Before the Storm : Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus , by Rick Perlstein

Before the Storm : Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus , by Rick Perlstein
Please select an edition to check the price and shipping information
March 2001, 671 Pages
April 2002, 688 pages
Published by Hill & Wang
A division of Farrar, Straux and Giroux

Hardcover - 688 pages
First Edition, March 2001
ISBN 0-8090-2859-X / 080902859X

Paperback - 671 pages
First Edition, April 2002
ISBN 0-8090-2858-1 / 0809028581

Barry M. Goldwater
Barry Morris Goldwater (1909-1998)

Before The Storm by Rick Perlstein depicts the nomination of Barry Goldwater as the 1964 Republican candidate for President of the United States in terms of the competing cultural trends of the early 1960s. Therefore, the black civil rights movement, the struggles of organized labor, the rise of new student activist organizations, and what was happening in popular culture, are the constant background to the selection of Goldwater by the Republican Party.

We all know how the story turned out. On November 3, 1964, the incumbent President Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-1973) was reelected "by a landslide." Upon being inaugurated a year earlier, when President Kennedy was assassinated, LBJ immediately took up Kennedy's civil rights program. [Page 306 in the paperback edition]

All of us are in reaction mode. Liberals react to something new launched by conservatives. Conservatives react to something new launched by liberals. Keeping that in mind, say the year is 1964. We are to investigate the social process that drew out "the recklessly candid Republican Presidential candidate who founded the modern conservative political movement in America." [As Goldwater was described in his New York Times obituary on May 30, 1998]

Before the Storm : Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus by Rick Perlstein

Many people believed in the domino theory -- countries tend to "fall" to the Communists in sequence, like a row of dominoes. Related events were in recent memory. In 1961, a Gallup poll had found that 71% of Americans supported going to war over the division of Berlin, Germany. [Page 273] In 1963, The political right was angry that Kennedy decided to sell wheat to the Soviet Union. [240] In June of 1963, talks began in Moscow about establishing a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. [232] The McCarthyism of the 1950s (if you express a complaint about policies or conditions in the U.S., then you're accused of secretly being a Communist) had not entirely disappeared. Under the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) of 1957, the federal government offered college students low interest loans in return for their signing papers testifying that they didn't advocate the overthrow of the government. [69]

Unusual forms of liberalism were sprouting. In 1963, hundreds of thousands went to Washington, D.C. to protest racial segregation, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his "I have a dream" speech. On February 10, 1964 the House of Representatives began to debate the Civil Rights Bill. [289] Books were reflecting the new times. Michael Harrington had recently written The Other America, with statistics proving the existence of a "hidden" poverty in this apparently affluent country. Others were reading the recently published The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, and an environmentalist warning, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. [209]

Conservatives feared that morals were in decline. The U.S. Supreme Court had declared that prayer in public schools violated the First Amendment. Teenagers were listening to the Beatles, who committed the perceived revolutionary act of allowing their hair to cover their ears and foreheads. There was "Warhol displaying Brillo boxes as 'art.'" [484] Police were raiding public beaches and making arrests because a women's fashion designer had introduced a topless bathing suit. When the news reported crime stories, like the Boston Strangler case, some people blamed crime on the decline in conservative values. [484]

Enter a new conservative movement, inspired by William F. Buckley and his National Review magazine. Buckley had begun his activism when he was a college student at Yale, when he "led the fight against the establishment of the student council (he feared it would be captured by liberals),", and he edited the Yale Daily News as the outlet for his conservative editorials. [71] In the 1950s, the John Birch Society (JBS), which had been founded by Buckley's acquaintance Robert Welch (1899-1985), paid large contributions to the National Review. [153] But the Birchers had little credibilty, since they asserted that everyone from Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren [167] to President Dwight Eisenhower [153] to President John F. Kennedy [290] was secretly a Communist. Some people blamed the John Birch Society for the assassination of President Kennedy. [247] During 1963-1964, the NR was gradually making a break with the Birchers [154].

