Friday, August 25, 2006

If Barry Goldwater had been elected president in 1964 ...

Memo to The New York Times:

If Barry Goldwater had been elected president, he would have dropped an atomic bomb on a little girl picking flowers in a field.

Sorry, I was picking up old Democratic campaign commercials on my head-plate again.

If Barry Goldwater had been elected president, there would have been no "Great Society". If you can think of anything that was Great about it, that's what the country would have missed.

There almost certainly would have been much less American involvement in Vietnam. Johnson's massive escalation in 1965 was partly driven by his need to appear strong at a time when his administration was facing serious challenges from the left. Even without that, it's unlikely that history would have played out exactly the same way under Goldwater.

If Goldwater had been president, the Democratic Party would have been spared its disastrous collision with the New Left in the late 60s. The so-called counter-culture would have been in the same impotent position that the far left is today. Undamaged by hippies, the Democratic Party could have aligned itself with the Civil Rights movement and built its strength instead of bleeding like a stuck pig. George Wallace and his racist legions would not have risen to "save" them from the communists and the freaks. The president that followed Goldwater might well have been Hubert Humphrey instead of Richard Nixon.

With no Richard Nixon, the growth of the welfare state would have been stunted even further. No Democrat ever dared to expand the public sector as breezily as Nixon did. In fact, Democrats had to ally themselves with Republicans to stop Nixon from imposing a minimum income (see Daniel Patrick Moynihan's The Politics of the Guaranteed Income). Humphrey would still have had to contend with the hippies, but they would have been the over-dosed and much weaker hippies of the mid-70s instead of the revolutionary brigands they were in 1968.

It is unlikely that Ronald Reagan would have been running for president in 1980 if Goldwater had won in 1964. The Republican Party would likewise have been much different, and probably somewhat weaker. The religious conservatives, neoconservatives, and libertarians who energized the party in the 1980s were themselves energized by the outrages of the 60s and 70s. If those outrages had not spilled out over the entire country and engulfed the Democratic Party, the religious conservatives would have remained quietly bi-partisan, the neoconservatives would have remained Democrats, and the libertarians would have remained irrelevant. The Republican Party would have retained its old country-club atmosphere. They would have offered up a tepid figure every four years, a Bob Dole or a John Connally or an 80s version of Barry Goldwater who no longer had any scare value.

We'd all be a little less battered and a lot more mellow.

While all of this was going on, The New York Times would have been having an absolute, flat-out, frothing fit. Don't let them fool you as they skip down memory lane gathering mayflowers and might-have-beens. Now that Goldwater is safely dead they can spin pleasant fantasies about him being elected president, but they wouldn't have been happy if it had happened. They aren't happy with anything that happens.