IN THE RED LIGHT: A HISTORY OF THE REPUBLICAN CONVENTION IN 1964
By Norman Mailer
Reprinted in Cannibals and Christians (1966)
. . . He had drawn the burning city, a great bonfire of architectural styles, ranging from Egyptian to Cape Cod colonial. Through the center, winding from left to right, was a long hill street and down it, spilling into the middle foreground, came the mob carrying baseball bats and torches. For the faces of its members, he was using the innumerable sketches he had made of the people who come to California to die; the cultists of all sorts, economic as well as religious, the wave, airplane, funeral and preview watchers — all those poor devils who can only be stirred by the promise of miracles and then only to violence. A super 'Dr. Know-All Pierce-All' had made the necessary promise of miracles and they were marching behind his banner in a great united front of screwballs and screwboxes to purify the land. No longer bored, they sang and danced joyously in the red light of the flames. —NATHANIEL WEST, The Day of the Locust
Now, the city was beautiful, it was still the most beautiful city in the United States, but like all American cities it was a casualty of the undeclared war. There had been an undisclosed full-scale struggle going on in America for twenty years — it was whether the country would go mad or not. And the battle line of that war (which showed that yes slowly the country was losing the war, we were indeed going mad) was of course the progress of the new roads, buildings, and supermarkets which popped out all over the cities of the nation. San Francisco was losing her beauty. Monstrous corporations in combine with monstrous realtors had erected monstrous boxes of Kleenex ten, twenty, thirty stories high through the downtown sections, and the new view from Telegraph Hill had shards of glass the size of a mountain wall stuck into the soft Italian landscape of St. Francis' City. The San Francisco Hilton, for an example, while close to twenty stories high was near to a square block in size and looked from the street to have the proportions and form of a cube of sugar. It was a dirty sugar-white in color and its windows were set in an odd elongated checkerboard, a harlequin pattern in which each window was offset from the one above and beneath like the vents in a portable radio.
The Hilton was only six weeks old, but already it was one of the architectural wonders of the world, for its insides were composed in large part of an automobile ramp on which it was possible to drive all the way up to the eleventh floor, open a door and lo! you were in your hotel corridor, twenty feet from your own room door. It was a startling way to exhaust the internal space of a hotel, but it had one huge American advantage: any guest at the Hilton could drive all the way to his room without ever having to steer a lady through a lobby. Of course, after all those automobile ramps, there was not much volume left, so the rooms were small for seventeen dollars a day, and the windows were placed to the extreme left or right of the wall and ran from ceiling to floor, in order to allow the building to appear to the outside eye like a radio being carried by a model who worked in the high nude. The carpets and wallpapers, the drapes and the table tops were plastic, the bathroom had the odor of burning insecticide. It developed that the plastic cement used to finish the tiling gave off this odor during the months it took to dry. Molecules were being tortured everywhere.
Well, that was American capitalism gainfully employed. It had won the war. It had won it in so many places you could picture your accommodations before you arrived. Such is the nature of the promiscuous. Flying out, way out on the jet, on the way West, not yet at the Hilton but knowing it would be there, I got into a conversation with the man who sat at the window, an Australian journalist named Moffitt, a short fellow with a bushwhacker's moustache; and he scolded me for reading Buchanan's book, Who Killed Kennedy? He wanted to know why a man of my intelligence bothered with trash. Well, the country had never been the same since Kennedy was assassinated, courtesy was ready to reply; some process of derailment, begun with Hemingway's death and the death of Marilyn Monroe, had been racing on through the months, through the heavens, faster than the contrails of our jet across the late afternoon mind of America; so one looked for clues where they could be found. It would be easier to know that Oswald had done it all by himself, or as an accomplice to ten other men, or was innocent, or twice damned; anything was superior to that sense of the ship of state battering its way down the swells of the sea, while in the hold cargo was loose and ready to slide.
This conversation did not of course take place -- an Astrojet is not the vehicle for metaphorical transformations, it is after all still another of the extermination chambers of the century -- slowly the breath gives up some microcosmic portion of itself, green plastic and silver-gray plastic, the nostrils breathe no odor of materials which existed once as elements of nature, no wood, no stone, no ore, time molders like a sponge in the sink. But Moffitt was Australian and fascinated with America, and he had his quick comments to make, some provincial, some pure shrewd; finally he poked his finger on something I had never put together for myself, not quite: "Why is it," he asked, "that all the new stuff you build here, including the interior furnishings of this airplane, looks like a child's nursery?"
And that is what it was. The inside of our airplane was like a child's plastic nursery, a dayroom in the children's ward, and if I had been Quentin Compson [NOTE: A character in several novels by William Faulkner —F.L.], I might have answered, "Because we want to go back, because the nerves grew in all the wrong ways. Because we developed habits which are suffocating us to death. I tell you, man, we do it because we're sick, we're a sick nation, we're sick to the edge of vomit and so we build our lives with materials which smell like vomit, polyethylene and bakelite and fiberglas and styrene. Yes, our schools look like nurseries, and our factories and our temples, our kitchens and our johns, our airports and our libraries and our offices, we are one great big bloody nursery attached to a doctor's waiting room, and we are sick, we're very sick, maybe we always were sick, maybe the Puritans carried the virus and were so odious the British were right to drive them out, maybe we're a nation of culls and weeds and half-crazy from the start."
Nobody of course was Quentin Compson, nobody spoke that way any more, but the question was posed by a ghost and so had to linger: was there indeed a death in the seed which brought us here? was the country extraordinary or accursed, a junkyard where even the minnows gave caviar in the filthy pond in the fierce electric American night?
I must see the things; I must see the men. —BURKE, Reflections on the Revolution in France
At the Mark Hopkins on Saturday morning [NOTE: July 11, 1964 —F.L.] two days before the convention would begin, the atmosphere had the same agreeable clean rather healthy excitement (that particular American excitement) one picks up on the morning of a big football game. The kids were out, the children who were for Goldwater and those who were for Scranton, and they milled about in the small open courtyard of the hotel, and in the small hopelessly congested lobby where lines one hundred long were waiting for each of the three overworked elevators beating up to the twelfth and fourteenth floors, Scranton and Goldwater Headquarters respectively. It was a clear day outside, one of thse cool sunny days in July when San Francisco is as nice as New York on a beautiful day in October, and the city fell away from Nob Hill in a perfect throw. There were apples in the air. It was a perfect football day. There was even wistfulness to be eighteen and have a date for lunch before the game. So the teams lined up first this way in one's mind, the children, adolescents, and young men and women for Goldwater to one side, the Scrantons to the other, and you could tell a lot about the colleges and the teams by looking at the faces. The Goldwater girls and boys were for the most part innocent, and they tended to have large slightly protruded jaws, not unlike Big Barry himself, and blue eyes -- an astonishing number had blue eyes (was the world finally coming to the war of the blue-eyed versus the brown-eyed?) -- and they were simple, they were small-town, they were hicky, the boys tended to have a little acne, an introspective pimple or two by the corner of the mouth or the side of the chin, a lot of the boys looked solemn and serious, dedicated but slightly blank -- they could fix a transistor radio, but words like "Renaissance" would lay a soft wound of silence, stupefaction in their brain. They were idealists, nearly every last one of them, but they did not speak of the happier varieties of idealism; one thought of Lutherans from North Dakota, 4-H from Minnesota, and Eagle Scouts from Maine. Many of them wore eyeglasses. They were thrifty young men, hardworking young men, polite, slightly paralyzed before the variety of life, but ready to die for a cause. It was obvious they thought Goldwater was one of the finest men ever to be born into American life. And they were stingy, they wore store-bought ready-mades, skinny kids in twenty-dollar suits and that pinch of the jaw, that recidivism of the gums which speaks of false teeth before you are fifty.
The Goldwater girls ran to two varieties. There were the models who had been hired for the purpose, and they were attractive but not very imaginative, they looked like hookers on horses, and then there were the true followers, the daughters of delegates, the California children who belonged to one Goldwater club or another. They were younger than the models of course, they were most of them fifteen, sixteen, not even seventeen, wearing cowboy hats and white vests and shirts with fringes, white riding boots; nearly all of them were blonde and they had simple rather sweet faces, the sort of faces which television commercials used to use for such product fodder as biscuit batter before the commercials turned witty; these Goldwater girls had the faces of young ladies who listened to their parents, particularly to their fathers, they were full of character, but it was the character of tidiness, industry, subservience -- unlike the Goldwater boys who looked on the whole not unintelligent though slightly maniacal in the singularity of their vision (the way young physicists look slightly maniacal) the girls seemed to be just about all quite dumb. There was one blonde little girl who was lovely, pretty enough to be a starlet, but she left a pang because her eyes when open were irremediably dim. Taken together, boys and girls, they were like the graduating class of a high school in Nebraska. The valedictorian would write his speech on the following theme: Why is the United States the Greatest Nation on Earth? Whereas the kids who were for Scranton were prep-school or country-day. Some of the boys were plump and merry, some were mildly executive, but they shared in common that slightly complacent air of success which is the only curse of the fraternity president or leader of the student council. They were keen, they tended to be smooth, they had a penchant for bow ties and they were the kind to drive Triumphs or Pontiac convertibles, while the Goldwater boys would be borrowing their father's Dodge Dart (except for the one in a hundred who was automotive in his genius and so had built a dragster to top out at one-six-five). Then there were the Scranton boys who were still the descendants of Holden Caulfield. [NOTE: Holden Caulfield is the prep-school protagonist of J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye (1951). —F.L.] Faces like theirs had been seen for Stevenson in '60 in L.A. against J.F.K., and faces like theirs might appear (one would hope) in '68 for still another, but for now they were for the nearest candidate with wit, class, and the born foreknowledge of defeat. Slim, slightly mournful, certainly acerb, and dubious of the fraternity presidents with whom they had made cause, the Holden Caulfields were out for Scranton, and looked a size overmatched by the girls who were for Scranton, good-looking most of them, slightly spoiled, saucy, full of peeves, junior debs doing their best to be cool and so wearing their hair long with a part down the center in such a way that the face, sexy, stripped of makeup (except for some sort of white libidinous wax on the lips) were half-concealed by a Gothic arch of falling tresses. Such were Scranton's parts, such were Goldwater's, as the children shaped up for the game.
In this state of . . . warfare between the noble ancient landed interest and the new monied interest, the . . . monied interest is in its nature more ready for any adventure; and its possessors more disposed to new enterprises of any kind. Being of a recent acquisition, it falls in more naturally with any novelties. It is therefore the kind of wealth which will be resorted to by all who wish for change. —BURKE, Reflections on the Revolution in France
Among the young industrial and financial monopolies of the West and Southwest that want a "bigger slice of the capitalist profit pie," Mr. Vasilyev listed H.L. Hunt, the Texas multimillionaire, the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, the Douglas Aircraft Company, the Boeing Company and the Northrop Corporation and the Giannini "financial empire" headed by the Bank of America.
These are the forces, Mr. Vasilyev said, that overcame the last-minute effort by "Wall Street, the Boston financial group and the Pennsylvania industrial complex" to promote the candidacy of Governor William W. Scranton of Pennsylvania at the Republican convention last month.
"But the 'new money' of the West proved to be stronger than the old money of the Northeast," the Soviet commentator said. —New York Times, August 13, 1964.
For a time it had been interesting history. You will remember that Scranton decided to run for the nomination after a talk in Gettysburg on June 6 with President Eisenhower. He left with the solid assumption he would receive Eisenhower's support, solid enough for Governor Scranton's public-relations machine to announce this fact to the nation. That night or early next morning President Eisenhower received a phone call from George Humphrey. Eisenhower had been planning to visit Humphrey in Cleveland during the week of the Governor's Conference. But it developed Barry Goldwater had already been invited to be at Humphrey's home as well. A social difficult thus presented itself. Humphrey resolved it in this fashion: Eisenhower would understand if, under the circumstances, Goldwater having been invited first...
Ike knew what that meant. If his old friend, crony, subordinate and private brain trust George Humphrey was willing to let the old gander-in-chief come out second in a collision of invitations, then Ike had picked a loser. Ike was in danger of being a loser himself. Well, Ike hadn't come out of Abilene, Kansas, all those years ago *ever* to end on the losing side. So he waddled back to middle. He phoned Bill Scranton you will remember but an hour before Scranton was ready to announce his candidacy at the Governor's Conference on June 7, and told Scranton he could not be party to a "cabal." It was obvious to everybody in America that the old man had not labored through the night and through the day to make the truth of his first conversation with the young man stand out loud and clear in the high sun of ten a.m.