Table of Contents
Before the Storm : Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus , by Rick Perlstein
Preface ix
Part One  
1. The Manionites 3
2. Merchant Prince 17
3. Working Together for the World 43
4. Conscience 61
5. The Meeting of the Blue and White Nile 69
Part Two  
6. Quickening 99
7. Stories of Orange County 120
8. Apocalyptics 141
9. Off Year 158
10. Suite 3505 171
11. Mobs 201
Part Three  
12. New Mood in Politics 247
13. Granite State 265
14. President of All the People 299
15. United and at Peace with Itself ... 313
16. Golden State 333
17. Duty 356
18. Conventions 371
Part Four  
19. Don't Mention the Great Pumpkin 409
20. Campaign Trails 429
21. Citizens 471
22. Foregone Conclusions 488
Notes 517
Selected Bibliography 627
Acknowledgments 635
Index 639

Inspired by Buckley's ideals, conservative college students formed the Young American for Freedom (YAF) in 1961. Their first public action was a demonstration at the White House to protest the proposal to abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). [104] Buckley had 100% control over the National Review [73] and soon the National Review "possessed an informal controlling interest" in the YAF. [155] YAF had about 2,000 members but exaggerated the reported number to 20,000. [162] A YAF rally filled Madison Square Garden. YAF and the leftist Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) competed at the 1964 National Student Association Congress over the question of whether student activism was to be right-wing or left-wing. [155] New York Times writer Scotty Reston called the YAF "young fogies" [107]

The images in the news media of the conservative stance of Barry Goldwater relative to the black civil rights cause, and the class struggle between capital and labor, are significant components of the story.

The AFL-CIO had begun a drive to "get out the labor vote" in 1958 [176] U.S. Steel, "the last and most vicious of the blue chips to accept industrial unionism in the 1930s," [201] was based in Birmingham, Alabama. In that city, Eugene "Bull" Connor made a career advancement from union-busting goon to police commissioner. In 1962, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, spokesperson for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), decided to relocate its immediate focus of protest from Albany, Georgia to Birmingham, Alabama, as King "counted on Bull Connor as a more reliable outrage to the nation's conscience." [202] Bull Connor is best remembered now from newsreel footage illustrating his policy of turning fire hoses and police dogs on black children to prevent them from entering public schools. That event, in which "the nation saw shrieking children on TV" and "dogs set loose to tear chunks of flesh," took place on a day in which 685 peaceful black protesters were arrested, while 178 reporters were visiting the city. [203]

Goldwater commented on the police violence, "If I were a Negro I don't think I would be very patient either," [203] but he hastily added that the federal government must stay out of it for as long as possible, and allow states and municipalities to govern themselves. Goldwater said he opposed racial segregation, but also opposed actions by the federal government to end it. "I don't like segregation, but I don't like the Constitution kicked around either." [169]

Goldwater became a hero to many conservative business owners when he appeared at a Senate hearing to investigate the violence during a strike by workers at the Kohler Company in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. During the hearing Goldwater argued with Walter Reuther, president of the United Automobile Workers (UAW). Reuther had a union strategy that made him popular with paycheck conscious workers but also despised by radicals -- he offered General Motors "labor peace," a guarantee of no wildcat strikes, in return for the company writing cost of living adjustments into their contracts. [31]

For a 1964 Presidential candidate, Republicans considered Richard Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller, Henry Cabot Lodge, George Romney, Harold E. Stassen and Barry Goldwater. Corporations were conservative lobbies. The same corporations that paid for Nixon's campaign in 1960 -- Technicolor, Paper Mate, Schick Safety Razor, and others -- were prepared to pay for the Republican campaign in 1964. [166] Shortly after entering the race, Nixon found strong support in several states, particularly New Hampshire. [288]

Rockefeller chose the tactic of entering the race late. Shortly after becoming Governor of New York, he made a plan to win the nomination away from Nixon at the Republican national convention. He appeared on NBC's Today show on November 7, 1963 and announced that he would run for president. [262] Perlstein believes that the divorced Rockefeller lost his chance to be elected President when he married a woman twenty years younger than himself, but perhaps a greater factor was that he was perceived as a liberal, e.g., he spoke out against the brutal legal treatment of Martin Luther King, who the previous year had been sentenced to four months at hard labor for participating in a sit-in. [136] When Rockefeller campaigned in many parts of New York State, he faced strong pro-Goldwater sentiments. In Westchester County, the John Birch Society was in control of the YAF, and they launched a group of slate delegates called Volunteers for Goldwater to go to the state Republican convention on June 2, 1964. Goldwater won the electoral votes in Rockefeller's home state. [323]

Clarence Manion, a 1960s follower of 1950s McCarthyism, had published Goldwater's ghostwriters' book -- Conscience of a Conservative (Out of print books) , which led to the movement to draft Goldwater as a presidential candidate. During the campaign, Manion advertised on the radio, "One copy, 75 cents ... one hundred copies, 30 dollars ... 1,000 copies or more, 10 cents each." [478]

