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Mitt Romney’s , and Republicans’, Goldwater Moment

| September 27, 2012

Barry Goldwater thought he was flying high too.

By Bill Cotterell

Former U.S. Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings of South Carolina used to say, “There is no education in the second kick of a mule.”

If polls continue current trends, Republicans are in for that second kick. That’s a big “if,” because independent “voter education” and “electioneering communication” committees, with their hundreds of millions in largely untraceable cash, are about to open sludge spigots on both sides and flood airwaves with the sort of bilge that, in more genteel times, prompted Aaron Burr to kill Alexander Hamilton.

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If Mitt Romney loses, it might be a “Goldwater moment” for the Republicans. Blowing an election it should have won, the GOP might finally realize it has strayed far out of the mainstream and become a little too odd for the American public. The Democrats did that in 1972, going too far left, and except for the Carter administration — an anomaly caused by Watergate backlash — they paid for it for 20 years.

Perhaps realizing they had little chance of unhorsing Lyndon Johnson, Republicans allowed conservative zealots to nominate Barry Goldwater. He famously proclaimed that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” en route to a trouncing that left many Washington observers wondering if the party could even recover.

But Vietnam and urban rioting sparked a rapid Republican revival in the mid-term congressional elections and, by 1968, Richard Nixon narrowly won back the White House. But that was only because such party stalwarts as Sens. Everett Dirksen and Hugh Scott, and Representatives like Gerald Ford and John Rhodes, steered back to the center. Contenders in 1968 were Nixon, George Romney and Nelson Rockefeller — with Ronald Reagan riding in at convention time — none of whom could have been nominated in the prevailing climate of this year’s GOP primaries.

The party has already run off responsible conservative senators like Bob Bennett in Utah and Richard Lugar in Indiana. Demands for rigid ideological purity on abortion, guns, taxes, immigration, voter ID and health care have handed the Democrats some heavy cudgels, with which they cheerfully batter Romney.

By any conventional wisdom, the president should be staggering more than running for re-election. But he’s leading a close race — especially in Virginia, Ohio and Florida, which will decide the winner.

At a news conference last week, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said unidentified Republican leaders have confided to him their plan to regain control from the Tea Party wing if Romney loses. Getting information about Republicans from Chuck Schumer is like getting a temperance lecture from Lindsay Lohan, but he has a point.

“Half of them are hard-right Tea Party types and half of them are what I call mainstream conservatives,” said Schumer. “If the president wins and we keep the Senate, those mainstream conservatives are going to be strengthened, and they’re going to want to reach out and work with us because the embrace of the Tea Party that Mitt Romney has done — that is, in my view, dragging down all of their candidates — will have failed.”

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, running for the Senate in Wisconsin, lamented recently that Romney is hurting “down-ticket” Republicans. There are no Romney coattails in Florida for Rep. Connie Mack in his bid to deny Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson a third term in Washington. GOP chances of taking over the Senate were hurt by Rep. Todd Akin’s boneheaded remarks about how rape victims somehow “shut down” and don’t get pregnant.

It’s not that the very conservative GOP base doesn’t think it’s doing the right thing. Those voters consider compromise a bad word.

But if Republicans awaken Nov. 7, smarting from the second kick of the Democratic donkey, they might recall the words of another southern senator, Henry Clay, who insisted, “I’d rather be right than president.”

They can be right — far, far right — and, like Clay, they’ll keep on losing presidential elections. Ironically, Clay was known as the Great Compromiser.

Bill Cotterell covered state government and politics for United Press International and the Tallahassee Democrat for 44 years. He can be contacted at here

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9 Responses for “Mitt Romney’s , and Republicans’, Goldwater Moment”

  1. DWFerg says:

    It will be an “Upset” if Romney wins—–especially since the media , most of it, have already decided who will win or better, who should win based on faulty poll data-(and clearly biased reportage0–If Obama wins, America deserves the “kick” and all that it gets from this donkey !!!

  2. Sloopy says:

    “the GOP might finally realize it has strayed far out of the mainstream and become a little too odd for the American public.”

    What is main stream? Getting paid not to work? Borrow until you have nothing left?

    • Samuel Smith says:

      Mainstream here probably means people that have conservative views but would prefer to be associated with a party that doesn’t sit upon its plutocratic throne screaming “bootstraps” to the middle class, while stacking the decks against them. There’s also the possibility that mainstream also refers to those conservatives that find a 15% tax rate on millions of earnings seems a little ridiculous when the base tax rate for $75k for married filing jointly is 25%.

      Maybe they just want a party that has conservative views that doesn’t write off 47% of the population, has enough compassion to realize that rape is rape, and has vision beyond the next election.

  3. Ben Blakely says:

    You are voting for the liar in chief? The inept dishonest obama who sneers at YOU?

    Isn’t 4 years of abysmal economic failure, record U.S. poverty, record business bankruptcies, record loss of employment and loss of jobs, record high federal deficit, record presidential corruption and spending waste, record loss of American international esteem, record loss of military presence, record number of campaigning by a sitting president, and continual, serial dishonesty and deception.

    All this failure and some people still are so deaf, dumb and blind that they will vote for thesocialist, hate America, lame brain obama to complete the destruction of America.

  4. Ben Blakely says:

    obama and his dishonesty finally shown in big towering proof.

    obama is a serial LIAR and disrespects Americans. obama routinely LIES, DISTORTS and DECEIVES Americans for his selfish political advantage.

    obama is still clinging to the filthy LIES about the TERRORIST attack and death of 4 Americans in Libya.

    Why does obama LIE about this? Because the obama freaks have covered up all terrorist attacks during his term and in typical leftist fashion renamed them to ‘innocent’ sounding events. Terrorist attacks became “workplace violence.” obama as usual, deliberately LIED and COVERED UP this Libyan terrorist attack by renaming it public violence due to an American movie trailer. BALD face LIES and obama knows it!

    How can anyone vote for a STOOGE like obama who DISHONORS and SNEERS at America and Americans? There is nothing genuine or honest about this Chicago THUG and crook. obama represents the most sleazy, greasy side of politics. His arrogance has NO LIMITS! He cares nothing for America or YOU.

    You may have voted for obama in 2008 to prove you were not a racist.

    In 2012 prove you are not an idiot by voting for Romney!

  5. What a great use of words: “little chance of unhorsing Lyndon Johnson.” Good stuff, Bill

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