Still, one could not feel too sorry for the young man. It is never easy to grieve for the candidate of the Establishment, particularly the Republican Establishment of the East, which runs a spectrum from the Duke of Windsor to Jerome Zerbe, from Thomas E. Dewey to Lowell Thomas, from Drue Heinz to Tex and Jinx, from Maine to Nassau, New York to South of France, from Allen Dulles to Henry Luce, Igor Cassini to Joe Alsop, from Sullivan & Cromwell to Cartier's, and from Arthur Krock to Tuxedo Park. [NOTE: "The Establishment" was a term made current by Richard Rovere's essay entitled "Notes on the Establishment in America," American Scholar 30 (Autumn 1961): 489-95. Rovere later published a volume entitled The American Establishment and Other Reports, Opinions, and Speculations (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962), featuring discussion of "the workings of the Establishment in Presidential politics" (ibid., p. 19). -- The Duke of Windsor (1894-1972) held a title created especially for the former King (for eleven months in 1936) Edward VIII, who abdicated the British throne and married an American divorcée, Wallis Simpson (1895 or 1896-1986); they paid a personal visit to Adolf Hitler in 1937. Both were virulent racists and fervent anti-Communists. -- Jerome Zerbe (1904-1988) was one of the original celebrity paparazzi and author of The Art of Social Climbing (1965). -- Thomas E. Dewey (1902-1971), a federal prosecutor turned Wall Street lawyer, led a liberal faction of the Republican Party and was regarded as a spokesman for the Eastern Establishment. -- Lowell Thomas (1892-1981) was a jack-of-all-trades broadcaster best known for having made Lawrence of Arabia famous with footage shot in the Middle East in 1918. -- Drue Heinz is a still-living New York socialite who patronized the arts; she is publisher of the Paris Review and was stepmother to Senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania. -- Tex and Jinx were the hosts of "The Swift Home Service Club," one of the first daytime TV shows, which began in 1947 on NBC. -- Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, figured prominently in Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. -- Allen Dulles (1893-1969), a Princeton graduate, was a New York lawyer who was the longest serving director of central intelligence (from 1953 to 1961). -- Henry Luce (1989-1967) was the militantly anti-Communist founder of Time magazine and author in 1941 of the famous article "The American Century." -- Igor Cassini (1915-2002) was the syndicated gossip columnist for the Hearst newspaper chain who coined the term "Jet set." -- Joseph Alsop (1910-1989) was a socially prominent consevative newspaper columnist who promoted U.S. involvement in Vietnam. -- Sullivan & Cromwell is one of the most prestigious and profitable law firms in the world; among its former partners are John Foster Dulles (later secretary of state) and Harlan Fisk Stone (later chief justice of the Supreme Court). -- Cartier is (or was; it is now owned by a Swiss luxury goods company founded by a South African billionaire) a French jeweler and watchmaker famous for the patronage of royalty and the rich. -- Arthur Krock (1886-1974) was the Washington bureau chief of the New York Times and confident of American presidents. -- Tuxedo Park is a Hudson Valley town popular throughout the 20th century by New York society and the site of the Tuxedo Club, patronized by the Colgates, the Morgans, the Astors, Alfred Loomis, and many others (see Jennet Conant's Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II (Simon and Schuster, 2002). --F.L.]
Well, the last two years, all the way from Arthur Krock to Tuxedo Park, you could hear that Bill Scranton was going to be the Republican candidate in '64. Attempts might be made to argue: Goldwater looks strong, somebody could say at a dinner table; hasn't got a chance, the Establishment would give back -- it's going to be Scranton. What was most impressive is that the Establishment did not bother to photograph their man, immerse him in publicity, or seek to etch his image. It was taken for granted that when the time came, doors would open, doors would shut, figures would be inserted, heads would be removed, a whiff of incense, a whisk of wickedness -- Scranton would be the candidate.
Of course, Goldwater, or the Goldwater organization, or some organization, kept picking up delegates for Goldwater, and from a year away there was a bit of sentiment that it might be easier to make a deal with Goldwater, it might be easier to moderate him than to excise him. Once upon a time, J.P. Morgan would doubtless have sent some bright young man out on the Southern Pacific with a bag full of hundred-dollar bills. Now, however, possessing a mass media, the buy-off could take place in public. Last November, three weeks before J.F.K. was assassinated, Life Magazine put Goldwater on their cover wearing a pearl-gray Stetson and clean, pressed, faded blue work shirt and Levi's while his companion, a Palomino named Sunny, stood with one of the Senator's hands on his bridle, the other laid over the vein of his nose. It was Hopalong Cassidy all baby fat removed, it gave promise of the campaign to come: the image of Kennedy was now to be combated by Sheriff B. Morris Goldwater, the Silver Gun of the West. It was one of those pictures worth ten thousand speeches -- it gave promise of delivering a million votes. It was also a way of stating that the Establishment was not yet unalterably opposed to Goldwater, and could yet help him, as it had with this cover. But inside the magazine across the heads of seven million readers, another message was delivered to the Senator.
Financial interests in Ohio, Illinois, Texas, Los Angeles and San Francisco -- all centers of wealth independent of eastern ties -- have been lining up money and intense local pressure for Goldwater. But . . . people fail to realize there's a difference in kinds of money . . . Old money has political power but new money has only purchasing power. . . . When you get to a convention, you don't buy delegates. But you do put the pressure on people who control the delegates -- the people who owe the old money for their stake.
Which was a way to remind Goldwater there were concessions to make. It was in foreign affairs that Goldwater had the most to explain about his policies.
Barry Goldwater [went Life's conclusion] represents a valuable impulse, in the American politics of '64. He does not yet clearly represent all that a serious contender for the Presidency should. "Guts without depth" and "a man of one-sentence solutions" are the epithets of his critics. The time has come for him to rebut them if he can.
Two months later Goldwater announced his formal candidacy for the Republican nomination, and issued a pamphlet called "Senator Goldwater Speaks Out on the Issues." Written in that milk-of-magnesia style which is characteristic of such tracts, one could no longer be certain what he thought -- he had moved from being a man of "one-sentence solutions" to a man who showed a preference for many imprecise sentences. Barry was treading water. As he did, his people, his organization, kept picking up delegates. It was not until he voted against the Civil Rights Bill that the open battle between old money and new was at last engaged. Too late on the side of the East. To anyone who knew a bit about the workings of the Establishment, a mystery was present. For unless the Establishment had become most suddenly inept, there was a buried motive in the delay, a fear, as if the eastern money were afraid of some force in the American mind racing to power in defiance of them, some mystique from out the pure accelerating delirium of a crusade which would make cinder of the opposition. So they had waited, all candidates but Rockefeller had waited, none willing to draw the fires of the Right until Scranton was flushed by the ebb and flow, the mystery or murmur, in an old man's throat.
Somewhat later that morning, one saw Scranton in a press conference at the San Francisco Hilton. The Corinthian Room on the ballroom floor (Press Headquarters) was a white room, perhaps forty-five feet by forty feet with a low ceiling and a huge puff of a modern chandelier made up of pieces of plastic which looked like orange candy. The carpet was an electric plastic green, the bridge seats (some two hundred of them) were covered in a plastic the color of wet aspirin, and the walls were white, a hospital-sink white. The practical effect was to leave you feeling like a cold cut set in the white tray of a refrigerator.
The speaker, however, was like a fly annealed on the electric-light bulb of the refrigerator. The banks of lights were turned on him, movie lights, TV lights, four thousand watts in the eye must be the average price a politician pays for his press conference. It gives them all a high instant patina, their skin responding to the call of the wild; there is danger, because the press conference creates the moment when the actor must walk into the gears of the machine. While it is a hundred-to-one or a thousand-to-one he will make no mistake, his career can be extinguished by a blunder. Unless one is making news on a given day -- which is to say an important announcement is to be made -- the press conference is thus a virtuoso price to be paid for remaining in the game, since there are all too many days when it is to the interest of the speaker, or of his party, or his wing of the party, to make no particular news, but rather to repress news. Still, the speaker must not be too dull, or he will hurt his own position, his remarks will be printed too far back in the paper. So he must be interesting without being revealing. Whereas it is to the interest of the press to make him revealing. A delicate game of balance therefore goes on. Nixon used to play well until the day of his breakdown. Eisenhower was once good at it. Goldwater was considered bad at this game, sufficiently bad that at the convention he held but one press conference before his nomination, and in the six preceding weeks he had given but two.
An opportunity to observe the game in operation came with Melvin Laird who tried to convince the Press Corps that the Republican platform was liberal, strong on civil rights, critical of extremists, and yet true to Goldwater. Laird, a smooth vigorous man with a bald domelike head, held the breech for half an hour, ducking questions with grace the way Negroes used once to duck baseballs in a carnival When he got into trouble (it was after all a most untenable position), he called on one of the most necessary rules of the game, which is that you don't insult the good character of the speaker. So Laird would finally say, "We worked hard on this platform, it's a good platform, I'm proud of it." That made the questioners retreat and regroup for another attack. [NOTE: Melvin Laird, born 1922, would later coin the word 'Vietnamization' as Richard Nixon's Secretary of Defense (1969-1973). In 1964 Laird was the representative from Wisconsin's 7th District. Ironically, Laird served in World War II aboard the USS Maddox, the very ship involved in the Gulf of Tonkin incident in August 1964, which took place only three weeks after the press conference described here. —F.L.]
Now Scranton's press conferences were of course different -- because no one could be certain if Scranton was part of the game or a wild hare diverting the chase from every true scent. The result was a choppiness to the questioning, a sense of irritation, a hint of vast contempt from the Press Corps; a reporter despises a politician who is not professional, for the game then becomes surrealistic, and it is the function of games to keep dreams, dread and surrealism out in the night where they belong. They would dog at Scranton, they would try to close: Governor, Governor, could you give the name of any delegate who has moved over from Goldwater to you? No, we are not prepared to say at this time, would come the answer. Are there any? (Titter from the audience.) Certainly. But you do not care to say? Not at this time. Governor (a new man now) is there any truth to the rumor you are going to concede before the convention begins? None whatsoever. Governor, is it not true that you may be willing to run for vice-president? For the eighty-eighth time, it is certainly not true. Unqualifiedly? Yes (said Scranton sadly) unqualifiedly. [NOTE: William Scranton was born in 1917 into the family of a wealthy family whose members who as founders of the Lackawanna Steel Company in the 1840s were patriarchs of the city of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and whose fortune was related to the growth of railroads in the 19th-century America; he traces his ancestry on his mother's side to passengers on the Mayflower. A graduate of the Hotchkiss School, Yale University, and Yale Law School, William Scranton in the mid-20th century was a pillar of the Eastern Establishment, serving as governor of Pennsylvania from 1963 to 1967 and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. from 1976 to 1977. —F.L.]
He stood there like a saint, a most curious kind of saint. If he had been an actor he would have played the Dauphin to Ingrid Bergman's Joan of Arc. He was obviously, on superficial study, a weak and stubborn man. One felt he had been spoiled when he was young by a lack of testing. It was not that he lacked bravery, it was that he had lacked all opportunity to be brave for much too long, and now he was not so much engaged in a serious political struggle as in a puberty rite. It was incredible that this pleasant urbane man, so self-satisfied, so civilized, so reasonable, so innocent of butchers' tubs and spleens and guts (that knowledge which radiates with full ceremony off Khrushchev's halo), should be now in fact the man the Eastern Establishment had picked as their candidate for President. He had a fatal flaw to his style, he was just very slightly delicate the way, let us say, a young Madison Avenue executive will seem petulant next to the surly vigor of a president of a steel corporation. Scranton had none of the heft of a political jockstrapper like Goldwater; no, rather he had the big wide thin-lipped mouth of a clown -- hopeless! If the roles had been reversed, if it had been Scranton with six hundred delegates and Goldwater who led a rush in the last four weeks to steal the land, why Goldwater might still have won. Scranton was decent but some part of his soul seemed to live in the void. Doubtless he had been more formidable when he began, but he had been losing for four weeks, one loss after another, delegates, delegations, caucuses, he had been losing with Eisenhower, he had lost with Dirksen, he had lost Illinois, he was losing Ohio, his wheeler-dealers stood by idle wheels; you cannot deal when you are losing delegates, there is nothing to offer the delegate but the salvation of his soul, and the delegate has put salvation in hock a long time ago. So Scranton had begun with the most resistant of missions -- there are few works in life so difficult as to pry delegates loose from a man who has a nomination virtually won. To be a delegate and stick with the loser is a kind of life, but no delegate can face the possibility of going from a winner to a loser; the losses are not measurable. People are in politics to win. In these circumstances, consider the political weight lifting required of Scranton. He announces his candidacy four weeks before the convention, Goldwater within fifty votes of the nomination. Is Scranton to pull delegates loose from such a scene by an unhappy faculty for getting pictures taken with his legs in the air doing polkas, R.C.A.F. exercises, and backhands at tennis? One knows Scranton's the product of a good many evenings when Eastern gentry circles around cigars and brandy and decided on poor Bill because he was finally not offensive to any. But it would have taken Paul Bunyan to claw into Goldwater's strength from four weeks out. His two hundred plus of Southern delegates were firm as marble, firm as their hatred of Civil Rights. And there was much other strength for Barry from the Midwest and the West, a hard core of delegates filled with hot scalding hatred for the Eastern Establishment. They were (unlike the children who were for Goldwater) this hard core of delegates, composed in large part of the kind of tourists who had been poisoning the air of hotel lobbies for twenty years. You could see them now with their Goldwater buttons, ensconced in every lobby, a Wasp Mafia where the grapes of wrath were stored. Not for nothing did the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant have a five-year subscription to Reader's Digest and National Geographic, high colonics and arthritis, silver-rimmed spectacles, punched-out bellies, and that air of controlled schizophrenia which is the merit badge for having spent one's life on Main Street. Indeed there was general agreement that the basic war was between Main Street and Wall Street. What was not seen so completely is that this war is the Wagnerian drama of the Wasp. For a century now the best of the White Protestants have been going from the farm to the town, leaving the small city for the larger one, transferring from Shaker Heights High to Lawrenceville, from Missouri State Teacher's to Smith, from Roast Turkey to Cordon Rouge, off rectitude onto wickedness, out of monogamy into Les Liaisons Dangereuses, from Jane Eyre to Candy; it's a long trip from the American Legion's Annual Ball to the bust-outs of Southampton. There's the unheard cry of a wounded coyote in all the minor leagues of the Junior League, in all the tacky doings of each small town, the grinding rasp of envy rubs the liver of each big frog in his small pond, no hatred like hatred for the East in the hearts of those who were left behind: the horror in the heart of social life in America is that one never knows whether one is snubbed for too much or too little, whether one was too fine or not fine enough, too graceless or too possessed of special grace, too hungry for power or not ambitious enough -- the questions are burning and never answered because the Establishment of the East rarely rejects, it merely yields or ignores, it promises and forgets, it offers to attend your daughter's party and somehow does not quite show up, or comes that fraction too late which is designed to spoil the high anticipation of the night. (Or worse, leaves a fraction too early.) The Wasps who were for Goldwater were the social culls of that Eastern Society which ran the land, yes, the Goldwater Wasps were the old doctors of Pasadena with their millions in stock and their grip on the A.M.A., the small-town newspaper editors, the president of the second most important bank, the wives of Texas oil, yes the wives and family of all the prominent and prosperous who had a fatal touch of the hick, all the Western ladies who did the Merengue at El Morocco on a trip to New York, and did it not quite well enough, you could just hear the giggles in the throat of Archie or Lightning Dick or Sad One-Eye, the Haitian and/or Jamaican who had taught them how. Yes the memory of those social failures is the saliva of intellectual violence. The old Goldwater Wasps, the ones who had been sitting in the hotel lobbies, had an insane sting to their ideas -- they were for birching America's bare bottom where Come-you-nisms collected: white and Negro equality; sexual excess; Jew ideas, dirty linen, muddled thinking, lack of respect for the Constitution. The Right in America had an impacted consistency of constipation to their metaphor. Small wonder they dreamed of a Republican purge. The Wasps were full of psychic wastes they could not quit -- they had moved into the Middle West and settled the West, they had won the country, and now they were losing it to the immigrants who had come after and the descendants of slaves. They had watched as their culture was adulterated, transported, converted into some surrealist mélange of public piety cum rock and roll, product of the movies and television, of the mass media where sons of immigrants were so often king, yes the Wasps did not understand what was going on, they were not so ready after all to listen to those of their ministers who would argue that America had a heritage of sin and greed vis-à-vis the Negro, and those sins of the blood must be paid; they were not at all ready to listen to the argument that America's industry had been built out of the hardworking hard-used flesh of five generations of immigrants, no, they were Christian but they did not want to hear any more about the rights of others, they suffered from the private fear they were not as good, not as tough, not as brave as their great-grandfathers, they suffered from the intolerable fear that they were not nearly so good nor so tough as those other Christians close to two thousand years ago who faced Romans, so they were not afraid of the East which had dominated the fashion and style of their life, they were ready to murder the East, the promiscuous adulterous East -- in a good fast nuclear war they might allow the Russians a fair crack at New York -- yes they were loaded with one hatred: the Eastern Establishment was not going to win again, this time Main Street was going to take Wall Street. So Barry had his brothers, three or four hundred of the hardest delegates in the land, and they were ready to become the lifelong enemy of any delegate who might waver to Scranton.
