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Ruthfully Yours:

Ruth King
December 19th, 2011

Is there a Republican Establishment that differs from and is antagonistic to people who vote Republican?

Whether such a thing existed before, say, 1950, is problematic. But since about that time it has manifested itself undeniably. Consider:

Beginning circa 1940, Robert Taft of Ohio rebuilt the Republican Party’s credit with the American people. He spoke of smaller government at home and the pursuit of the national interest abroad- including opposition equally to Communists and Nazis. Wars were for winning. But the Party’s machinery and money were in New York. J. D. Rockefeller, Wendell Wilkie, John Foster Dulles, and Thomas Dewey, supported heavily by old money, were Progressives in the mold of Herbert Hoover and Woodrow Wilson. They believed that they could bring the world together onto the path of progress and improve America by tweaking FDR’s New Deal. Wilkie and Dewey lost. By 1952 the party was almost unanimously for Taft. But the Republican Progressives bought and stole delegates to the ’52 convention, especially in the South where delegates had no voters who could hold them accountable. When that did not work, they used the Credentials committee to exclude the elected Texas delegation and replaced it with one formed by them. Dwight Eisenhower was a great man. But he was foisted on the party – not picked by it.


In those days, there was only one print outlet – no broadcast ones – that supported what the vast majority of Republican voters supported: William Buckley’s National Review. (Since Buckley turned it over and the original cast of NR died or was pushed out, NR’s management went with the money and became part of the Establishment. Whereas Buckley ran against silk-stocking John Lindsay, his successors at NR are the very image of Lindsay). Of necessity however, the Goldwater campaign spawned alternative means of mass communication – prominently direct mail. In the 1970s a few breaks took place in the Establishment’s control of the Media. Bob Bartley made the Wall street Journal into something of an advocate of Goldwater’s positions on Social Security, etc. (Since Bartley’s death, the Journal has taken several steps back to the Establishment). Norman Podhoretz and William Kristol made Taft-Goldwater positions on foreign affairs palatable to many Democrats. New small magazines popped up all over, bypassing the united Establishment.

By his October 1964 speech for Goldwater, Ronald Reagan became the Republican rank and file’s representative against the party’s Establishment. Reagan’s strength came from campaigning against both the Republican and Democratic Establishments. He took voters away from both. But from 1964 until he left office in 1989 Reagan was the object of obloquy from both, in terms as strong, and more derisive, than those used against Goldwater. I can’t think of any prominent Republican prior to the1980 election who had a kind, or accurate word about Reagan. Those of us who worked with him were described as nuts. In the Senate, where I worked for eight years, maybe six out of forty eight Republicans were for him. The rest were for George Bush or John Anderson. Reagan was going to lose badly because he appealed only to Conservatives and was just too far out of the mainstream. When Reagan was nominated in Detroit, the Party Establishment, including Senators, governors, and above all donors, threatened to do to him what they had done to Goldwater unless he named Gerald Ford as a Vice President who would be a “co-President.” Reagan refused, but agreed to name George Bush, and to name his chief lieutenant, Jim Baker, as his chief of staff. Still, to make sure Reagan would lose, the Party ran Anderson against Reagan in the general election. I can assure you, and so can everybody else who dealt at a certain level in Washington, that Baker continued to work for Bush to shut out, minimize non Establishment people throughout his tenure.


Want names? Just google attacks on Newt Gingrich over the last week. Gingrich is neither Goldwater nor Reagan. But he is the only person left standing to challenge the certainty that, as the New York Times’ Bill Keller put it, the 2012 elections will be held between two “certifiably sane” people (Obama and Romney). The folks who come up on your google search deem themselves the arbiters of sanity. It does not occur to them that the American people have the right to decide for themselves between COMPETING VERSIONS of sanity.

Today as in the last two generations, the Republican Establishment’s message for Republican voters is something like “shut up and do as you’re told.”

A lot of us don’t like that
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