right where I did before: The candidacy of Barry Goldwater was not helpful to the chances in the long-run of moving America in the direction of individualism and limited government.
—BENJAMIN A. ROGGE2
[1 ] William A. Rusher is publisher of National Review and one of the organizers of the Draft Goldwater committee in 1964.
[2 ] Benjamin A. Rogge is an advisor to New Individualist Review.