Revolution and Counterrevolution: Change and Persistence in Social Structures

By Seymour Lipset Martin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
The Right-wing "Revival" and the "Backlash" in the United States

Various events during the elections of 1964 and 1966 suggest that the United States faces the possibility of a strong right-wing revival. The nomination of Barry Goldwater on the Republican ticket in 1964 demonstrated that extreme conservatism possessed enough strength to win national control of one of the two major parties. Coming after the defeat of the conservative tendency at the various presidential conventions from 1940 to 1960, it seemingly indicated that this faction now had greater support than at any time since the election of Franklin Roosevelt to the presidency in 1932. Although the magnitude of the Goldwater defeat may have laid such fears to rest, they were certainly revived in 1966 by the decisive victories, first in the primaries and later in the general election, of Ronald Reagan in the California gubernatorial race, the large Conservative party vote in New York State, and the rather significant Republican gains in the congressional and gubernatorial contests throughout the country.

In assessing the long-range consequences, two fundamental truths must be borne in mind. The first is that the actual and mobilizable support for political reaction constitutes a minority in most sections and communities of the country and in the country at large, as was established statistically by the vote for Goldwater. And that vote, small as it was, considerably exaggerates the support for the senator's beliefs, for in this election, as in previous ones, most voters cast a ballot for their traditional party. Evidence from a variety of opinion surveys indicates that no more than one-third of Republican voters agree with Senator Goldwater on most issues, and support for radical

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