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Have A Phil Crane Christmas

You probably don’t associate my late friend and conservative icon Congressman Phil Crane with Christmas, so let me explain why this giant of the conservative movement should be especially remembered during the Christmas season. 

Phil Crane and I got our start in national conservative politics in the early 1960s in the exciting days when Little Sandy SleighfootWilliam F. Buckley, Jr., L. Bozell, Jr., M. Stanton Evans, William Rusher, Russell Kirk and a few other visionaries conceived of a conservative movement as a counterweight to the rising tide of socialism and progressivism that was pushing America ever leftward. 

While I was working as executive secretary of Young Americans for Freedom, young university professor Phil Crane was spreading the conservative message speaking at dozens of colleges for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a nonprofit that promotes conservative thought on campus. 

By 1965 I had left YAF and established my direct mail company, and in 1969, while running in a special election to succeed Donald Rumsfeld, who had resigned his U.S. House seat to work in the Nixon administration, Phil Crane hired me and my firm to handle the direct mail for his campaign. 

As I recounted in my book TAKEOVER, Phil Crane was the most conservative of seven hopefuls, but he won the Republican primary with 23 percent of the vote and went on to win and hold his seat for 35 years. 

He quickly became one of the then-young tigers of the conservative movement that helped propel Ronald Reagan into the White House and, over the past 50 years, has changed American politics by slowly pushing the Republican Party to become the political home of limited government conservatives. 

In 1977 and 1978 Phil Crane and I both worked to defeat the Panama Canal Treaty and it was there that Phil Crane’s flair for marketing – honed by his early career in advertising – made him a leader of the conservative movement. 

Recognizing that the case for defeating the Panama Canal Treaty needed to be made directly to the American people, Phil Crane put on the first political infomercial, a half-hour program shown 209 times around the country.   

Calling the canal “the American Canal at the Isthmus of Panama,” which he insisted was “vital to our economy, our national defense and our spirit.” Phil Crane hosted the program and introduced other speakers and urged viewers to write their senators and send money to the American Conservative Union. 

What’s all this got to do with Christmas you might ask? 

During Phil Crane’s post-Army career in advertising, where he learned and honed the skills that would help him sell conservatism as a Member of Congress and chairman of the American Conservative Union, Phil Crane wrote a then-popular Christmas song, “Little Sandy Sleighfoot.” 

Recorded in 1957 by popular conservative entertainer Jimmy Dean, the pop song sold 300,000 records originally. “Little Sandy Sleighfoot” told the story of a little boy with feet so long he could ski on them. Sandy, at first ridiculed for his clumsiness by Santa’s other helpers, became loved when he skied to rescue the reindeer one Christmas when their stable caught fire. 

“Now everybody loves him. And Santa loves him too,” the song goes. “And ever since on Christmas Eve, he’s helped bring gifts to you.” 

Phil Crane was a great friend, a conservative giant and a marketing genius who did much to help sell conservatism to a popular audience. This Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, and our many other blessings, let’s not let the memory of Phil Crane’s contributions to our cause fade. 

PS: And when you listen to Little Sandy Sleighfoot look for another Jimmy Dean Christmas classic,  
A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer” and join Jimmy, and me, in praying that this Christmas the Lord will help us “save some seeds of freedom for the future Sons of Man.”

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