That was the mood. That was the inner condition of the Goldwater delegates about the time Scranton announced he was going all out for the nomination and would pry these people loose from Barry. Henry Cabot Lodge came in from Vietnam. He was, you remember, going to help. Cynics in the Establishment were quick to inform you that Lodge was actually getting the hell out before the roof fell in, but Lodge gave this message to reporters:
. . . One of the things that always used to please me about being in Vietnam was the thought that I might as an older man be able to do something to help our soldiers who were out risking their lives.
Well, a couple of weeks ago I ran into this captain who was one of the battalion advisor and he said, "Are you going back to help Governor Scranton?" And I said, "No." Well, he said, "You're not?" He said, "I think you ought to."
Well, that gave me quite a -- that startled me, rather, because his attitude was: "I'm doing my duty out here, youd' better get back and do you duty pretty fast."
Obviously, no one had ever told Henry Cabot Lodge he might not necessarily be superb. So he came in, kingpin, boy, and symbol of the Establishment, and for two weeks he worked for Scranton (although most curiously -- for Lodge was back in America a week before he even made arrangements to meet with Scranton). Still, Lodge announced his readiness to be first target of the Wasp Media. At the end of two weeks of picking up the telephone to call old friends only to have the telephone come back in the negative, Lodge looked like a man who had been handsome once. His color was a dirty wax yellow, his smile went up over the gums at the corner of his mouth and gave a hint of the skull the way ninety-year-old men look when their smile goes past the teeth. He looked like they had been beating him in the kidneys with his own liver. It was possible something had been beaten out of him forever.
Of course this was Sunday night [July 12, 1964] -- the first session of the convention was not ten hours off on Monday morning -- and Scranton and Lodge had had a ferocious bad Sunday; the particular letter inviting Goldwater to debate Scranton before the convention had gone out earlier that day above the Governor's signature and it had gone so far as this:
Your managers say in effect that the delegates are little more than a flock of chickens whose necks will be wrung at will. . . . Goldwaterism has come to stand for a whole crazy-quilt collection of absurd and dangerous positions that would be soundly repudiated by the American people in November.
Denison Kitchel, Goldwater's General Director of the National Goldwater for President Committee, issued a statement: Governor Scranton's letter has been read here with amazement. It has been returned to him.
Perhaps, upon consideration, the Governor will recognize the intemperate nature of his remarks. As it stands, they tragically reflect upon the Republican Party and upon every delegate to the convention.
Then Kitchel sent out mimeographed copies of Scranton's letter and his own reply to every Republican delegate. The Scranton mine caved in. Flooding at one end of the shaft, it was now burning at the other. Delegates do not like to be told they are a flock of chickens. It is one of those metaphors which fit like a sliver of bone up the nostril. Scranton was to repudiate the letter the following day; he accepted responsibility but disowned the letter -- the language was not his -- which is to say he admitted he could not run a competent organization. Nor, it developed, could he protect his own people: the name of the assistant who had actually written the letter slipped out quick enough. [NOTE: Denison Kitchel (1908-2002) was a 1930 Yale and 1933 Harvard Law graduate who moved to Phoenix in the 1930s, where he represented Phelps Dodge, the giant copper corporation with interests in Chile, Peru, and the Congo, known both for its hostility to labor unions and for its wretched record as a polluter (the company was acquired by Freeport-McMoRan in 2007 for $26bn). Kitchel worked in Goldwater's campaign for the Phoenix city council and ran Goldwater's 1952 Senate campaign. —F.L.]
Thus, one night before the convention, the letter public, Scranton may just conceivably have moved from deep depression to outright agony. The Republicans were having a Gala that night, five hundred dollars a plate for funds, the press not admitted, although many, some from the front, some from the rear, found a way in, and all the Republican luminaries were there, Eisenhower, and the Luces, Mrs. Eisenhower, Henry Cabot Lodge, Thruston Morton, George Murphy, Ray Bliss, Mrs. Goldwater, Scranton. All but Barry. In a much-announced rage about the letter, Goldwater was boycotting the Gala. Of course, it was essentially an Establishment Gala, that slowly came clear, and therefore was in a degree a wake -- news of the letter was passing around. The dance floor was not to be crowded this night.
Scranton came in. He walked down the center aisle between the tables looking like one of the walking wounded. People came up to greet him and he smiled wanly and sadly and a little stiffly as if he were very weary indeed, as if he had just committed hara-kiri but was still walking. When introduced, he said with wan humor, "I've read your books" -- something finally splendid about Scranton.
A minute later, Scranton and Eisenhower came together. It was their first meeting in San Francisco; the General had just arrived that day, come into the Santa Fe depot after crossing the country by train. He was Scranton's last hope; he might still give momentum to the bogged-down tanks of Scranton's attack -- what, after all, was the measure of magic? So Scranton must have looked for every clue in Eisenhower's greeting. There were clues running all over. Ike stood up from his table, he pumped Scranton's hand, he held his elbow, he wheeled about with him, he grinned, he smiled widely, he grinned again, his face flushed red, red as a two-week-old infant's face, his eyes twinkled, he never stopped talking, he never took his hands off Scranton, he never looked him in the eye. It was the greeting of a man who is not going to help another man.
Next day, Eisenhower dropped William Warren Scranton. He had a press conference at the Hilton in which he succeeded in saying nothing. It was obvious now he would not come out for anyone, it was also obvious he would not join the Moderates' call for a stronger civil-rights plank. "Well," he said, "he [Melvin Laird] came to see me, and the way he explained it to me, it sounded all right." Asked about an amendment the Moderates wished to put in the plank, "The authority to use America's nuclear weapons belongs to the President of the United States," Eisenhower thought "this statement was perfectly all right with me because it reaffirms what the Constitution means." Still he would not fight for it. Asked how he reacted to the idea of a debate before the entire convention between Senator Goldwater and Governor Scranton, a reference directed to Scranton's now famous letter of the day before, Eisenhower said, "This, of course, would be a precedent, and I am not against precedents. I am not particularly for them." A little earlier he had said, "I really have no feeling of my own." He didn't. He was in a private pond. He had been in one for years. Something had been dying in him for years, the proportions and magnitude of his own death no doubt, and he was going down into the cruelest of fates for an old man, he was hooked on love like an addict, not large love, but the kind of mild toleratnt love which shields an old man from hatred. It was obvious that Eisenhower had a deep fear of the forces which were for Goldwater. He did not mind with full pride any longer if people felt contempt for him, but he did not want to be hated hard by anyone. So he could not declare himself, not for anything, and as he made his lapses in syntax, in word orders, in pronunciations, they took on more prominence than ever they had. At times, they were as rhythmic as a tic, or a dog scratching at a bite. He would say, "We must be objective, I mean objective, we must be objective . . ." and he would go as if he were sinking very slowly and quietly into the waters of his future death which might be a year away or ten years away but was receiving him nonetheless like a marsh into which he disappeared twitch by twitch, some beating of wet wings against his fate. [NOTE: At the time Mailer wrote these words, Dwight David Eisenhower was 73. He died — of congestive heart failure — five years later, on Mar. 28, 1969. —F.L.]
". . . Looke, Lord, and finde both Adams met in me." --JOHN DONNE.
Now, as for Goldwater, he had dimensions. Perhaps they were no more than contradictions, but he was not an easy man to comprehend in a hurry. His wife, for example, had been at the Gala, sitting with some family and friends, but at one of the less agreeable tables on the floor, off to the side and sufficiently back of the stage so that you could not see the entertainer. It seemed a curious way for the Establishment to treat the wife of the leading contender, but I was assured by the young lady who brought me over for the introduction that Mrs. Goldwater preferred it that way. "She hates being the center of attention," I was told. Well, she turned out to be a shy attractive woman with a gentle not altogether happy but sensual face. There was something nice about her and very vulnerable. Her eyes were moist, they were luminous. It was impossible not to like her. Whereas her daughters were attractive in a different fashion. "I want the best ring in this joint, buster," I could hear them say. [NOTE: Barry Goldwater married Margaret "Peggy" Johnson, the wife of a wealthy Midwestern businessman, in 1934. The two daughters mentioned here are Joanne and Peggy, 28 and 19 years of age, respectively, at the time. The Goldwaters also had two sons. —F.L.]
Goldwater's headquarters, however, were at a remove from the ladies. Occupying the fourteenth and fifteenth floors of the Mark Hopkins, they were not easy to enter. The main elevators required a wait of forty-five minutes to go up. The alternate route was off the mezzanine through a pantry onto a service car. A half-filled twenty-gallon garbage can stood by the service-elevator door. You went squeezed up tight with high and low honchos for Goldwater, plus waiters with rolling carts working room service. Once there, the fourteenth and fifteenth floors were filthy. A political headquarters is never clean -- stacks of paper, squeezed-out paper cups, typewriter carbons on the floor, jackets on wire hangers all angles on a rack -- a political headquarters is like the City Room of a newspaper. But Goldwater's headquarters were filthier than most. There was a general detritus like the high water mark on a beach. The armchairs were dusty and the sofas looked like hundred-dollar newlywed sofas dirty in a day. The air had the beat-out cigar smell of the waiting room in a large railroad station. It had nothing to do with the personnel. No one on the fourteenth or fifteenth floor had anything to do with his surroundings. You could have dropped them in Nymphenburg or a fleabag off Eighth Avenue -- the rooms would come to look the same. A room was a place with a desk where the work got out. [NOTE: Nymphenburg Palace was the summer residence of the rulers of Bavaria in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; it had recently been used as a set for Alain Resnais' film "Last Year at Marienbad" (1961). —F.L.]
They had something in common -- professional workers for Goldwater -- something not easy to define. They were not like the kids out in the street, nor did they have much in common with the old cancer-gums in the lobby; no, the worst of these workers looked like divinity students who had been expelled from the seminary for embezzling class funds and still felt they were nearest to J.C. -- there was a dark blank fanaticism in their eyes. And the best of the Goldwater professionals were formidable, big rangy men, some lean, some flabby, with the hard distasteful look of topflight investigators for fire-insurance companies, field men for the F.B.I., or like bright young district attorneys, that lean flat look of the hunter, full of moral indignation and moral vacuity. But the total of all the professional Goldwater people one saw on the fourteenth and fifteenth floors was directly reminiscent of a guided tour through the F.B.I. in the Department of Justice Building in Washington, that same succession of handsome dull faces for guide, hair combed straight back or combed straight from a part, eyes lead shot, noses which offered nothing, mouths which were functional, good chins, deft moves. A succession of these men took the tourists through the halls of the F.B.I. and read aloud the signs on the exhibits for us and gave short lectures about the function of the F.B.I. (guard us from the enemy without, the enemy within, Communism and Crime -- the statements offered in simple organizational prose of the sort used in pamphlets which welcome new workers to large corporations, soldiers to new commands, freshmen to high school, and magazine readers to editorials). The tourists were mainly fathers and sons. The wives were rugged, the kind who are built for dungarees and a green plaid hunting jacket, the sisters and daughters plain and skinny, no expression. They all had lead shot for eyes, the lecturers and the tourists. Most of the boys were near twelve and almost without exception had the blank private faces which belong to kids who kill their old man with a blast, old lady with a butcher knife, tie sister with telephone cord and hide out in the woods for three days. The climax of the tour was a demonstration by the F.B.I. agent how to use a tommy gun. For ten minutes he stitched targets, using one shot at a time, bursts of three, full magazine, he did it with the mild grace of a bodyworker hitting small rivets, there was solemn applause after each burst of shots.
