1964: Back to the future
As the white flag rises above Republican redoubts, offering a surrender on taxes, the mind goes back to what seemed a worse time for conservatives: December 1964.
Barry Goldwater had suffered a defeat not seen since Alf Landon. Republicans held less than one-third of the House and Senate and only 17 governorships.
In the arts, academic and entertainment communities, as well as in the national press corps, conservatives were rarely seen or heard. It was liberalism's hour, with America awash in misty memories of Camelot and great expectations of the Great Society to come in 1965.
Below the surface, the Democratic Party was disintegrating on ethnic, cultural and political lines. Law and order and Vietnam were the issues. Richard Nixon would see the opening and seize the opportunity to dismantle FDR's coalition and cobble together his new majority.
Today, the GOP strength in the House, Senate and governorships is far greater than anything Republicans had in the 1960s. The difference is that, then, we could visualize a new majority of centrist Republicans, Goldwater conservatives, Northern Catholic ethnics and Southern Protestant Democrats.
When the liberal establishment collapsed during the 1960s, unable to end the war in Vietnam or the war in the streets, national leadership passed to the party of Nixon and Ronald Reagan. From 1968 to 1988, the GOP won five of six presidential elections, two of them in 49-state landslides.
The crisis of the GOP today is demographic, cultural and political.
Demographically, people of color are nearing 40 percent of the U.S. population and 30 percent of the electorate. These folks — 85 to 90 percent of all immigrants, legal and illegal — are growing in number.
Culturally, the causes of the 1960s' revolutions — no-fault divorce, legalized drugs, “reproductive rights,” teenage access to birth control, gay rights and gay marriage — have either been embraced or become acceptable to most of America's young. As a result of the sexual revolution promoted by the counterculture of the 1960s, 40 percent of all births in the United States are now to single moms.
Without husbands, these women look to government to help feed, house, educate, medicate and provide income support for themselves and their children. For sustenance and survival, they depend on that same Big Government that Republicans denounce at their rallies.
As to the GOP's strongest appeal — we are the party that will cut taxes — half the country does not pay income taxes.
The bedrock values of Reagan — work, family, faith — still hold an appeal for tens of millions. But the faith of our fathers is dying, the family is crumbling, and work is less desirable when the social welfare state offers a cushioned existence for life.
Conservatives need to rediscover what they wish to conserve and how to do so in a climate every bit as hostile as 1964 — then await the moment when the country turns again to an alternative.
As it will. For our economic course is unsustainable. And our regnant elite are more arrogant than the establishment of the 1960s, though less able to satisfy the clamors of their bawling constituencies for more and more from a country that is approaching an end of its tolerance and an inevitable crash.
Pat Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin bringing officials to practice
- Rossi: Pirates plan to carry Hurdle deep into playoffs
- Melocchi pleads guilty in leading McKeesport gambling ring
- Steelers’ Tomlin does not like his coaching style to be characterized
- Consol Energy Center cashes in again on payments from Rivers Casino
- Flags lowered to mourn Pa. state trooper shot dead during gun training
- Pets rescued from Westmoreland house fire
- Pittsburgh rises up for a 2nd year of Pirates magic
- Sparks fly at 2nd Corbett, Wolf campaign debate
- Penguins notebook: Malkin picture muddy
- Police identify, release people involved in I-70 collision