In the 1964 presidential election, LBJ demolished Goldwater (who won only his home state of Arizona and five Southern states), but the campaign was merely the first step in what would become a brisk and massive march of conservatives across America.
In his debut work, Middendorf (a former US Ambassador to the Netherlands and Secretary of the Navy) looks back with a fond and even paternal eye on the nativity of the conservative movement. He attributes Goldwater’s loss to a number of factors—inexperienced campaign organizers and workers (the author held various fundraising positions), an unpredictable candidate (the Senator’s intransigence and inability to govern his tongue were liabilities), a hostile press (those media liberals!) and some dirty tricks by the Democrats and especially by LBJ, who was a drunk (the press wouldn’t report it) and who employed both the CIA and the FBI to spy on the Goldwater campaign. Possibly the US Postal Service went postal, too, by issuing, just before the election, a stamp commemorating Social Security. Middendorf implies that the Democrats have asked for what’s ensued (Willie Horton and Swiftboating), and that the elephants never would have been so naughty had not the donkeys first been so devious. His political preferences aside, Middendorf has written an interesting insider’s account of that election and its aftermath—and he notes with pride that just two years later, the GOP made solid gains in local, state and national elections. The author has kind words for William F. Buckley Jr. (“our philosophical guru”) but admits the Goldwater team kept Buckley and the National Review crowd at the margins (their GOP votes were certain; no need to alienate moderates). Middendorf does his best to assure readers that Goldwater was not a racist, not a nuclear gunslinger, not a fascist, not a homophobe. The author writes, too, of the rise of the GOP stars who soon followed: Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Tendentious, sure, but always informed.