That was a part of the Republic, and here it was at Headquarters for Goldwater. The faces in these rooms were the cream of the tourists and the run of the F.B.I.; there was a mood like the inside of a prison: enclosed air, buried urgency. But that was not altogether fair. The sense of a prison could come from the number of guards and the quality of their style. They were tough dull Pinkertons with a tendency to lean on a new visitor. One desire came off them. They would not be happy if there were no orders to follow. With orders, they were ready to put the arm on Bill Scranton, Nelson Rockefeller, or General Eisenhower (if told to). Probably they would put the arm on Johnson if he appeared and was ordered out. Naturally they were not there for that, they were there to defend Headquarters from mobs (read: niggers) and the Senator from black assassination. It made sense up to a point: Goldwater was in more danger than Scranton, at least so long as Scranton showed no sign of winning; just that day, Sunday, there had been a civil-rights anti-Goldwater march down Market Street. The heavy protection was nonetheless a fraud. No mob was getting to the fourteenth floor, not to Goldwater's fort on the fifteenth (a separate barricade of Pinkertons guarded the twenty-odd steps), no mob was going to get all the way up with just those three elevators and a wait of forty-five units of sixty seconds each, no assassin was likely to try Headquarters when there were opportunities on the street; no, the atmosphere was created to create atmosphere, the aura at Headquarters was solemnity, debris underfoot, and grave decisions, powers put to the service of order, some conspiracy of the vault, a dedication to the necessity of taking power. That was Headquarters. One never got to see Goldwater in the place. [NOTE: In the late 19th century, businessmen hired often brutal "Pinkertons" (agents of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, founded in 1850) to suppress strikes and persecute labor activists. -- With respect to civil rights, it is important to remember that "Although the majority of Republicans in the U.S. Senate had supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Republican Party nominated for president Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, who had voted against both cloture and final passage" (Robert D. Loevy, The Civil Rights Act of 1964: The Passage of the Law That Ended Racial Segregation [SUNY Press, 1997], p. 334). —F.L.]
There was opportunity, however, to come within three feet of him later that day, once at the caucus of the Florida delegation in the Beverly Plaza, once on the street moving from hotel to hotel (Pinkertons no longer in evidence now -- just cops) and again at the Clift, where he talked to the Washington delegation. There was excitement watching Barry go to work with a group, an intensity in the air, a religious devotion, as if one of the most urbane priests of America was talking at a Communion breakfast, or as if the Principal-of-the-Year was having a heart-to-heart with honor students. The Florida delegation, meeting in a dingy little downstairs banquet room, was jammed. The afternoon had turned hot for San Francisco. Eighty degrees outside, it may have been ninety in the room. Everybody was perspiring. Barry sat in the front, a spotlight on him, a silver film of perspiration adding to his patina, and the glasses, those black-framed glasses, took on that odd life of their own, that pinched severity, that uncompromising idealism which made Goldwater kin to the tight-mouthed and the lonely. Talking in a soft modest voice, he radiated at this moment the skinny boyish sincerity of a fellow who wears glasses but is determined nonetheless to have a good time. Against all odds. It was not unreminiscent of Arthur Miller: that same mixture of shucks and ah shit in the voice. "Well, you see," said Goldwater, talking to the Florida delegation, "if I was to trust the polls right now, I'd have to say I didn't have a chance. But why should I trust the polls? Why should any of us trust the polls? They've been wrong before. They'll be wrong again. Man is superior to the machine. The thing to remember is that America is a spiritual country, we're founded on the belief in God, we may wander a little as a country, but we never get too far away. I'm ready to say the election is going to give the Democrats a heck of a surprise. Why, I'll tell you this," Goldwater said, sweating mildly, telling the folks from Florida just as keen as if he was alone with each one of them, each one of these elderly gents and real-estate dealers and plain women with silver-rimmed eyeglasses, "tell you this, I'm doing my best not to keep this idea a secret, but I think we're not only going to give the Democrats a heck of a surprise. I think we're going to win. [Applause, cheers.] In fact I wouldn't be in this if I didn't think we were going to win. [Applause.] Why, as I sometimes tell my wife, I'm too young to retire and too old to go back to work." [Laughter, loud cheers.] Goldwater was done. He smiled shyly, his glasses saying: I am a modest man, and I am severe on myself. As he made his route to the door, the delegates were touching him enthusiastically.
Back on the street -- he was walking the blocks to the Hotel Clift where the Washington State delegation was having a Goldwater reception -- his tail consisted of fifty or sixty excited people, some Florida delegates who didn't want to lose sight of the man, plus a couple of cops glad to have the duty. Cars slowed down to look at him; one stopped. A good-looking woman got out and cheered. There was something in the way she did it. Just as strange Negroes scattered at random through a white audience may act in awareness of one another, so the Goldwater supporters in their thirties and forties gave off a similar confidence of holding the secret. This very good-looking woman yelled, "You go, Barry, you go, go." But there was anger and elation in her voice, as if she were declaring, "We're going to get the country back." And Goldwater smiled modestly and went on. He looked a little in fever. Small wonder. He could be President of the United States in less than half a year, he could stop a sniper's bullet he never knew when, he was more loved and hated than any man in America, and inside all this was just *him*, the man who adjusted radio knobs in the early morning in order to transmit a little better, and now conceivably adjusted a few knobs. . . .
At the Hotel Clift he talked to the Washington delegates. We were definitely back in high school. That was part of Goldwater's deal -- he brought you back to the bright minted certitudes of early patriotism when you knew the U.S. was the best country on earth and there was no other. Yes, his appeal would go out to all the millions who were now starved and a little sour because some part of their life had ended in high school, and the university they had never seen. But then Barry had had but one year of college -- he had indeed the mind of a powerful freshman. "I want to thank you folks from Washington for giving me this warm greeting. Of course, Washington is the name of a place I often like to get the heck out of, but I'm sure I won't confuse the two right here." [Laughter.] He was off, a short political speech. In the middle, extremism. "I don't see how anybody can be an extremist who believes in the Constitution. And for those misguided few who pretend to believe in the Constitution, but in secret don't, well they may be extremists, but I don't see any necessity to legislate against them. I just feel sorry for them." [Cheers. Applause. Happiness at the way Barry delivered anathemas.] At a certain point in the speech, he saw a woman in the audience whom he recognized, and stopped in the middle of a phrase. "Hi, honey," he sang out like a traveling salesman, which brought a titter from the delegation, for his voice had shifted too quickly, the codpiece was coming off, Rain and the Reverend Davidson. Something skinny, itchy, hard as a horselaugh, showed -- he was a cannoneer with a hairy ear. Goldwater went on, the good mood continued; then at the end, speech done, he turned down a drink but said in his best gee-whizzer, "I'm sorry I have to leave because gosh I'd like to break a few with you." Laughter, and he took off head down, a little modest in his exit, a little red in the neck. [NOTE: "Rain" was a successful 1922 play based on a 1921 Somerset Maugham short story adapted for the silver screen many times: in 1928 as silent movie ("Sadie Thompson") starring Gloria Swanson and Lionel Barrymore, in 1932 starring Joan Crawford, in 1946 ("Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A.") starring Francine Everett, and in 1953 ("Miss Sadie Thompson") starring Rita Hayworth and José Ferrer. Rev. Davidson is a missionary whose hypocrisy is revealed when he succumbs to the temptations of the flesh. -- On Barry Goldwater's education: born in 1909, Goldwater's father died when he was a freshman at the University of Arizona and he left school to take over the family business (a department store in Phoenix called Goldwater's). He did not enter politics until he ran for city council in 1949. --F.L.]
There was entertainment at the Republican Gala on Sunday night. The climax was a full marching band of bagpipers. They must have been hired for the week since one kept hearing them on the following days, and at all odd times, heard them even in my hotel room at four a.m., for a few were marching in the streets of San Francisco, sounding through the night, giving off the barbaric evocation of the Scots, all valor, wrath, firmitude, and treachery -- the wild complete treachery of the Scots finding its way into the sound of the pipes. They were a warning of the fever in the heart of the Wasp. There are sounds which seem to pass through all the protective gates in the ear and reach into some nerve where the eschatology is stored. Few parents have failed to hear it in the cry of their infant through the morning hours of a bad night -- stubbornness, fury, waste, and the promise of revenge come out of a flesh half-created by one's own flesh; the knowledge is suddenly there that seed is existential, no paradise resides in seed, seed can be ill-inspired and go to a foul gloomy end. Some find their part of the truth in listening to jazz -- it is moot if any white who had no ear for jazz can know the passion with which some whites become attached to the Negro's cause. So, too, listening to the bagpipes, you knew this was the true music of the Wasps. There was something wild and martial and bottomless in the passion, a pride which would not be exhausted, a determination which might never end, perhaps should never end, the Faustian rage of a white civilization was in those Highland wails, the cry of a race which was born to dominate and might never learn to share, and never learning, might be willing to end the game, the end of the world was in the sound of the pipes. Or at the very least the danger one would come closer to the world's end. So there was a vast if all-private appeal in istening to the pipes shrill out the herald of a new crusade, something jagged, Viking, of the North in the air, a sense of breaking ice and barbaric shields, hunters loose in the land again. And this had an appeal which burrowed deep, there was excitement at the thought of Goldwater getting the nomination, as if now finally all one's personal suicides, all the deaths of the soul accumulated by the past, all the failures, all the terrors, could find purge in a national situation where a national murder was being planned (the Third World War) and one's own suicide might be lost in a national suicide. There was that excitement, that the burden of one's soul (always equal to the burden of one's personal responsibility) might finally be lifted -- what a release was there! Beauty was inspired by the prospect. For if Goldwater won, and the iron power of the iron people who had pushed him forth -- as echoed in the iron of the Pinkerton's on the fourteenth and fifteenth floor -- know pushed forth over the nation as an iron regime with totalitarianism seizing the TV in every frozen dinner, well then at last a true underground might form; and liberty at the thought of any catalyst which could bring it on. Yes, the Goldwater movement excited the depths because the apocalypse was brought more near, and like millions of other whites, I had been leading a life which was a trifle too pointless and a trifle too full of guilt and my gullet was close to nausea with the endless compromises of an empty liberal center. So I followed the four days of the convention with something more than simple apprehension. The country was taking a turn, the colors were deepening, the knives of the afternoon were out, something of the best in American life might now be going forever; or was it altogether the opposite? and was the country starting at last to take the knots of its contradictions up from a premature midnight of nightmare into the surgical terrains of the open skin? Were we in the beginning, or turning the middle, of our worst disease? One did not know any longer, you simply did not know any longer, but something was certain: the country was now part of the daily concern. One worried about it for the first time, the way you worried about family or work, a good friend or the future, and that was the most exceptional of emotions.
". . . When men are too much confined to professional and faculty habits, and as it were inveterate in the recurrent employment of that narrow circle, they are rather disabled than qualified for whatever depends on the knowledge of mankind, on experience in mixed affairs, on a comprehensive, connected view of the various, complicated, external and internal interests, which go to the formation of that multifarious thing called a state." —BURKE, Reflections on the Revolution in France
If the details of the Republican convention of 1964 were steeped in concern, it was nonetheless not very exciting, not technically. As a big football game, the score might have been 76 to 0, or 76 to 3. (There were sentimentalists who would claim that Rockefeller had kicked a field goal.) Compared however to the Republican Convention of 1940 when Wendell Wilkie came from behind to sweep the nomination on the sixth ballot, or the 1952 convention when Eisenhower defeated Taft on the second roll call of the states, compared even to the Democratic convention of 1960, there were few moments in this affair, and nothing even remotely comparable in excitement to the demonstration for Adlai Stevenson four years ago when Eugene McCarthy put him in nomination. Yet this convention of 1964 would remain as one of the most important in our history; it took place with religious exaltation for some, with dread for others, and in sheer trauma for the majority of the press and television who were present on the scene. For them it offered four days of anxiety as pure and deep as a child left alone in a house. The purpose of the press in America has been to tinker with the machine, to adjust, to prepare a seat for new valves and values, to lubricate, to excuse, to justify, to serve in the maintenance of the Establishment. From I.F. Stone on the left, going far to the right of Joseph Alsop, over almost so far as David Lawrence [NOTE: Lawrence (1888-1973), a conservative critic of the New Deal, founded United States News in 1933 and merged it in 1948 with his World Report as U.S. News & World Report. --F.L.], the essential understanding of the mass media is that the machine of the nation is a muddle which is endlessly grateful for ministrations of the intellect; so a game is played in which the Establishment always forgives the mass media for its excesses, and the mass media brings its sense of civilization (adjustment, psychoanalysis, responsibility, and the milder shores of love) to the service of the family Establishment. Virtually everything is forgiven by both sides. The contradictory remarks of politicians are forgotten, the more asinine predictions of pundits are buried with mercy. The Establishment for example would not remind Joe Alsop that in March 1964 he had written, "No serious Republican politician, even of the most Neanderthal type, any longer takes Goldwater seriously." No, the Press was not to be twitted for the limits of their technique because half their comprehension of the nation derived after all from material supplied by the Establishment; the other half came from conversations with each other. All too often the Press lives in the investigative condition of a lover who performs the act for two minutes a day and talks about it for twenty of the twenty-four. So a daisy chain like the National Review proves to be right about Goldwater's strength and the intellectual Establishment with its corporate resources is deep in error. [NOTE: William F. Buckley (1925-2008) founded National Review in 1955; the magazine promoted Barry Goldwater in the early 1960s, playing an important part in "drafting" Goldwater to run for president. --F.L.]
An explanation? Those who hold power think the devil is best contained by not mentioning his name. This procedure offers a formidable shell in which to live, but its cost is high; the housing is too ready to collapse when the devil decides to show. There has been no opportunity to study him. Just as a generation of the Left, stifled and ignored through the McCarthyism of the Fifties and the Eisenhowerism of the Fifties, caused panic everywhere when they emerged as the Beat Generation, so another generation, a generation of the Right, has been stifled, their actions reported inaccurately, their remarks distorted, their ideals (such as they are) ignored, and their personal power underestimated. The difference however is that the Beat Generation was a new flock of early Christians gathered prematurely before the bomb, an open-air asylum for the gentle and the mad, where in contrast the underground generation of the Right is a frustrated posse, a convention of hangmen who subscribe to the principle that the executioner has his rights as well. The liberal mind collapses before this notion but half of nature may be contained in the idea that the weak are happiest when death is quick. It is a notion which since the Nazis has been altogether detestable, but then the greatest intellectual damage the Nazis may have done was to take a few principles from nature and pervert them root and nerve. In the name of barbarism and a return to primitive health they accelerated the most total and surrealistic aspects of civilization. The gas chamber was a full albino descendant of the industrial revolution.
