Republican Losses and Conservative Ideas Fifty Years Ago

In November of 1958 Barry Goldwater was reelected to a second term in the Senate, but Republicans lost 48 seats in the House, 12 in the Senate and 13 of 21 governorships.  2008 doesn’t look as bad by comparison. 

The party’s losses did not discourage Dean Clarence Manion, who decided that this was a fine time to draft Goldwater for the Republican nomination for president. The former dean of the law school at Notre Dame, Manion wrote Goldwater on July 27, 1959 to suggest that the Arizona senator write a book outlining his philosophy. He suggested that the title be “The Conscience of a Conservative” and he offered Goldwater a $1000 advance. Manion then filed the paperwork to start a nonprofit publishing house after established publishers declined to acquire a book with no manuscript. Manion decided on a nonprofit so that private companies owned by Goldwater supporters could take a tax deduction when making bulk purchases of the book.

As recounted in Funding Fathers: The Unsung Heroes of the Conservative Movement (Regnery), a fine new book by Ron Robinson, president of Young America’s Foundation, and Nicole Hoplin, Manion was the man-behind-the-scenes. He urged Goldwater ghostwriter Brent Bozell to get on with the writing, then helped with the proofreading, layout, promotion and distribution of The Conscience of a Conservative, which he wanted to get to Republican delegates before state party conventions in 1960.

Goldwater didn’t win the nomination in 1960 or the presidency in 1964.  But the book inspired.

“I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden.”

Who would write that today?

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