As Republicans fall in line, some reluctantly, behind the McCain candidacy, it isn’t the first time passionate GOP partisans have had to decide whether or not to settle or sit one out. Conservatives in the GOP might do well to take a look at history and ask what previous party standard bearers would do if they were around today.
Richard M. Nixon’s career was mixture of the high mountains and deep valleys he spoke about during his East Room farewell in August of 1974. But, there is no doubt that he was a powerful force in American politics for nearly a quarter of a century during a time of internal change and external challenge for America.
Whatever ultimate judgments people from across the political spectrum might have about Mr. Nixon, no one can dispute that he knew a thing or two about elections and political campaigns. He was on a national ticket five times (1952, 1956, 1960, 1968, and 1972) and successful four of those times. No one on the American political scene today approaches that record. Only Franklin D. Roosevelt matched it.
In my opinion, some of Richard Nixon’s most impressive achievements were in the way he handled things when he was out of power. He had a particular knack for dealing with adversity that served him well - seeing as he also had a tendency to invite conflict into his life and career. That the ability to navigate the deep waters of wilderness, rejection, and even exile, was intrinsic to his self-image is indicated by his best-selling book written in1962. That autobiographical work was entitled simply: “Six Crises.”
It is, however, from another moment in his career – one well after he wrote about six of his earlier political battles – that we find an example of party fidelity and political wisdom that speaks powerfully to current dynamics in the Republican Party.
This moment is not from 1960 or 1968, but rather from the year when the wheels fell off for Republicans – 1964.
Largely remembered as the year of the electoral massacre of Barry Goldwater by Lyndon Johnson, there is an interesting subplot to the story, one directed and dominated by the man who would four years later be elected as the 37th President of the United States.