What Ron Paul Could Have Learned From Barry Goldwater And William F. Buckleyby Doug Mataconis
In what may well be one of the last published articles he wrote, William F. Buckley Jr. recalls the problems that arose when the John Birchers got too close to Barry Goldwater’s Presidential Campaign:
The society had been founded in 1958 by an earnest and capable entrepreneur named Robert Welch, a candy man, who brought together little clusters of American conservatives, most of them businessmen. He demanded two undistracted days in exchange for his willingness to give his seminar on the Communist menace to the United States, which he believed was more thoroughgoing and far-reaching than anyone else in America could have conceived. His influence was near-hypnotic, and his ideas wild. He said Dwight D. Eisenhower was a “dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy,” and that the government of the United States was “under operational control of the Communist party.” It was, he said in the summer of 1961, “50-70 percent” Communist-controlled.
The society became a national cause célèbre—so much so, that a few of those anxious to universalize a draft-Goldwater movement aiming at a nomination for President in 1964 thought it best to do a little conspiratorial organizing of their own against it.
So, in 1962, a meeting took place between Goldwater, Buckley, and Russell Kirk at which a crucial decision was made:
Time was given to the John Birch Society lasting through lunch, and the subject came up again the next morning. We resolved that conservative leaders should do something about the John Birch Society. An allocation of responsibilities crystallized.
Goldwater would seek out an opportunity to dissociate himself from the “findings” of the Society’s leader, without, however, casting any aspersions on the Society itself. I, in National Review and in my other writing, would continue to expose Welch and his thinking to scorn and derision. “You know how to do that,” said Jay Hall.
I volunteered to go further. Unless Welch himself disowned his operative fallacy, National Review would oppose any support for the society.
“How would you define the Birch fallacy?” Jay Hall asked.
“The fallacy,” I said, “is the assumption that you can infer subjective intention from objective consequence: we lost China to the Communists, therefore the President of the United States and the Secretary of State wished China to go to the Communists.”
“I like that,” Goldwater said.
What would Russell Kirk do? He was straightforward. “Me? I’ll just say, if anybody gets around to asking me, that the guy is loony and should be put away.”
“Put away in Alaska?” I asked, mock-seriously. The wisecrack traced to Robert Welch’s expressed conviction, a year or so earlier, that the state of Alaska was being prepared to house anyone who doubted his doctrine that fluoridated water was a Communist-backed plot to weaken the minds of the American public.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Goldwater didn’t win in 1964, but his candidacy created the political apparatus of a conservative movement that elected Ronald Reagan President sixteen years later.
Ron Paul could’ve done this. He could’ve explicitly disavowed Stormfront and denounced them as racists. He could have disowned Alex Jones and the 9/11 Truthers and scorned them as the kooks that they are. He could have outed the author of his newsletters by name instead of prevaricating.
But he didn’t. Apparently, the idea wasn’t even considered. And, because of that, his candidacy is going to be dismissed by history as part of the kook fringe rather than the beginning of a movement for freedom.
H/T: Hit & Run