On a tip from a friend I delved into Phyllis Schafly‘s interesting work, “A Choice Not an Echo.” It explores how the Republican Party has rigged the system to pre-ordain our candidates for us going back to at least 1940. Though she wrote her work in the 1960s, the trend she lays down continues.
In Chapter Three “Republicans Can’t Win – Unless,” she makes the point that GOP candidates rarely run on the burning issues of the day, and never dare call out socialist or communist sympathies in the presumed opposition party. Sounds eerily familiar four decades later.
Let’s sample heavily from her work and then extend her analysis to the present.
In 1940 the Republican candidate, Wendell Willkie, did not campaign on the chief issue of that year, which was Roosevelt’s policy of con- senting to Stalin’s invasions of Poland, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — while commit- ting American boys to fight Hitler. When Will- kie finally made a few statements on this subject late in the campaign, voters instinctively knew his peace pledges were just “campaign oratory.” The second major issue, Roosevelt’s violation of the tradition against a third term, was given only superficial mention by Willkie.
In 1944, candidate Thomas Dewey never mentioned the best issue Republicans had that year — how the Roosevelt Administration manipulated and invited the disaster at Pearl Harbor by the policy described by Roosevelt’s Secretary of War as “how we should maneuver the Japs into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.” At the personal request of General George Marshall (who was criticized by the Army Pearl Harbor Board for failing to warn the Pearl Harbor command after receiving the decoded Jap war messages), Dewey reneged on Republican plans to make the Pearl Harbor disaster a campaign issue. Dewey lost that year and a whole generation of Americans has grown up ignorant of how World War II began.
In 1948, Republican candidates Thomas Dewey and Earl Warren did not campaign on the major issue of that year, which was Communist infiltration in Government. The exposure of Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White and other Communists in high Government positions had given Republicans their best issue — but Dewey and Warren did not discuss it. By his “Little Sir Echo” campaign, Dewey snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
In 1952 Republicans were fortunate to have a candidate, Dwight Eisenhower, who squarely faced the issues of that year and approved a hard-hitting campaign. “Corruption, Communism and Korea” were the three dramatic, obvious, winning issues that elected Eisenhower with 55 per cent of the popular vote and won a Republican majority in Congress.
In 1956 Republicans again offered the voters a clearcut choice over the liberalism of Adlai Stevenson.
In 1960, Republican candidate Richard Nixon pulled his punches, thereby bringing about another defeat. He never mentioned what informed Republicans considered his best issue: the Senate record of Kennedy and Johnson, including Kennedy’s sponsorship of legislation helpful to the Communists, namely, the repeal of the loyalty oath provision in the National Defense Education Act, and the repeal of the Battle Act provision which prohibited the sending of strategic materials to Iron Curtain countries, and Johnson’s killing of anti-Communist legislation such as the bill to restore to the states the right to punish subversion. In the first Nixon-Kennedy television debate (which had the largest audience of all) Kennedy said his objective was “to pick up where FDR left off.” Nixon could have told voters where FDR actually left off — at Yalta. But he yielded his right to reply, and lost ground from then until November.
How did it happen that, in four major Presidential campaigns, Republicans were maneuvered into nominating candidates who did not campaign on the major issues?
It wasn’t any accident. It was planned that way. In each of their losing presidential years, a small group of secret kingmakers, using hidden persuaders and psychological warfare techniques, manipulated the Republican National Convention to nominate candidates who would sidestep or suppress the key issues.
Schafly goes on to explain in more detail how these manipulators were able to mislead Americans into picking the wrong people at the wrong time. So let’s update her narrative.
In 1964, the year Goldwater was selected over Nelson Rockefeller, thanks in some part to Schafly’s work, a media barrage labeled him everything imaginable, including a racist, and implied that if he were elected, we would be risking nuclear war (such as with the famous “Daisy Girl” ad). Republicans did select the right man, but he still lost the election, in no small part due to the sympathy vote carrying over from the JFK assassination.
In 1968, Nixon ran on a “law and order” campaign appealing to Americans fed up with widespread rioting. His time in office, however, was far from conservative. Although he ran and won in 1972 appealing to the “silent majority,” he did not represent it. His corruption and progressive policies did much to damage the Republican brand.
In 1976, Gerald Ford was a rollover candidate for the “authentic” and “honest” Jimmy Carter, who was an absolute disaster. Ford had really nowhere to go after Nixon resigned, and was simply unable to reinvent himself for a hard-fought election contest.
In 1980, Reagan finally spoke up for Americans sick of big government economics, cowardice in foreign policy, and malaise. Although he trailed at first, and the entire establishment in both parties and the media were against him, he was able to win. He became one of the most liked Republican candidates in history, winning two terms because he abided by his word, morally opposed communism, worked on limiting government domestically, and cut taxes. His economic policies eventually led to lower inflation and lower unemployment.
In 1988, we see George Bush ride into office on Reagan’s coattails and a “no new taxes” pledge, which he subsequently broke. After a boost in popularity during the First Gulf War, short-lived as it was, the economy tanked. He was upended by a duo of the populist Perot and the Democrat slickster Bill Clinton. A good indication if the Republican is wandering too far off the reservation is if a populist candidate has any play.
In 1996, Republicans took a nap watching Bob Dole get the nomination. It’s not even clear what Dole ran on. He was kind of just – there. Dole didn’t call out Clinton for much, and certainly didn’t capitalize on the spirit that led to the 1994 Republican revolution in the Congress.
In 2000, George Bush Jr. somehow fell into the nomination after fierce battles against the “me-tooer” John McCain and populist candidates like Steve Forbes. An intensely close race between two lackluster candidates ensued, leading in the eventual election of Bush. After the September 11th attacks, Bush was able to hang his hat on his war record to beat all comers in 2004.
Which brings us to 2008. It is unclear to me how John McCain got the nomination, beating out such lite-progressives as Romney and Huckabee. The disappearance of Guiliani and Thompson from the political scene was inexplicable. But when McCain got the nomination, he absolutely refused to go after Obama on anything substantive, did not call out Obama’s associations with radicals, or the hatemonger Jeremiah Wright, his left-wing record in Illinois and the Senate. McCain also did not take a strong stand on the war on terror against a staunch critic. Despite such idiotic acts as McCain swooping in to sign onto Bush’s bailouts, he still actually had a chance to beat Obama. An insane media blitz propelled the virtually unknown radical Obama into office, seemingly by design.
It is 2012, and three years into the Obama administration, Americans have had enough. The 2010 tea party-backed landslide was not enough to wake the GOP up, and we are still getting the same stale, mealy mouthed candidates who will not go after the president on Obamacare, insane stimulus, corruption, numerous foreign policy disasters, and so on and so forth. Though it looks like leader Herman Cain could bring some high heat to Obama, he is a federal reserve guy, and has been mixed in his attacks on Obama. We need to see early and often who will go after Obama’s agenda in a fundamentally moral and principled way. We can no longer trust Republicans who refuse to speak about principle, because those are precisely the kind of people who are ripe for corruption. If it’s Herman Cain or Ron Paul, so be it. We can no longer allow ourselves to get played by the GOP establishment and the Democrats’ cronies in the media.
As posted on Political Crush.