A number of dethroned establishment Republicans aren’t going to Cleveland next month to watch upstart Donald Trump accept the party’s nomination.
The Democratic convention in Philadelphia may not be much fun either for establishment types.
In 1964, Pennsylvania GOP Senator Hugh Scott went to the party conclave at the Cow Palace in San Francisco only to watch Barry Goldwater defeat his favored candidate Gov. William Scranton on the first ballot.
Scott had to endure Goldwaterites on the party platform committee rejecting his plank to denounce political extremism. The nominee himself failed to extend a traditional olive branch in his acceptance speech.
The Cow Palace convention followed a tumultuous primary season where Goldwater had bested moderate New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Scranton entered the race at the eleventh hour after Goldwater came out against the civil rights bill that became law just weeks before the convention.
Goldwater had stirred the pot on the campaign trail with remarks about the handling of nuclear weapons, the future of Social Security and other government programs. At one point he observed: “Sometimes I think this country would be better off if we could just saw off the Eastern Seaboard and let it float out to sea.”
Scott was dismayed with Goldwater’s punch line of “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” in his acceptance speech.
“Where Goldwater could have used his acceptance speech to call the party’s factions back together, he turned it instead into a feckless challenge to all who disagreed with him to go elsewhere,” wrote Scott in an engaging memoir titled Come to the Party. “Tragically for our party, all too many Republicans took him at his word.”
Scott and his wife left town after Goldwater’s speech and traveled by train aboard the Canadian Pacific “back to the East Coast which Barry Goldwater had excommunicated.”
Scott faced a grim political prospect in the months ahead.
Running for reelection that year, Scott faced a dilemma about whether to endorse Goldwater or not. He eventually announced he supported the entire GOP ticket. But he could not count on help from the national GOP committee now under Goldwater’s control.
Scott was heckled by ‘right-wing ideologists” on the stump.
“Mostly young people, they attended political meetings as an act of faith, primarily to detect heresy. I was an arch-heretic because I held to the broadly centrist positions on which the Republican Party had grown great,” he wrote. “Oblivious to party harmony, unhampered by good manners, they tried at every meeting to bully me into the Proscrustean framework of their “purist” concepts – and damn the consequences.”
Scott won in a squeaker that November helped by ticket splitting and a late start by Democratic challenger Genevieve Blatt. She became the nominee only in August after a state court settled disputed primary results.
Scott had some vindication after Goldwater’s landslide loss to Democrat Lyndon Johnson. He watched the establishment take back control of the party. They ousted Dean Burch, Goldwater’s pick as national chairman, and gave the reins to Ray Bliss, a professional operative from Ohio.
For Scott, these events were reminiscent of 1948 when he realized his days were numbered as national GOP chairman after Thomas Dewey’s loss to Harry Truman. Scott survived one ouster attempt and resigned months later when he learned of new efforts to remove him. — Robert Swift