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Thanks to Shamelessly Dishonest Liberals, Conservatives Have No Chance in 1964 (13 of 45)

This is excerpt No. 13 (of 45) from America’s Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power, by Richard A. Viguerie and David Franke.

The assassination of President Kennedy meant that a Goldwater campaign – indeed, almost any Republican campaign – was doomed from the start.  Wounded by the assassination, Americans were unlikely to change Daisy Ad 1964the occupant of the White House so quickly. 

But liberals had an insurance policy to prevent any chance of a Goldwater victory:  Blame the assassination on conservatives. Never mind that the named assassin was a pro-Communist nut and a former defector to the Soviet Union.  The smear campaign against conservatives was so immediate and relentless that messy details like that didn’t hinder the smear-mongering Left. 

The result was that conservatives wouldn’t have an honest conservative-liberal battle for the presidency until 1980.  But that doesn’t mean that conservatives licked their wounds and went into hiding, as we’ll see in the next and subsequent excerpts.

The Kennedy assassination: a new opportunity to smear the Right   

Virtually every conservative active in 1963 can remember exactly where he or she was when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas – and not only because of the trauma of the assassination itself, which conservatives shared with other Americans, but because of the way blame for the killing was placed on conservatives or “the Right.”  Most of us got angry calls and insults, the mildest being some variant of “I hope you’re happy – you got what you wanted!”  The offices of the National Draft Goldwater Committee in Washington, D.C. were closed – the doors locked, lights shut off – because of death threats over the telephone and mobs banging on the door.

By now, Americans were so conditioned by years of “radicals on the Right” propaganda that even some conservatives initially assumed the assassin must have been a right-wing nut.  After all, as the Voice of America (your taxpayer dollars at work) would tell the world in its bulletin announcing the shooting, Dallas was “the center of the extreme right wing.”  Walter Cronkite – “America’s most trusted newsman” – would tell television viewers that Barry Goldwater’s response to the assassination, at a political event, was a curt “no comment.”  (The truth was that Goldwater was in Muncie, Indiana, at his mother-in-law’s funeral, and he had not yet been interviewed about the assassination when Cronkite made his report.)

The revelation that the assassin was a pro-communist nut and a former defector to the Soviet Union was not much hindrance to the liberal and leftist smearmongers.  The association between the assassination and conservatives had already been made, so it was only necessary to shift the blame a bit.  Bishop James A. Pike would explain that right-wingers “have consistently supplied the fuel which would fire up such an assassin.”  (Imagine that: Conservatives caused a pro-communist nut to shoot Kennedy!)  Senate Intelligence Committee hearings, led by Democratic Senator Frank Church, would blame “a conspiratorial atmosphere of violence.”  (You can connect the dots.)

As a result of the Kennedy assassination, the Goldwater campaign of 1964 almost didn’t take place.  Goldwater and Kennedy, at opposite ends of the political spectrum in the Senate, nevertheless were personal friends, and they respected each other.  Goldwater was looking forward to a race on the issues.  The conservative leader had no such respect for Lyndon Johnson – suddenly the new sitting president.  He expected nothing but mud from LBJ (and LBJ wouldn’t disappoint him).

In terms of practical politics, too, the assassination meant that a Goldwater campaign – indeed, almost any Republican campaign – was doomed from the start.  Wounded by the assassination, Americans were unlikely to change the occupant of the White House so quickly.  Also, Johnson was not perceived by the public to be a liberal, while Kennedy was, and Johnson was from the South himself – Goldwater’s political stronghold.

Here we must note how a traumatic event such as an assassination can change our perception of the victim.  Post-assassination, Kennedy became a virtual saint in the sentimental memories of Americans, and most everyone now assumes that Goldwater never had a chance to defeat such a “popular” president.  Not so in 1963.  The very vulnerability of Kennedy, a not-that-popular president before the assassination, helped fire the Goldwater candidacy with many GOP fence-sitters.  Just look at what Time magazine – as we’ve seen, no friend of conservatives – had to say on October 4, 1963, just weeks before the assassination:

Until recently most political observers figured that Democrat John Kennedy was a sure 1964 winner, and that it did not make much difference who the GOP candidate would be.  Now, many are changing their minds….  A state-by-state survey by Time correspondents indicates that at least Republican Barry Goldwater could give Kennedy a breathlessly close contest.

America would never be given the opportunity for a clear, straightforward contest between a liberal and a conservative.  At least not in 1964.  Goldwater himself was so saddened by the assassination – and realistic about what it meant for his chances – that he was determined to drop out of the race.  Fortunately for the movement, friends convinced Goldwater he couldn’t let down the thousands of conservatives who had pinned their hopes on him.

America’s Right Turn serialization:

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  1. “Media Monopolies Declare War on Conservatives”
  2. “What Conservatives Can Learn from the West’s First Media Revolution”
  3. “What Conservatives Can Learn from America’s First Media Revolution”
  4. “The Factors That Created a Grassroots Conservative Movement”
  5.  “More Factors That Created a Grassroots Conservative Movement”
  6. “Money in Politics:  Everyone Complains About It, but Every Political Movement Needs It”
  7. “Conservatives in the Wilderness: American Politics in 1955” 
  8. Conservatives in the Wilderness: Restless, but Lacking Leadership
  9. “How William F. Buckley Jr. Gave Birth to the Conservative Movement”
  10. “How Barry Goldwater Gave Political Voice to the New Conservative Movement”
  11. “Why There Was No Mass Libertarian Movement—Lessons for Conservatives”
  12. “1964:  This is What Happens When the Other Side Controls the Mass Media”
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