This is the second in a series of pages from history in which the author seeks to clarify his credentials for discussing Republican presidential politics, as well as answering the learned “OMG, he can’t really be a Republican?” reader, who doubts that anyone so smart could be a member of the party.
The Time I Ran for President
In 1964, the Republican Party was involved in a fight about who was in the mainstream of the party. Was it Goldwater? Or Rockefeller and his fellow travelers (Nixon, Scranton, Stassen, et al.)?
One man courageously said, None of the Above.
He called Rockefeller and the other left-leaning candidates FDR-type Republicans. Goldwater a moderate, whose ideas only went back to McKinley’s day… 1900.
He alone was the only truly serious reactionary in the race. He was a Lincoln Republican. His ideas went back to 1864.
To demonstrate his seriousness, he was running on the Republican Party platform of 1864, so many of whose promises the party had yet to fulfill.
He promised to end the war with the south. Abolish slavery. Civil Rights were a major issue in 1964.
He promised to reinforce the garrison at Fort Sumter. Bring the South back in the union.
He campaigned in New Hampshire, claiming he was twice as Jewish as Goldwater. Play the religion card, advised his Holy Ghostwriter.
He lost in New Hampshire, anyway. But he did manage to tie Harold Stassen at the convention in the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Both got zero.
You may have forgotten the details about the 1964 race, but you may remember his campaign slogan: “I would rather be president than write.”
At the time, he had the biggest writers block on his block in northern New Jersey.
I know that campaign so well, having been the candidate.
It was an experience that prepared me for writing about the 2016 election campaign, the closest thing we have had to the quintessential bitterly divisive 1964 battle.
Is it Donald (Vote for me Because I am Rich) Trump? Or the 16 other twits trampling each other’s message in the largest field of contenders for the highest office, not in a Third World nation.
One of the two best political parties we have, the Republicans are today divided like the Dead Sea by the irrationalists, supporting the man with the most important hair since Samson, and the rationalists who hope he will find another business opportunity before election day.
Historians, social scientists, literature professors, media pathologists, humorologists will be studying the 2016 primaries as if they are the Dead Sea Scrolls, trying to decide if this is the most existential, nihilistic, absurd Republican campaign since, to choose one at random, 2012.
Who can ever forget the last campaign that gave us hope?
Was it the seriously moderate from Massachusetts…what’s his name… the one who invented Affordable Health Care, while denouncing Obamacare.
Was it the fruitcake Michelle Bachmann… The man from another planet, Ron Paul… The ever amusing Newt Gingrich running for president of the moon colony … Rick Santorum the only candidate to have a Latin name and the weak stomach who wanted to throw up when he heard anyone like JFK discussing separation of church and state, which led to establishment of a vomit index ratings?
And who can ever forget Mister 999, Herman Cain, who gave us 999 reasons for not electing him? Or was that the number of girl friends who kept popping up?
Forget Jean Paul Sartre (“No Exit Poll”). Nobody could have written a more absurdist script than those 19 debates of 2012.
The historic Cleveland debate, which launched the 2016 debating season on August 6th, was not exactly Douglas vs. Lincoln of 1858. But there is hope for the future.
In the 329 days remaining until the Convention, I will be looking at the candidates, not as the casual viewer of the as ever fair and balanced Fox News, or MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who is already so impassioned I wouldn’t be surprised if he passes out one night from the excitement right on camera—but as a Real Lincoln Republican who wants to bring back the Old Deal.
For those scholars interested in learning how I managed to become the Harold Stassen of New Jersey and all the other wonky details of the 1964 race, I recommend the Official Kitman Campaign Biography, “The Number One Best Seller,” that’s the title, not the sales report, (Dial Press, 1966). Available at Amazon and rare book dealers everywhere. Or ask your doctor.
August 13, 2015