But that is a digression. To return to the as yet milder political currents of the Left and the Right in America, one could say the Beat Generation was a modest revolution, suicidal in the center of its passion. At its most militant it wished for immolation rather than power, it desired only to be left free enough to consume itself. Yet in the mid-Fifties liberals reacted with a profound terror, contumely, and ridicule to its manifestations as if their own collective suicide (the private terror of the liberal spirit is invariably suicide, not murder) was to be found in the gesture of the Beat. What then the panic of the liberal Establishment before a revolution of the Right whose personal nightmare might well be their inability to contain their most murderous impulse, a movement of the Right whose ghost is that unlaid blood and breath of Nazism which has hovered these twenty years like a succubus over the washed-out tissues of civilization. Consider but one evidence of the fear: that part of the Press called Periodicals sat in a section of the gallery to the left of the speakers in the Cow Palace. There were one hundred writers in this Periodical section of the gallery and six passes to get down to the floor where one could talk to delegates and in turn be looked at by them. Of those six passes, one or two were always available. Which meant that the majority of writers did not try to get down to the floor very often. Sitting next to one another the writers were content to observe -- there were killers on the floor.
There were. It was a convention murderour in mood. The mood of this convention spoke of a new kind of society. Chimeras of fascism hung like fogbank. And high enthusiasm. Some of the delegates were very happy. “Viva,” would shout a part of the gallery. “Olé,” would come the answer. There was an éclat, a bull roar, a mystical communion in the sound even as Sieg Heil used to offer its mystical communion. Viva-Olé. Live-Yay! Live-Yay! It was the new chic of the mindless. The American mind had gone from Hawthorne and Emerson to the Frug, the Bounce, and Walking the Dog, from The Flowering of New England to the cerebrality of professional football in which a quarterback must have not only heart, courage, strength and grace but a mind like and I.B.M. computer. It marks the turn we have taken from the Renaissance. There too was the ideal of a hero with heart, courage, strength, and grace, but he was expected to possess the mind of a passionate artist. Now the best heroes were -- in the sense of the Renaissance -- mindless: Y.A. Tittle, John Glenn, Tracy, Smiling Jack; the passionate artists were out on the hot rods, the twist band was whipping the lovers, patriotism was a football game, a fascism would come in (if it came) on Live-Yay! Let’s live-yay! The hype had made fifty million musical-comedy minds; now the hype could do anything; it could set high-school students to roar Viva-Olé, and they would roar it while victims of a new totalitarianism would be whisked away to a new kind of camp -- honey, do you twist, they would yell into the buses. [NOTE: Nathaniel Hawthorne (1904-1864) is the author of The Scarlet Letter (1850), which D.H. Lawrence called the most “perfect work of the American imagination.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1874) was Hawthorne’s neighbor in Concord, Massachusetts, who called “the infinitude of the private man” his central doctrine and who was nicknamed the Concord Sage. The Flowering of New England by Van Wyck Brooks won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937. The Frug, the Bounce, and Walking the Dog were early 1960s dances. Rufus Thomas’s “Walking the Dog” was on the Billboard Top 100 chart for ten weeks in late 1963. Y.A. Tittle (born 1926) was the New York Giants quarterback who set an NFL record of 36 touchdown passes in the 1963 season. John Glenn (born 1921), the first American to orbit the earth, had resigned from NASA in early 1964 to run for the U.S. Senate, but withdrew when he hit his head in a bathroom fall. Smiling Jack was an aviation hero in a syndicated comic strip that ran from 1933 to 1973. Dick Tracy was a police detective in a syndicated comic strip that was drawn by Chester Gould (1900-1985) from 1931 to 1977. Throughout the 1960s IBM was synonymous with computers, producing about 70% of all computers in 1964. —F.L.]
“When men of rank sacrifice all ideas of dignity to an ambition without a distinct object, and work with low instruments and for low ends, the whole composition becomes low and base.” —BURKE, Reflections on the Revolution in France.
First major event of the convention was Eisenhower’s appearance at the Cow Palace to give a speech on Tuesday afternoon. The arena was well-chosen for a convention. Built in the Thirties when indoor sports stadiums did not yet look like children’s nurseries, the Cow Palace offered echoes -- good welterweights and middleweights had fought here, there was iron in the air. And the Republicans had installed the speaker’s platform at one end of the oval; the delegates sat therefore in a file which was considerably longer than it was wide, the speaker was thus installed at the handle of the sword. (Whereas the Democrats in 1960 had put the speaker in the middle of the oval.) But this was the party after all of Republican fathers rather than Democratic mothers. If there were any delegates to miss the psychic effect of this decision, a huge banner raised behind the speaker confronted them with the legend: Of the people, By the people, For the people. “Of the people” was almost invisible; “By the people” was somewhat more clear; “For the people” was loud and strong. This was a party not much “of the people” but very much “for the people,” it presumed to know what was good for them.
And for fact, that had always been Ike’s poor lone strength as a speaker, he knew what was good for you. He dipped into his speech, “here with great pride because I am a Republican,” “my deep dedication to Republicanism” -- he had not been outward bound for five minutes before the gallery was yawning. Ike had always been a bore, but there had been fascination in the boredom when he was President -- this, after all, was *the* man. Now he was just another hog wrassler of rhetoric; he pinned a few phrases in his neat determined little voice, and a few phrases pinned him back. Ike usually fought a speech to a draw. It was hard to listen. All suspense had ended at Monday morning’s press conference. Ike would not come out in support of Scranton. So the mind of the Press drifted out with the mind of the gallery. If Ike said a few strong words about the Civil Rights Bill -- “Republicans in Congress to their great credit voted far more overwhelmingly than did our opponents to pass the Civil Rights Bill” -- it meant nothing. The Moderates tried to whoop it up, the Goldwater delegations looked on in ranked masses of silence. Ike went on. He gave the sort of speech which takes four or five columns in the New York Times and serves to clot the aisles of history. He was still, as he had been when he was President, a cross between a boy and an old retainer. The boy talked, earnest, innocent, a high-school valedictorian debating the affirmative of, Resolved: Capitalism is the Most Democratic System on Earth; and the old retainer quavered in the voice, the old retainer could no longer live without love.
Ike had bored many a crowd in his time. He had never bored one completely -- he had always known how to get some token from a mob. Ever since 1952, he had been giving little pieces of his soul to draw demonstrations from the mob. You could always tell the moment. His voice shifted. Whenever he was ready to please the crowd, he would warn them by beginning to speak with a brisk little anger. Now it came, now he said it. ". . . Let us particularly scorn the divisive efforts of those outside our family, including sensation-seeking columnists and commentators [beginning of a wild demonstration] because," said Ike, his voice showing a glint of full spite, "I assure you that these are people who couldn't care less about the good of our party." He was right, of course. That was not why he said it, however; he said it to repay the Press for what they had said about him these last three weeks; the sensation they had been seeking was -- so far as he was concerned -- to arouse needles of fury in an old man's body -- he said what he said for revenge. Mainly he said it to please the Goldwater crowd, there was the hint of that in his voice. The Goldwater delegations and the gallery went into the first large demonstration of the convention. Trumpets sounded, heralds of a new crusade: cockroaches, columnists, and Communists to be exterminated. There were reports in the papers next day that delegates shook their fists at newspapermen on the floor, and at the television men with their microphones. The mass media is of course equipped for no such war. Some of the men from the mass media looked like moon men: they wore red helmets and staggered under the load of a portable camera which must have weighed fifty pounds and was packed on their back; others of the commentators had portable mikes and hats with antennae. To the delegates they must have looked like insects grown to the size of a man. Word whipped in to the delegations from the all-call telephone in the office trailer of the Goldwater command post back of the Cow Palace. Cut the demonstration, was the word from F. Clifton White. The demonstration subsided. But the Press did not, the rest of the mass media did not. They remain in a state of agitation: if Ike was ready to accuse, anyone could serve as hangman. Anyone would. Anyone they knew.
Much later that Tuesday, after the full reading of the full platform, came a debate between the Moderates and the Conservatives. Success in politics comes from putting one's seat to a chair and sitting through dull wrangles in order to be present after midnight when the clubhouse vote is cast. Playboys do not go far in these circumstances, nor adventurers; the mediocre recognized early that a society was evolving which would enable them to employ the very vice which hitherto had made life intolerable -- mediocrity itself. So the cowardly took their place in power. They had the superior ability to breathe in hours of boredom.
Politics was now open however to the disease of the bored -- magic. Magic can sweep you away. Once a decade, once every two decades, like a big wind which eludes the weather charts and seems to arise from the caverns of the ocean itself, so does a hurricane sweep a convention. It happened with Wendell Willkie in 1940; it flickered on the horizon with Stevenson in '60; it was Scranton's hope to work a real debate on the last session before the balloting. If he could win even once on some small point, rumors of magic could arise. The Moderates had forced therefore a floor fight to propose a few amendments to the Republican platform of '64. One: that only the President have the authority to use America's nuclear weapons. Two: repudiate the John Birch Society. Three: introduce a language of approval for the Civil Rights Act. The chances of success were small at best: only an extraordinary assault on the emotions of the Goldwater delegations could sway them to vote for the amendments.
The Moderates however went to battle moderately. Their speakers were impressive (as such a quality is measured in the Times). They were Christian Herter, Hugh Scott, Clifford Case, George Romney, Lindsay, Javits, Rockefeller. They were not, however, lively speakers, not this night. Lindsay and Javits were presentable in professional groups; devoted to detailed matters, they spoke with reason; Case spoke like a shy high-school teacher; Christian Herter was reminiscent of Mr. Chips; Hugh Scott owned no fire. Carlino (Majority Leader in the New York Assembly) sounded like a successful restaurant owner. And Governor Romney of Michigan had his own special amendments, he was a moderation of the moderates. As he spoke he looked like a handsome version of Boris Karloff, all honesty, big-jawed, soft-eyed, eighty days at sea on a cockeyed passion. He spoke in a loud strong voice yet one sensed a yaw at the center of his brain which left his cerebrations as lost as Karloff’s lost little voice. No, the only excitement had come at the beginning. Rockefeller was not a man who would normally inspire warmth. He had a strong decent face and something tough as rubber in a handball to his makeup, but his eyes had been punched out a long time ago -- they had the distant lunar glow of the small sad eyes you see in a caged chimpanzee or gorilla. Even when hearty he gave an impression the private man was remote as an astronaut on a lost orbit. But Rockefeller had his ten minutes at the podium and as he talked of suffering “at first-hand” in the California primary from the methods of “extremist elements,” threatening letters unsigned, bomb threats, “threats of personal violence,” telephone calls, “smear and hate literature,” “strong-arm and goon tactics,” the gallery erupted, and the boos and jeers came down. Rockefeller could have been Leo Durocher walking out to the plate at Ebbets Field to protest an umpire’s decision after Leo had moved from the Dodgers to the Giants. Again the all-call in the Goldwater trailer outside the Cow Palace was busy, again the delegations were told to be silent, and obeyed. But the gallery would not stop, and Thruston Morton, the Chairman, came forward like one of the sweepers in “Camino Real” to tell Kilroy his time was up. Rockefeller had his moment. “You quiet them,” he said to Morton. “That’s your job. I want my time to speak.” And there was a conception of Rockefeller finally -- he had few ideas and none of them were his own, he had a personality which was never in high focus (in the sense that Bobby Kennedy and Jimmy Hoffa are always in high focus) but he had an odd courage which was profound -- he could take strength from defying a mob. Three hundred thousand years ago, a million years ago, some gorilla must have stood up to an enraged tribe and bellowed back and got away alive and human society was begun. So Rocky finally had his political moment which was precisely right for him.
But the other Moderates did not. There was in their collective voice a suggestion of apology: let-us-at-least-be-heard. Speakers who were opposed to the amendments sounded as effective, sometimes more. Ford from Michigan spoke after Rockefeller, and had better arguments. It was not, he suggested, the purpose of a party which believed in free speech to look for formulas to repress opinion. He was right, even if he might not be so ready to protect Communists as Reactionaries. And Senator Dominick of Colorado made a bright speech employing an editorial from The New York Times of 1765 which rebuked Patrick Henry for extreme ideas. Delegates and gallery whooped it up. Next day Dominick confessed. He was only “spoofing.” He had known: there was no New York Times in 1765. Nor was there any editorial An old debater’s trick. If there are no facts, make them up. Be quick to write your own statistics. There was some umbilical tie between the Right Wing and the psychopathic liar. [NOTE: “Ford from Michigan” is Gerald Ford (1913-2006), 50 years old at the time of the 1964 Republican Convention, who would become the 38th president of the United States almost exactly ten years later, and who as an incumbent president defeated only with difficulty Ronald Reagan’s right-wing challenge in the 1976 primaries. -- Peter Hoyt Dominick (1915-1981) represented Colorado in the U.S. Senate from 1963 to 1975; he was a freshly elected 48-year-old member of the Eastern Establishment (St. Mark’s School 1933, Yale University 1937, Yale Law School 1940) who had moved to Denver after serving in Army Air Corps during the war. He entered politics in the late 1950s. Ten years after the 1964 Republican Convention, Dominick would be soundly defeated in a post-Watergate bid for a third term by 37-year-old Gary Hart. --F.L.]
More speakers came on. After four or five speakers for each side, a vote would come. Each time the amendment was voted down. Eight hundred and ninety-so-many to four hundred-and-a-few, went the votes. Hours went by, three hours of debate. After a while, the Moderates came collectively to seem like a club fighter in still another loser. A vacuum hung over empty cries for civil rights. One wondered why a Negro delegate loyal to the Party for thirty years had not been asked by the Moderates to make a speech where he could say: You are sending me home to my people a mockery and a shame. My people have been saying for thirty years that the Republican Party has no love for the colored man, and I have argued back. Tonight you will tell me I was wrong. You are denying me the meaning of my life.
