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Goldwater, McGovern and Sanders
December 1, 2015
by William P. Meyers

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Bernie Sanders Presidential Campaign could have lasting effects

The Bernie Sanders political line is that he has a better chance than Hillary Clinton of defeating whoever the Republicans may nominate.

The conventional wisdom is that Bernie Sanders will lose to any Republican candidate, and certainly to a moderate Republican. Let's look at election history to see why.

Republicans have mainly been on the losing end of the electoral struggle once they allowed the Southern (ex-Confederate States of America) to start voting again after Reconstruction. The longest string of Republican Presidential victories after that was 1920, 1924, 1928. Then there was a long drought until 1952, when General Dwight David Eisenhower won (see The Double Coup of 1952).

Conservative Republicans were not happy with "Ike." Nor with his Vice-president, Richard Nixon, who lost the election to John F. Kennedy in 1960. They developed a theory that the problem was the Republican establishment (big business and its elected allies) were against a True Conservative being nominated. They believed that a True Conservative would draw votes "out of the woodwork," to gain a victory. Then a True Conservative would set the country right, getting rid of civil rights and Social Security and all that excessive government spending.

So the Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater, a True Conservative, in 1964. The Democrats nominated Lyndon B. Johnson, who had just pushed the first meaningful Civil Rights bill through Congress. Barry Goldwater drew 27.1 million voters out of the woodwork. Johnson received 43.1 million votes.

In 1972 the Republicans stayed moderate with Richard Nixon as their nominee. Democrats wanted to show they were truly the party of the people and nominated George McGovern (who had also tried for the nomination in 1968 after Robert Kennedy was assassinated). George McGovern was as close to a socialist as any major-party candidate in U.S. history. Surely every working American would vote for a man who promised greater income redistribution, including a $1,000 payment to every citizen. George McGovern promised to end the Vietnam War, something Nixon had promised in 1968 and failed to deliver.

George McGovern received 29.2 million votes. Richard Nixon received 47.2 million. The only state McGovern won was Massachusetts. It was the worst showing in U.S. history.

What party professionals learned from the elections of 1964 and 1972 is that there are not really all that many voters on either the extreme right or the extreme left in the United States.

For the most part since 1972 the two parties have raced to the center when it came to Presidential nominations. At the same time, in and after the 1970s the long process of party realignment continued. Until about 1970 the Republican Party had a liberal wing that was about as progressive as the liberal Democrats. At the same time the Democrats had a conservative, racist wing that was about as conservative as the right wing of the Republican Party. After the Great Depression the realignment began, with liberals moving to the Democrats and conservatives to the Republicans.

Both parties remained dominated by moderates into the 21st century, but this just enraged the left wing of the Democrats and the right wing of the Republicans. Each of those wings wanted to rule America according to their vision. Each of those wings wants to forget the lessons of the Goldwater and McGovern campaigns.

So in the Republican Party of 2016 a Jeb Bush, who is far to the right of Ronald Reagan, is considered too centrist to get the nomination.

In the Democratic Party of 2016 a centrist, Hillary Clinton, still seems able to get the nomination. But keep in mind that Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 spectrum, is left of center, not really much different than Bernie Sanders. A popular centrist Republican could beat Hillary easily, not a single declared candidate qualifies as centrist.

But Bernie Sanders has rallied the left with his let's go back to the good old days of the New Deal message. Between 1940 and 1968 Bernie's current positions would be middle-of-the-road. Now they are attractive to about one-third of the Democratic Party, or about one-sixth of the American voters.

To most Americans, and to all conservative Americans, Bernie Sanders is a left-wing nut case. If he does convince the Democratic Party to nominate him, his only hope for election is that the Republicans will nominate a man perceived by most Americans as a right-wing nut case, like Doctor Ben Carson.

Then it will be like Goldwater vs. McGovern. Quite a match-up. Hard to predict a winner this early. But do you really want to take that risk? In this age of Global Warming, Internet surveillance, and potential chaos?

Agree? Disagree? You can comment on this post at Natural Liberation Blog at blogspot.com

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