Politics & Policy

Tears For The Grand Old Party

EDITOR’S NOTE:National Review is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week. Throughout the week, NRO will be running pieces from the archives to help take a trip down memory lane. This piece appeared in the June 30, 1964, issue of National Review.

Come, Republicans, all legitimate heirs of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt! Come, let us the loved ones mourn the demise of the Grand Old Party.

Come, fellow liberals, moderates, midstream breast-stroke swimmers, all who fought for Wilkie, Vandenberg, Eisenhower, Rockefeller, Lodge, and Scranton–(please, Harold, let go of our sleeve!)–and for Stassen….

Here are the hearses–all Cadillacs. Our line forms on the left for the funeral march, our cortège is small, but distinguished. Let no foot falter, no knee buckle, as we mournfully meander towards the mausoleum, the Cow Palace. (Please, everybody, remember to bring your own Kleenex.)

O sorrow unfathomable, O grief unutterable, O stark, bleak withers-wringing woe! We are going to bury the Grand Old Party!

Ah, the doom–crack!–the gavel falls: “The 28th Convention of the Republican Party is now called to order.”

Who is to blame for this bitter, senseless, soul-searching tragedy? Be honest: we cannot blame the Press, they howled like banshees, wailed like air-raid sirens: “Stop Goldwater.” They warned us, the Washington commentators, the panelists, the pollsters, the widely syndicated readers of political entrails, the ink-stained St. Georges of democracy, growing pale, shaking like men with the ague.

Ah, tolls now the firth death knell: “Alabama casts its 20 votes for Senator Barry Goldwater.”

Do you remember, last year (when, omigod, there was still time!), what beads of sweat appeared on the Jovian brow–Walter Lippmann’s–dank dripping from laurel leaves, they too, trembling like aspens? Oh, he abjured us, for our own sakes, he Lippmann, for three decades the dear daily companion of our breakfast juice, the Peer of Pundits, the King Canute of Columnists, the Plato, the Philosopher King of Journalism–he told us that this would be suicide. He told us this…thing…could never happen.

Ah, again the funereal bell: “California casts 86 votes for Senator Barry Goldwater.” We cannot blame the Democrats. They, too, the New Frontiersmen, sought to save us. All highbrows, all intellectual Alpinists, all biographers of the late John F. Kennedy, all Harvard, Princeton, Yale men, even Cornell and Dartmouth men, all people with higher-than-average IQ’s and whiter-than-snow white collars, all told us this grave was yawning.

Again the knell of doom: “Illinois casts 59 votes for Senator Goldwater of Arizona!”

Now is the moment of truth–too late have we faced it. Barry, caught at last with his Conservative pants down, all his Extremists showing, will be buried beside Alf Landon under the Johnson landslide in November.

Ding-dong…ding: “Michigan passes, while it polls the delegation.”

O fateful creed, conservatism, this stale smell, this senile, démodé, putrescent, outworn, archaic, antediluvian, reactionary, Square cause! (But who would have thought the feeble old thing has so many ballots in it?)

Ask not for whom the bell tolls: :”Ohio proudly casts all its 58 votes for the Senator from Arizona.”

(Sorry, Senator Javits, we’re fresh out of Kleenex…)

No, we’ve none but ourselves to blame. Conservatism will be rejected, repudiated, thrown out, buried full forty fathoms deep, out on the lone prairie, in a nameless grave–a chewed-up, battered, bloodied, ten-gallon hat its only marker…marking, too, the final disappearance of the old Frontier (except, of course, on television). Yes, this is the Conservative score, Goldwater’s fate, and the funeral of our Party. The funeral too, alas, of our brave little band of Liberals.

The shroud is measured: “New Jersey casts 40 votes for the next Republican President, Barry Goldwater.”

(Just use your sleeve, Senator Javits–the cameras are still focused on the fight in the Michigan delegation.)

Ah, it’s Goldwater over the dam, and the Grand Old Party dammed, doomed, done in, kicked in the … kicking the bucket. Oh, how did this unutterable thing ever happen? What timidity, indifference, what cowardice, what failure of nerve, what–what’s that you say? Of course, you’ve got it–we were betrayed!


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