Sunday, November 13, 2011

Before The Storm

I'm reading Rick Perlstein's Before The Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, slowly.  I'm just past half way.  The JFK assassination is about the midpoint. 

What strikes me so far is the way in which Perlstein uses Goldwater as a center piece of his narrative but doesn't focus on him.  The action is driven by others.  Clarence Manion is the first character to be introduced.  Clif White is another major player.  He introduces us to William F. Buckley, Jr., Richard Nixon and Nelson Rockefeller, the last two as 'antagonists.'

The thesis of the book is that a 'Conservative' movement grew out of various resentments toward the 'New Deal' and the 'rights of Labor' and began to coalesce around Barry Goldwater, partly for aesthetic reasons.  Much as Ronald Reagan would later, Goldwater seemed to embody the thoughts and feelings of many thousands of Americans.  Part of this was because many people projected their own feelings onto Goldwater, who did speak often of a new, Conservative approach to American government.  (New in one sense, anyway.)  

We'll see what happens next.  There's talk of a run for President, in '64.  ;  ) 


  1. notacynic:

    I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is "needed" before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents' "interests," I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can. (The Conscience of A Conservative [1960], p. 15.)

    I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue! (Acceptance Speech as the 1964 Republican Presidential candidate.)

  2. Thanks Whit. The Conscience of a Conservative supports Perlstein's thesis well. Written mainly by Brent Bozell it summed up the Conservative position, according to the 'intelligentsia.' Then they stuck Goldwater's face on it and plowed ahead. ; )

  3. NAC and Whit,
    Have you heard of No Labels? Not Right, Not, Left, But Forwqard. I, for one American has had it with partisan politics. If we have those in Washington who are unable or unwilling to cooperate and legislate - then, those members of Congress need replaced.


  4. The problem, Sarge, as I see it, is that there IS no objective 'truth.' What exactly IS forward? Everyone has his own idea. Two very honorable, very intelligent people can disagree on policy. Consistently even. We use handy labels like 'left' and 'right' but there is and never will be consensus (except when there's a war, and not always even then).

    Perlstein uses as part of his title, The Unmaking of the American Consensus (implying that there is such a thing). Was there one? He suggests that the New Deal, coming on the heels of the Great Depression and WWII, was the American consensus. And right from the start there was resistance and resentment. And starting in the late fifties 'they' began to see a path to power, through appeals to race and class. It's safe to say they were dividers, not uniters. And look at us now. ; )

  5. My father said one fowl word in his life so far as I was around to hear it. When Goldwater ran for President he repeated this joke, "There was a plane crash in Arizona, all they found of the occupants was one asshole and one smile, they glued them together and ran it for President."

    You mentioned William F. Buckley Jr., I loved to hear that guy speak, it was a thrilling use of vocabulary, though I didn't often buy into the overall point he made. I most admire him for driving the far right out of the GOP, namely the John Birch Society which was almost wholly funded by the Koch family (the father of the two current scoundrels). Were it a more permanent accomplishment Buckley achieved we would all be better off.