Such a speech (and there were Negro delegates to give it) might not have turned the vote, doubtless it would not have turned the vote, but it was the Moderates’ sole chance for an explosion which could loose some petrified emotion, some magic. They did not take it. Probably they did not take it because they did not care much if they lost. By now, it might be better to lose decisively than come nearer to winning and divide the party more. So they accepted their loser’s share of the purse, which is that they could go back East and say: I campaigned at the convention for civil rights. Tomorrow was nominating day. The last chance in a hundred had been lost.
. . . The Bleat, the Bark, Bellow & Roar—
Are Waves that Beat on Heaven's Shore. . . .
—WILLIAM BLAKE, Auguries of Innocence
Everett Dirksen gave the nominating speech for Goldwater, Dirksen from Illinois, the Silver Fox of the Senate, the Minority Leader, the man who had done the most, many would claim, to pass the Civil Rights Bill, for it was his coalition with Hubert Humphrey on cloture which had carried the day. "I guess Dirksen finally got religion," Humphrey said, and Dirksen, making his final speech for the bill, declared: "There is no force so powerful as an idea whose time has come." It was said that when Goldwater voter against the bill, Dirksen would not speak to him. Two weeks later, Dirksen agreed to nominate Goldwater. "He's got it won, that's all," Dirksen said of Goldwater, "this thing has gone too far."
This day, nominating day, any orator could have set fire to the Cow Palace. The gallery and Goldwater delegations were as tense and impatient as a platoon of Marines going down to Tijuana after three weeks in the field. But this day Dirksen had no silver voice. He made a speech which contained such nuggets as, "In an age of do-gooders, he was a good doer." Dirksen was an old organist who would play all the squeaks in all the stops, rustle over all the dead bones of all the dead mice in all the pipes. He naturally made a large point that Barry Goldwater was "the grandson of the peddler." This brought no pleasure to the crowd. Main Street was taking Wall Street; Newport Beach, California, would replace Newport; and General Goldwater, Air Force Reserve, possessed sufficient cachet to negotiate the move; but not the grandson of a peddler. Dirksen however went on and on, making a sound like the whir of the air conditioning in a two-mile tunnel.
When he was done, they blew Dirksen down, the high screams of New Year's Eve went off, a din of screamers, rattles, and toots, a clash of bands, a dazzle of posters in phosphorescent yellow and orange and gold, the mad prance of the state standards, wild triumphant pokes and jiggles, war spears, crusader's lances, an animal growl of joy, rebel cries, eyes burning, a mad nut in each square jaw, Viva-Olé, Viva-Olé, bugle blasts and rallying cries, the call of heralds, and a fall from the rafters of a long golden rain, pieces of gold foil one inch square, hundreds of thousands of such pieces in an endless gentle shimmer of descent. They had put a spot on the fall -- it was as if sunlight had entered every drop of a fine sweet rain. I ran into Mike Wallace on the floor. "The guy who thought of this was a genius," said Mike. And the sounds of the band went up to meet the rain. There was an unmistakable air of beauty, as if a rainbow had come to a field of war, or Goths around a fire saw a vision in a cave. The heart of the beast had loosed a primitive call. Civilization was worn thin in the center and to the Left the black man raised his primitive cry; now to the far Right were the maniacal blue eyes of the other primitive. The jungles and the forests were readying for war. For a moment, beauty was there -- it is always there as tribes meet and clans gather for war. It was certain beyond certainty now that America was off on a ride which would end -- was it God or the Devil knew where.
But the ride did not begin for another seven hours and seven nominations. Knowland seconded Goldwater's nomination; and Clare Boothe Luce, Charlie Halleck, Senator Tower. Then Keating nominated Rockefeller, a twenty-two minute demonstration, decent in size but predictably hollow. More seconding speeches. Next came Scranton's turn. Dr. Milton Eisenhower, Ike's younger brother, did the nominating. It was good, it was clear, but there was not much excitement anymore. One knew why the older Eisenhower had wanted the younger Eisenhower to be President. One also knew why he had not come very near -- he gave a hint of Woodrow Wilson. Then the demonstration for Scranton. It was respectable, it let loose a half hour of music, it had fervor, the Scranton supporters died pure, an enjoyable demonstration. But the music was softer. Instead of Viva-Olé and the bugle blasts and rallying cries of the crusaders, one now heard Boys and Girls Together, or Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here. And the Scranton posters did not have the deep yellow and deep orange of the phalanxes who had jammed the gorge for Goldwater; no, they bore blue and red letters on white, or even black on white, a gray photograph of Scranton on a white background with letters in black -- the sign had been designed by Brooks Brothers, you may bet. Even some of the lapel buttons for Scranton revealed a camp of understatement, since they were five inches in diameter, yet Scranton's name was in letter one-eighth of an inch high. It made one think of The New Yorker and the blank ordered harmoniums of her aisles and text. [NOTES: Bill Knowland (1908-1974), 56 at the time of the convention, was Alameda native with a lumber fortune whose family until 1977 controlled the Oakland Tribune and who served as senator from California from 1945 to 1959; his political career ended after Edmund G. Brown (Jerry Brown's father) defeated Knowland in the 1960 California gubernatorial race. Ten years after the 1964 Republican Convention, Knowland committed suicide at his summer home in Sonoma County. Knowland was a stalwart anti-Communist and entertained presidential ambitions in the Fifties; he detested and despised Richard Nixon. -- Clare Boothe Luce (1903-1987) married Henry Luce, the publisher of Time, Life, and Fortune, after attracting his attention as an acerbic journalist. Like her husband, she too was an ardent American nationalist and anti-Communist, even lecturing the pope on the subject when she served as Eisenhower's ambassador to Italy (1953-1956). After Goldwater's defeat in 1964 she retired from public life. -- Charlie Hallick (1900-1986), an Indiana congressman and party leader, was the a prominent Republican spokesman in the 1960s. Unlike Goldwater, he supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964. -- At the time of the 1964 Republican Convention, 38-year-old John Tower (1925-1991) was a political rival of Lyndon Johnson who had recently been elected senator from Texas in the special election that followed Lyndon B. Johnson's elevation to the vice presidency. Tower was the first Republican senator from Texas since Reconstruction and the only Republican senator from the South until Strom Thurmond defected to the Republican Party in 1964. Tower voted against both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and was a pillar of the military-industrial-congressional complex. However, he broke with the right wing of the party on abortion rights and supported Ford, not Reagan, in the 1976 presidential primary struggle. Tower was an early political sponsor of John McCain. Rumors of extramarital affairs and heavy drinking helped sink Tower's 1989 nomination to the cabinet post of secretary of defense. He died in the 1991 crash of Flight 2311 in Brunswick, Georgia. -- Kenneth Keating (1900-1975) was in 1964 a first-term Republican senator from New York; he would be defeated in his 1964 campaign for reelection by Robert F. Kennedy. -- Milton Eisenhower (1899-1985) was at the time of the convention president of The Johns Hopkins University (and a crypto-Communist, according to Robert W. Welch Jr., founder of the John Birch Society, who probably regarded Milton Eisenhower's support of UNESCO as probative evidence). -- Mailer's reference to "camp" refers to the aesthetic of the outlandish or corny that was analyzed in Susan Sontag's famous 1964 Partisan Review essay, "Notes on 'Camp,'" which defined camp as a "sensibility" whose essence was "love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration" and whose patron saint, according to Sontag, was Oscar Wilde. --F.L.]
Now went the nominations hour after hour like the time between four in the morning and breakfast at a marathon dance. Here came the nominating speeches and the pumped-up state demonstrations on the floor which spoke of plump elderly tourists doing the hula in Hawaii. Then would come a team of seconding speeches, the weepers and the wringers, the proud of nose and the knotty of nose, the kickers and the thumpers, the ministerial bores and the rabbinical drones, the self-satisfied, the glad-to-be-there, the self-anointed, the unctuous, the tooth suckers, the quaverers.
Fong was nominated, and Margaret Chase Smith, first woman ever to be nominated for president. Now she has a lock on the footnotes in the history books. Romney was nominated, and Judd, defeated Congressman Walter H. Judd of Minnesota, given a grand-old-man-of-the-party nominating speech. The band played *Glory, Glory, Hallelujah*. Just after World War II, early in 1946, Judd had been one of the first to talk of war with Russia. Last came Lodge who scratched himself. The nominations were done. The balloting could begin. They cleared the floor of the Press. [NOTES: Hiram Fong (1906-2004) was a lawyer from Honolulu who served as a Republican senator from Hawaii from 1959 to 1977; in 1964 he became the first Asian American to be a presidential candidate; he supported civil rights but was a foreign policy hawk. Margaret Chase Smith (1897-1995) served as Republican senator from Maine from 1949 to 1973. George Romney (1907-1995) was governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969 and was Mitt Romney’s father. Walter H. Judd (1989-1994) was an M.D. who turned to politics after serving as a medical missionary in China. He was an outspoken anti-Communist from the 1940s to the 1980s. U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam (1963-1964; 1965-1967) Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. (1902-1985) was Richard Nixon’s running mate in 1960 and as grandson of imperialist Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (1850-1924) was a pillar of the Eastern Establishment. --F.L.]
We had been there off and on for seven hours, circling the delegations, talking where we could, a secondary sea of locusts. All through the seven hours of this afternoon and evening, there was the California delegation. They could not be ignored. They sat in the front rows off the center aisle just beneath the speaker on the podium. They wore yellow luminescent Goldwater shirts, the sort of sleeveless high-colored shirts which highway workers wear to be phosphorescent at night. On the floor there were a thousand sights and fifty conversations those seven hours, but there was nothing like the California delegation. In California Rockefeller had lost to Goldwater by less than three percent of the vote, and, losing, had lost all the delegates. California had eighty-six delegates -- all eighty-six by the rules of the victory were for Goldwater. So there were eighty-six yellow shirts right down front. Winning California, the Right had also won the plums of the convention, the distribution of tickets in the gallery, central placement on the floor, the allegiance of the Cow Palace cops. They had won the right to have their eighty-six faces at the center of the convention.
Most of the California delegation looked like fat state troopers or prison guards or well-established ranchers. A few were thin and looked like Robert Mitchum playing the mad reverend in Night of the Hunter. One or two were skinny as Okies, and looked like the kind of skinny wild-eyed gas-station attendant who works in a small town, and gets his picture in the paper because he has just committed murder with a jack handle. Yes, the skinny men in the California delegation leered out wildly. They looked like they were sitting on a body -- the corpse of Jew Eastern Negritudes -- and when the show was over, they were gonna eat it. That was it -- half the faces of the California delegation looked like geeks. They had had it and now they were ready to put fire to the big tent. [NOTES: Robert Mitchum (1917-1997), of British and Norwegian stock, was 46 when these lines were written. -- "Night of the Hunter" was a 1955 film noir based on the true story of Harry Powers, a serial killer and self-appointed preacher who was executed in 1932 for murdering two widows and three children in West Virginia in 1932; the film has influenced the Coen Brothers; James Agee worked on the screenplay. -- The more than one million Dust Bowl migrants to California in the 1930s about whom John Steinbeck wrote in The Grapes of Wrath (1939) were called Okies because more than from any other state they came from Oklahoma (about 15% of the population of Oklahoma went to California). -- In 1964 "geek" referred to carnival performers who performed disgusting acts like biting off the head of a live chicken, swallowing bugs and snakes, etc. Its current meaning connoting intellectual intensity and technophilia seems to have emerged only in the 1970s. --F.L.]
There was one man who stood out as their leader -- he had the face to be a leader of such men. Of course he looked not at all like a robber baron, the pride of Pinkerton, and a political boss all in one, no nor was he in the least like an amalgam of Wallace Beery and fat Hermann Goering, no he was just Bill Knowland, ex-Senator William F. Knowland, Lord of the China Lobby, and honcho number one for Barry in Northern and Southern California. [NOTES: Wallace Beery (1885-1949) was a former circus employee who entered show business and played a series of villians in silent and then talking motion pictures, including Long John Silver in "Treasure Island" (1934); at one point in the 1930s he was the highest paid actor in the world. Hermann Goering (1893-1946) was Adolf Hitler's Luftwaffe commander and designated successor; he committed suicide the night before his scheduled hanging after conviction at the Nuremberg Trials. --F.L.]
So began the balloting. In twenty minutes there was another demonstration. The California standard, a white silk flag with a beast, some mongrel of bear and wild boar, danced in the air as if carried by a knight on a horse. The chairman for South Carolina intoned, "We are humbly grateful that we can do this for America. South Carolina casts sixteen votes for Senator Barry Goldwater." Barry was in. Four years of work was [sic] over. Final score: 883 for Goldwater. Scranton, 214. Rockefeller had 114, Romney 41. Smith received 27, Judd 22, Lodge 2, and Fong had 5.
When the voting was done, when the deliriums were down, an ooh of pleasure came up from the crowd, like the ooh for an acrobat. For Scranton accompanied by his wife was walking down the ramp to the podium, down the high ramp which led from the end-arena exits fo the speaker’s stand. It was a walk of a hundred feet or more, and Scranton came down this ramp with a slow measured deferential step, like a boy carrying a ceremonial bowl.
He made a clear speech in a young rather vibrant voice. He was doing the thing he was best at. He was making a gesture his elders would approve. He called on Republicans “not to desert our party but to strengthen it.”
They cheered him modestly and many may have thought of his comments about Goldwater. On different days through June and July he had said: “dangerously impulsive,” “spreading havoc across the national landscape,” “a cruel misunderstanding of how the American economy works,” “injurious to innumerable candidates,” “chaos and uproar,” “talking off the top of his head.” “Hypocrisy . . .” says our friend Burke, “delights in the most sublime speculations; for never intending to go beyond speculation, it costs nothing to have it magnificent.” “I ask . . .” Scranton said. He asked his delegates to make Goldwater’s nomination unanimous.
