Magazine article The American Conservative

Goldwater Standard

Magazine article The American Conservative

Goldwater Standard

Article excerpt

I sent my first paycheck as a bagboy at the A&P grocery store--$19 and some odd cents--as a contribution to the Barry Goldwater campaign. That was the summer of 1964, and I was just getting ready to start my senior year in high school.

That election produced a landslide for the Democrats and left Republicans outnumbered 295 to 140 in the United States House. Many pundits said then that the GOP had gone too far to the right. Several said the party was dead.

But two years later, we picked up 46 seats in the House, eight in the Senate, and six governorships, including Ronald Reagan in California. Seeds planted in the disastrous defeat of 1964 led to the Reagan presidency and what many have called the Conservative Revolution. The Republican Party grew when it offered a real alternative to the Democrats, not when it became a me-too party.

Fast forward to 1990. I will never forget a panicky, late night Republican conference meeting in the Cannon House Office Building. Ed Rollins was then head of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Polls showed that Republicans were going to pick up 20 to 30 seats in the House, but the first President Bush had abandoned his no new taxes pledge a few weeks before. Rollins told us the latest polls showed that Republican candidates had dropped 10 points almost overnight.

Candidates who had been ahead 60-40 were suddenly tied; those ahead 55-45 were behind. Rollins advised us to run as far away from the president as possible. Two days later, he was fired on orders from the White House. Congressional Republicans had voted 105-71 against the tax increase, withstanding tremendous lobbying by the president and his cabinet. Still, we lost 10 seats.

By early 1992, the economy had slowed drastically, but the president spent most of his State of the Union speech talking about success in Iraq. My brother called later and told me every bartender in America probably changed channels after the first few minutes. The first President Bush, by increasing taxes and seeming to care more about people in other countries than people in the U.S., gave us Bill Clinton.

He in turn gave Republicans the majority in Congress in 1994, which we have now squandered thanks largely to the second President Bush, who launched an unnecessary war in Iraq and produced record deficits. Unbelievably, he allowed the Democrats to claim the mantle of fiscal conservatism and made way for the most far-left president in American history in Barack Obama. …

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