Anywhere but in politics the speed with which the position had been shifted would be sign of a monumental instability. But politics was the place where finally nobody meant what they said -- it was a world of nighmare; psychopaths roved. The profound and searing conflicts of politicians were like the quarrels between the girls in a brothel -- they would tear each other’s hair one night, do a trick together the next. They had no memory. They had no principles but for one -- you do not quit the house. You may kill each other but you do not quit the house.
One could imagine the end of an imaginary nightmare: some time in the future, the Iron Ham (for such had become the fond nickname attached to President Barry Goldwater) would be told, thinking back on it all, that Billy-boy Scranton should be removed for some of the things he had said, and old Eisenhower, our General Emeritus, would find it in himself to say at a press conference on TV that while removal could not in itself be condoned, that is for high political figures, still it was bad, of course, policy, for people to have gotten away with insulting the President even if it was in the past and in the guise of free speech which as we all know can be abused. They would shave Scranton’s head. Like a monk would he take the walk. And Old Ike would walk with him, and tell Willy S. a joke at the end, and have his picture taken shaking hands. Then, back to the White House for a two-shot drinking beer with Barry, the Iron Ham. After it was over, Barry would go back to the people who had put the ring in his nose.
—BURKE, Reflections on the Revolution in France
Goldwater: “There have been several suggestions made. I don’t think we would use any of them. But defoliation of the forests by low-yield atomic weapons could well be done. When you remove the foliage, you remove the cover.”
—New York Post, May 27, 1964
Driving away from the Cow Palace after the nomination, I could hear Goldwater on the car radio. He was celebrating. He was considerably more agreeable than Dick Nixon celebrating -- no all-I-am-I-owe-to-my-mother-and-father-my-country-and-church; no, Goldwater was off instead on one of his mild rather tangy excursions, “I feel very humble,” he said, and you could feel the itch in the long johns and the hair in the nose, a traveling salesman in an upper berth, belt of bourbon down the hatch -- as Mrs. Goldwater entered the room, he cried out, “Hi, honey,” and added just a touch mean and small-town, “You didn’t cry very much tonight.”
“No,” said Mrs. Goldwater, “wait till tomorrow.”
The questioning went back and forth. He was all voice and very little mind, you could tell he had once been so bright as to invent and market a novelty item called Antsy Pants, men’s white shorts with red ants embroidered all over them. But he had a voice! It made up for the mind. Lyndon Johnson’s hambone-grits-and-turnip-greens was going to play heavy to this; Goldwater on radio was sweet and manly, clean as Dad in the show of new shows, One Man’s Dad. They asked him, Senator, you said that you would not wage a personal campaign against the President. Yes, said Goldwater. Well, sir, said the interviewer now, today you called President Johnson the biggest faker in the U.S. Butters of ecstasy in the interviewer’s mouth. It’s going to be a hard-hitting campaign, I assume then? “Oh,” said Goldwater, “I think you’ll find some brickbats flying around.”
The dialogue went on: Could you tick off just a few of the major issues you think will be in the campaign against the Democrats? “I think,” said Goldwater, “law and dis -- the abuse of law and order in this country, the total disregard for it, the mounting crime rate is going to be another issue -- at least I’m going to make it one, because I think the responsibility for this has to start someplace and it should start at the Federal level with the Federal courts enforcing the law.
“I noticed one tonight in the evening paper, for example -- a young girl in New York who used a knife to attack a rapist is now getting the worst of the deal and the rapist is probably going to get the Congressional Medal of Honor and sent off scot-free,” said Goldwater, neglecting to tell us that the girl had had her indictment dismissed, and the alleged rapist was already up on a charge of attempted rape. Goldwater now said in the sort of voice Daddy employs when he is ready to use the strap. “That kind of business has to stop in this country and, as the President, I’m going to do all I can to see that women can go out in the streets of this country without being scared stiff.” Yes, he would. He was a Conservative and he was for States’ Rights. It just that he wasn’t for local rights.
"By this wise prejudice we are taught to look with horror on those children of their country, who are prompt rashly to hack that aged parent in pieces, and put him into the kettle of magicians, in hopes that by their poisonous weeds, and wild incantations, they may regenerate the paternal constitution, and renovate their father's life."
—--BURKE, Reflections on the Revolution in France
Next day was the last day of the convention. Bill Miller was nominated for Vice-President. He was not a very handsome man nor did his manner seem particularly agreeable, but then the thought obtruded itself that the President of the United States was now in a more dramatic statistical relation to violent death than a matador. So a candidate would not necessarily look for too appealing a Vice-President -- it might enourage notions of succession in the mind of an assassin. One would look instead for deterrents. William Miller was a deterrent.
A little later in the day, Nixon made the speech of introduction for Goldwater. In the months ahead, when the bull in Barry swelled too wild and he gave promise of talking again of Negro assailants getting Medals of Honor, they would send in Nixon to calm him down. The Eastern Establishment, hydra head, was not dead after all; they still had Nixon. He was the steer to soothe the bull. Poor Barry. He had tried to lose Nixon in Cleveland, he had said, "He's sounding more like Harold Stassen every day." Nixon however was as easy to lose as a plain wife without prospects is easy to divorce.
"My good friend and great Republican, Dick Nixon . . ." was how Goldwater began his historic acceptance speech. It had come after a rich demonstration of happiness from the delegates. A boxcar of small balloons was opened in the rafters as Goldwater came down the ramp with his wife, his sons, his daughters. The balloons tumbled in thousands to the floor where (fifty balloons being put out each second by lighted cigarettes) a sound like machine-gun fire popped its way through the cheers. Fourth of July was here once more. He looked good, did Goldwater. Looking up at him from a position just beneath the speaker's stand, not twenty feet away, it was undeniable that Barry looked as handsome as a man who had just won the five-hundred-mile race in Indianapolis, had gone home to dress, and was now attending a party in his honor. He was even, protect the mark, elegant.
Then he began his speech. Today, the voice for large public gatherings had dignity. It was not a great voice, as Churchill's voice was great; there were no majesties nor storms of complexity, no war of style between manner and the obligation to say truth; but it was a balanced manly voice which would get votes. His speech was good in its beginning.
Now my fellow Americans, the tide has been running against freedom. Our people have followed false prophets. . . . We must, and we shall, set the tide running again in the cause of freedom. . . . Every breath and every heartbeat has but a single resolve, and that is freedom. . . . Tonight there is violence in our streets, corruption in our highest offices, aimlessness among our youth, anxiety among our elderly . . . despair among the many who look beyond material success toward the inner meaning of their lives.
As the speech went on, the mind went out again on a calculation that this candidate could win. He was humbug -- H.L. Hunt's idea of freedom would not be very close to the idea of freedom in the minds of the children who were for Barry, no, nor William Knowland's idea either, no, nor the Pinkertons, the hawkshaw geist of the F.B.I., nor the fourteenth and fifteenth floor. Goldwater was a demagogue -- he permitted his supporters to sell a drink called Gold Water, twenty-five cents a can for orange concentrate and warm soda -- let no one say it went down like piss -- he was a demagogue. He was also sincere. That was the damnable difficulty. Half-Jew and blue-eyed -- if you belonged in the breed, you knew it was manic-depressive for sure: a man who designed his own electronic flagpole to raise Old Glory at dawn, pull her down at dusk -- he had an instinct for the heart of the disease -- he knew how to bring balm to the mad, or at least to half the mad; Goldwater would have much to learn about Negroes. But one thing was certain: he could win. He would be breadwinner, husband and rogue to the underprivileged of the psyche, he would strike a spark in many dry souls for he offered release to frustrations deeper than politics. Therefore, he could beat Lyndon Johnson, he could beat him out of a variety of cause, out of natural flood or hurricane, in an epidemic of backlash, or by an epidemic of guilt -- how many union workers fed to the nose with exhortations that Johnson was good for take-home pay might rise and say to themselves, "I've been happy with less." Indeed I knew Goldwater could win because something in me leaped at the thought; a part of me, a devil, wished to take that choice. For if Goldwater were President, a new opposition would form, an underground -- the time for secret armies might be near again. And when in sanity I thought, Lord, give us twenty more years of Lyndon Johnson, nausea rose in some cellar of the throat, my stomach was not strong enough to bear such security; and if true for me, true for others, true perhaps for half or more of a nation's vote. Yet what of totalitarianism? What of war? But what of war? And the answer came back that one might be better a little nearer to death than the soul dying each night in the plastic encirclements of the new architecture and the new city, yes better, if death had dimension and one could know the face of the enemy by the end of the second third of the twentieth century.
And what of the Negro if Goldwater won? What of all the small-town Southern sheriffs who wished to wipe their hands in the black man's hair? And a fury, a white fury, burst out of the mind and said, "No white sheriff is necessarily so very much worse than the worst Negro," no, the mad light of the black hoodlum might be getting equal geek to geek to the worst of the California delegation. Then came a memory of James Baldwin and Diana Sands on a show called Night Line where television viewers could make a telephone call to the guests. Baldwin had received a call from a liberal which went, "I'd like to help, and I'm asking you how." "Don't ask me, baby," said Baldwin, "ask yourself." "You don't understand," said the liberal, "I know something about these matters, but it's getting confusing for me. I'm asking you in all sincerity where you think my help could best be offered." "Well, baby," said Baldwin, "that's your problem." And Diana Sands, pinky extended in total delicate black-lady disgust, put the receiver back in the cradle. "You see," said Baldwin, talking to Les Crane, the master of ceremonies, "I remember what an old Negro woman told me once down South. She said, 'What the white man will someday learn is that there is no remission of sin.' That I never forgot," said Jimmy, "because you see it's perfectly possible the white will not be forgiven, not for a single cut or whipping or lynch mob or rape of a black woman," his voice now as soft and reminiscent of the wind as some African man of witchcraft. And I had to throttle an impulse to pick up the phone and call Baldwin and say, "You get this, baby. There's a shit storm coming like nothing you ever knew. So ask yourself if what you desire is for every white to kill every black so that there be total remission of guilt in your black soul." And the mind went out still again. [NOTES: James Baldwin died in 1987 at the age of 63. In 1964 Baldwin was 40; a year earlier he had published "Down at the Cross," a much talked-about polemical essay and "visionary sermon" (James Campbell, Talking at the Gates: A Life of James Baldwin [Univ. of California Press, 2002], p. 161) on race and religion in America, including the Black Muslim movement, in the New Yorker in 1963 that, later collected in a volume published later that year entitled The Fire Next Time, put him on the cover of Time magazine on May 17 of that year as well. Norman Mailer had a long-standing love-hate relationship with James Baldwin, whom he considered one of his leading literary rivals, which has often been analyzed by literary critics; see, for example, Gerald Early, Tuxedo Junction: Essays on American Culture [Hopewell, NJ: Ecco Press, 1989], pp. 183-95. -- Diana Sands (1934-1973) was a native New Yorker who became well-known as she pursued and won parts that had traditionally been played by white actresses, including Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, but also played Beneatha Younger in the original film version of "Raisin in the Sun" (1961). -- Les Crane (1933-2008) pioneered interactive broadcasting; his voice is still heard on the air occasionally when his surprise hit "Desiderata" (1971) is played. He moved to New York City and débuted a 1:00 a.m. talk show called "Night Life" (not "Night Line" as in the text) in August 1963, but the program never gained a large audience, though it had the distinction of being the first American show to feature The Rolling Stones. It was renamed "The Les Crane Show" in August 1964. Crane was known as "the bad-boy of late-night television." —F.L.]
The country was in disease, it was conceivably so ill that a butcher could operate with dirty hands and have magic sufficient to do less harm than the hospital with its wonder drugs and the new pestilence. (As the oil goes out, the earth turns cold, an arid used-up space, a ground for jumping off Texas to the used-up pits of the moon.) Still, you could not keep Americans from madness; our poetry was there, our symbolic logic: AuH2O + GOP + 64 = Victory! color of orange juice, Go, Go, Goldwater. Mrs. Goldwater's maiden name was Johnson, a portent of triumph to Barry? Viva-Olé. Eager to slay.
The country was in disease. It had been in disease for a long time. There was nothing in our growth which was organic. We had never solved our depression, we had merely gone to war, and going to war had never won it, not in our own minds, not as men, no, we had won it but as mothers, sources of supply; we did not know that we were equal to the Russians. We had won a war but we had not really won it, not in the secret of our sleep. So we had not really had a prosperity, we had had fever. Viva-Olé. We had grown rich because of one fact with two opposite interpretations: there had been a cold war. It was a cold war which had come because Communism was indeed a real threat to freedom, or it had come because capitalism would never survive without an economy geared to war; or was it both -- who could know? who could really know? The center of our motive was the riddle wrapped in the enigma -- was the country extraordinary or accursed? No, we had not even found our Communist threat. We had had a secret police organization and an invisible government large enough by now to occupy the moon, we had hunted Communists from the top of the Time-Life Building to the bottom of the Collier mine; we had not found that many, not that many, and had looked like Keystone cops. We had even had a Negro Revolution in which we did not believe. We had had it, yes we had had it, because (in the penury of our motive) we could not afford to lose votes in Africa and India, South America and Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, name any impoverished place: we were running in a world election against the collective image of the Russ, and so we had to give the black man his civil rights or Africa was so much nearer to Marx. But there had not been much like love in the civil rights. Just Dirksen. So we were never too authentic. No.
We had had a hero. He was a young good-looking man with a beautiful wife, and he had won the biggest poker game we ever played, the only real one -- we had lived for a week ready to die in a nuclear war. Whether we liked it or not. But he had won. It was our one true victory in all these years, our moment; so the young man began to inspire a subtle kind of love. His strength had proved stronger than we knew. Suddenly he was dead, and we were in grief. But then came a trial which was worse. For the assassin, or the man who had been arrested but was not the assassin -- we would never know, not really -- was killed before our sight. In the middle of the funeral came an explosion on the porch. Now, we were going mad. It took more to make a nation go mad than any separate man, but we had taken miles too much. Certainties had shattered. Now the voice of our national nerves (our arts, our events) was in a new state. Morality had wed itself to surrealism, there were cockroaches in all the purple transistors, we were distractable. We had an art of the absurd; we had moral surrealism. Our best art was Dr. Strangelove and Naked Lunch, Catch-22; Candy was our heroine; Jack Ruby our aging juvenile; Andy Warhol, Rembrandt; our national love was a corpse in Arlington; and heavyweight champion turned out to be Cassius Clay; New York was the World’s Fair plus the Harlem bomb -- it would take a genius to explain they were the same -- and Jimmy Baldwin said, “That’s your problem,” on the Les Crane show at one a.m. Even the reverends were salty as the sea. [NOTES: The “hero,” as well as the “corpse in Arlington [National Cemetery],” is of course John F. Kennedy, 35th president of the United States (1917-1963). -- The “poker game” is the Cuban Missile Crisis, which culminated in the week of Oct. 22-28, 1962. -- The “assassin, or the man who had been arrested but was not the assassin” is Lee Harvey Oswald (1939-1963), who was shot to death by Jack Ruby (1911-1967) on Nov. 24, 1963. -- Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove” was released on Jan. 29, 1964. -- William Burroughs’s Naked Lunch was published in Paris 1959; a Grove Press American edition was released in 1962; the novel was held to be obscene by a Massachusetts court in 1966, a decision later reversed by the Massachusetts Supreme Court. -- Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 was published in November 1961, and a Dell paperback was published in September 1962, which was already in its tenth printing when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. -- Candy was published in Paris in 1958 by Maxwell Kenton (1924-1995) (using the pseudonym Terry Southern) and Mason Hoffenberg in the Olympia Press Traveller’s Companion Series. An American edition was finally published by Putnam in the first half of 1964 (Nile Southern, The Candy Men: The Rollicking Life and Times of the Notorious Novel Candy [Arcade Publishing, 2004]). -- A show at Paul Bianchini’s Upper East Side gallery in New York City called “The American Supermarket” featured the famous painting of a Campbell’s Soup can by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) and helped bring pop art to the attention of the American public in 1964. -- Cassius Clay, who was 24 when this piece was published, took the name Muhammad Ali (given by Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam) the day after he won the heavyweight championship by defeating Sonny Liston in Miami Beach on Feb. 25, 1964, but there was resistance by writers to using his name. -- The 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair opened on April 22, 1964, and was the largest World’s Fair to be held in the United States. -- In the summer of 1964 a riot occurred in Harlem after an unarmed 15-year-od was shot to death by an off-duty police lieutenant; one person was killed 100 were injured, and the riot spread to other parts of the city, leading Mailer to refer to Harlem as a whole as a “bomb.” -- As for “salty reverends,” James J. Farrell has argued that historians have slighted the “role of religion as a motivator and mobilizer of activists” in the tumultuous 1960s, whose movements were “steeped in the rich ‘second languages’ of American religion and republicanism” (The Spirit of the Sixties [Routledge, 1996], p. 18). —F.L.]
Yes, our country was fearful, half mad, inauthentic. It needed a purge. It had a liberal Establishment obeisant to committees, foundations, and science -- the liberal did not understand that the center of science was as nihilistic as a psychopath's sense of God. We were a liberal Establishment, a prosperous land -- we had a Roman consul among us -- the much underrated and much disliked Lyndon Johnson was become a power in the land and doubtless a power upon the land; civilization had found its newest helmsman in the restraints, wisdom, and corruption of a major politician, of an organization boss to whom all Mafias, legit and illegit, all syndicates, unions, guilds, corporations and institutions, cadres of conspiracy and agents for health, Medicare, welfare, the preservation of antibiotics, and the proliferation of the Pentagon could bend their knee. The Establishment (the Democratic Establishment and the reeling columns of the Republican Establishment, falling back upon the center in the thundering confusion of Barry Goldwater's breakthrough) had a new leader, a mighty Caesar had arisen, Lyndon Johnson was his name, all hail, Caesar. Caesar gave promise to unify the land. But at what a cost. For if the ideology were liberal, the methodology was total -- to this political church would come Adlai Stevenson and Frank Sinatra, the President of U.S. Steel and the President of the Steel Worker's Union, there would be photographs of Johnson forty feet high in Atlantic City -- Big Bubber Lyndon -- and parties in which minority groups in native costume would have their folk dance: could one see the ghost of Joe Stalin smiling on his pipe? [NOTES: The term 'the Establishment' is said to have been coined by British journalist Henry Fairlie (1924-1990) in 1955 in a column in the London Spectator, though Fairlie himself later turned up an earlier use of the term in the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882). In the United States the term was given currency by journalist Richard Rovere (1915-1979), who published an article in The American Scholar entitled "Notes on the Establishment in America" (Autumn 1961), later expanded and published as the first chapter of his book The American Establishment and Other Reports, Opinions, and Speculations (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962). In Rovere's essay, however, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon appear in a long list of "people . . . known to be nonmembers" of the Establishment, though Johnson was then vice president of the United States and Nixon a former vice president (p. 17). Norman Mailer, on the other hand, is said to "enjoy close relations with leading figures on the Executive Committee" of the Establishment (p. 19). Rovere's understanding of the Establishment in his admittedly tongue-in-cheek article is that it is "essentially national"; he does not speak, as Mailer does, in terms of a Democratic or Republican Establishment, ideological Establishments, or regional Establishments (p. 13; emphasis in original). -- Julius Caesar (102? BCE-44 BCE) effectively put an end to the Roman Republic by marching on Rome in 49 BCE, beginning what was the final phase of a long civil war that culminated in the establishment of the Roman Empire. -- Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) was the liberal and famously high-minded and virtuous Democrat twice defeated in presidential elections by Dwight D. Eisenhower; Frank Sinatra (1915-1998) was the notoriously corrupt and crass entertainer and member of the "Rat Pack" with Mafia connections who was a supporter of the Democratic Party at the time this essay was written, but embraced the Republican Party in the late 1960s. -- U.S. Steel incarnated mammoth corporate capitalism in first two thirds of the 20th century, having been founded by the merger in 1901 of Andrew Carnegie's steelworks with the Federal Steel Company of Gary, Indiana, and several smaller companies; it was the world's first billion-dollar corporation in terms of total capitalization, controlled two thirds of American steel production in 1901, and was known on Wall Street simply as "The Corporation." -- In August 1964 Atlantic City, New Jersey, hosted the Democratic Party's national convention, which renominated Lyndon B. Johnson as the party's candidate for president. -- "Big Bubber" is an allusion to Orwell's phrase from Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), "Big Brother," the dictator of Oceania ruling by means of propaganda disseminated by a totalitarian pary organization, conceptually modeled on Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) but never actually appearing in the novel and who may not even exist. --F.L.]
Yes, if we all worked to beat Barry, and got behind Lyndon and pushed, radicals and moderate Republicans, Negroes and Southern liberals, college professors and Cosa Nostra, café society and Beatniks-for-Johnson, were we all then going down a liberal superhighway into the deepest swamp of them all? For Johnson was intelligent enough to ruin a total land, he has vast competence, no vision, and the heart to hold huge power, he had the vanity of a Renaissance prince or a modern dictator, whereas Barry might secretly be happier with his own show daily on the radio. If Goldwater were elected, he could not control the country without moving to the center; moving to the center he would lose a part of the Right, satisfy no one, and be obliged to drift still further Left, or moving back to the Right would open schisms across the land which could not be closed. Goldwater elected, America would stand revealed, its latent treacheries would pop forth like boils; Johnson elected, the drift would go on, the San Francisco Hiltons would deploy among us. Under Goldwater, the odds were certainly greater that nuclear war would come, but under Johnson we could move from the threat of total war to war itself with nothing to prevent it; the anti-Goldwater forces which might keep the country too divided to go to war would now be contained within Johnson. Goldwater promised to lead the nation across the edge of a precipice, Johnson would walk us through the woods, perchance to quicksand itself. Goldwater would open us to the perils of our madness, Johnson would continue our trip into the plague. Goldwater could accelerate the Negro Revolution to violence and disaster -- Johnson might yet be obliged to betray it from within. And what a job could be done! Who in such a pass should receive the blessing of a vote -- the man who inspired the deepest fear, or the man who encouraged us to live in a lard of guilt cold as the most mediocre of our satisfied needs?
Still, the more Goldwater talked, the less impressive became his voice. When he went on too long, his voice grew barren. One could never vote for him, one could not vote for a man who made a career by crying Communist -- that was too easy: half the pigs, bullies, and cowards of the twentieth century had made their fortune on that fear. I had a moment of rage at the swindle. Yesterday, on the floor, talking to a young delegate from Indiana, I had said, "Did it ever occur to you that Fidel Castro might have more courage than Barry Goldwater?"
"Yes, but Castro is a criminal mentality," said the boy.
I had cut off the argument. I was too close to losing my temper. Would the best of the young in every hick town, washed by the brainwater of the high school and the Legion, come to join this conservative crusade because Goldwater made an appeal to freedom, to courage, to change? What a swindle was in the making, what an extinction of the best in Conservative thought. They were so righteous, these Republicans. Goldwater might end with more warfare, security, and statism than any Democrat had ever dared; as a conservative, he would fail altogether (doubtless!) but certain he was to do one thing: he would march into Cuba. That was too much. One could live with a country which was mad, one could even come to love her (for there was agony beneath the madness), but you could not share your life with a nation which was powerful, a coward, and righteously pleased because a foe one-hundredth our size had been destroyed. So one got up to leave at this -- we would certainly be strong enough to march into Cuba. [NOTES: The antiradical American Legion was founded in 1919 during the Red Scare. -- The military-industrial complex was eager to attack Cuba in the early 1960s. On Mar. 13, 1962, Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer proposed "Operation Northwoods" to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. The secret plan (first made public decades later by researcher and author James Bamford) proposed a variety of false flag operations to make it appear that Cuba had attacked U.S. forces or American civilians and justifying a U.S. invasion of Cuba. Though the Kennedy administration rejected the plan, Gen. Lemnitzer continued to press for an invasion of Cuba. On Apr. 10, 1962, he said in a memorandum to McNamara: "The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that the Cuban problem must be resolved in the near future . . . they believe that military intervention by the United States will be required to overthrow the present communist regime" (James W. Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why Kennedy Died and Why It Matters [Orbis Books, 2008], pp. 96-98). Had Goldwater been elected, it is not farfetched that such a plan would have been executed. —F.L.]
Then Goldwater uttered his most historic words: "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. . . . Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue," and I sat down and took out my notebook and wrote in his words, since I did not know how famous they would become. And thought: Dad, you're too much. You're really too much. You're too hip, baby. I have spent my life seeking to get four-letter words into U.S. magazines, and now you are ready to help me.
And as I left the arena, there was a fire engine and the cry of a siren and the police with a gaunt grim look for the end of the week. There had been a fire burning, some small fire.
On the way out, outside the Cow Palace, a wet fog was drifting, and out beyond the exits, demonstrators from CORE were making a march. They had been out there every day of the convention: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday now, each day had demonstrated, carrying their placards, marching in a circle two abreast, singing We Shall Overcome, shouting, "Goldwater Must Go," marching round and round like early Christians in the corrals waiting to be sent to the arena, while about them, five, six, ten deep, was a crowd of the Republican curious, some with troubled faces, some with faces troubled by no more than appetite, hounds staring at the meat, these white girls and Negro boys walking side by side, the girls pale, no lipstick, nunlike, disdainful, wearing denim shirts and dungarees; the Negroes tall and sometimes handome, not without dignity, bearded almost all, the wild Negro girl in the center screaming savage taunts at the watching crowd, rude as Cassius Clay with a high-yaller mouth, and the crowed dreaming of an arena where lions could be set on these cohabiting blacks and whites, and the blacks and whites in the marching circle with their disdainful faces. Yes, kill us, says the expression on the face of the nunlike girl with no lipstick, you will kill us but you will never digest us: I despise you all. And some of the old Wasps are troubled in their Christian heart, for the girl is one of theirs, no fat plain Jewess with a poor nose this one, she is part of the West, and so their sense of crisis opens and they know like me that America has come to a point from which she will never return. The wars are coming and the deep revolutions of the soul. [NOTES: Many compared civil rights activists in the 1950s and the 1960s to early Christian martyrs. "For 250 years, [the Christian church] was a martyrs' church; the persecutions were fueled by the refusal of Christians to worship the state and the Roman emperor. There were persecutions under Nero, Domitian, Trajan and the other Antonines, Maximin, Decius, Valerian, and Diocletian and Galerius; Decius ordered the first official peersecution in 250 In 313, Constantine I and Licinius announced toleration of Christianity in the Edict of Milan" (Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. [Gale Research Group, 2000], p. 571). -- CORE was the Congress for Racial Equality, founded by the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1942. The group attained national prominence when it lead the Freedom Rides of 1961, in which racially mixed groups traveled through the South on the interstate bus system and were viciously attacked. For a detailed history of CORE, see Raymond Arsenault, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Justice (Oxford University Press, 2006). -- High-yaller is a dialect form of "high yellow," referring to the skin color of some racially mixed persons. Historian Edward Ball says the term was also a synonym for "snobbish," since "Members of the colored élite were called 'high yellow' for their shade of skin (The Sweet Hell Inside: A Family History (2001). In New Orleans, "high yellow" was associated with Creole "brahmins", and in the 1920s and 1930s the city's social life was dominated by 'high yellow' families who shunned darker African-Americans. In her 1942 Glossary of Harlem Slang, Zora Neale Hurston placed "high yaller" at the beginning of her color scale: "high yaller, yaller, high brown, vaseline brown, seal brown, low brown, dark brown" (Wikipedia). —F.L.]
—Norman Mailer, Cannibals and Christians (New York: Dell, 1967), pp. 6-45.