The National Draft Goldwater Committee got their way when Goldwater announced his candidacy from his home in Phoenix in January of 1964. A new Goldwater for President Committee was formed, headed by Denison Kitchel. [258]

Kitchel was a Harvard trained corporate lawyer who had moved from Wall Street to Arizona in 1937. He became an infamous union buster, and become Goldwater's close friend, by appealing unsuccessfully to the Supreme Court on behalf of the Phelps Dodge copper mining company in Arizona. The company sought to overturn the provision in the Wagner Act which says that a union voted in by a majority of a company's workers has the power to negotiate for the workers. Phelps Dodge already had a notorious anti-labor reputation, partly due to the record of 1917 when the company paid armed thugs to kidnap workers who were working on union organization, drive them to the middle of desert, and strand them there. Kitchel's loyalty to the company was personal as well as a lawyer's job -- his wife was the niece of the company's founder. [28-29]

But Henry Cabot Lodge was clearly the favorite for the party's nomination. A Gallup Poll showed that 98 percent of Republicans wanted Lodge to be the candidate. Nevertheless, either a miracle occurred or, God forbid, there was a secret political machine at work behind the scene. Despite what most Republicans wanted, in July of 1964, the national convention delegates chose Goldwater. [313]

The Democrat and the Republican, Johnson and Goldwater, disagreed on the matter of military strength. Johnson said that "we must not stockpile arms beyond our needs or seek an excess of military power that could be provocative as well as wasteful." Goldwater replied, "Our strength doesn't provoke communist aggression -- it only deters it." [270] Goldwater said that, if elected, he wouldn't negotiate with the Soviet Union on the matter of the arms race and disarmamant, because "I don't think negotiations are possible." [267]

Goldwater tried to take back the word "liberals" for those who advocated laissez faire capitalism, historically the first owners of the word. [269] Goldwater proposed that participation in the Social Security program be made voluntary. He had earlier made this proposal in Conscience of a Conservative.[269]

One of Goldwater's campaign remarks is still quoted frequently: "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

Like Buckley, Goldwater also took steps to distance himself from the John Birch Society. In reference to Welch's pamphlet The Politician, which made the assertion that President Dwight Eisenhower was a Communist, [153] Goldwater told Welch that such reckless statements "will do great damage to the conservative cause," and he advised Welch, "If you were smart, you'd burn every copy you have." [154]

One of the fascinating features of the book is the way Perlstein transports us back to particular weeks in history, by describing cultural developments alongside the political events. Consider, for example, the following sequence. After a description several racist speeches by George Wallace [317-320] we have a description of the exhibits at the 1964 World's Fair in New York City. [327-328] The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) expelled its entire Brooklyn, New York chapter for planning relatively theatrical means of protest, such as having the 2,500 cars of volunteers "run out of gas" on the Van Wyck Expressway, and to call attention to poverty in black communities by releasing sacks of rats at a speech by President Lyndon Johnson. [328-329] Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, co-stars of the recent movie Cleopatra, abandoned their spouses and married each other, to which Pope Paul VI responded by issuing new statements against divorce and remarriage. [330] Nelson Rockefeller, now out of the presidential race, campaigned for Henry Cabot Lodge. [330-331]

In this way, the book is not merely the story of Barry Goldwater's campaign, but a spotlight that scans the telling cultural events at a time when a new kind of conservatism and a new kind of liberalism sprouted and clashed.

48 illustrations. 33-page 2-column index.

Reviewed by Mike Lepore for

Before the Storm : Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus , by Rick Perlstein
Please select an edition to check the price and shipping information
March 2001, 671 Pages
April 2002, 688 pages

Book description from the publisher's press release

Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm tells the story of the rise of the conservative movement in the liberal 1960's -- a story that, until this book, had never been told. The figure at the heart of the story is Barry Goldwater, the handsome renegade Republican from Arizona who loathed the federal government, despised liberals on sight, and mocked "peaceful coexistence" with the USSR. But Perlstein's narrative shines a light on a whole world of conservatives and their antagonists, including William F. Buckley, Nelson Rockefeller, and Bill Moyers. Vividly, thrillingly written, Before the Storm is already recognized as an essential book about the 1960s.

About the author

Rick Perlstein was born in 1969 and writes for The Nation, The New York Observer, The New York Times and other publications. Before the Storm, his first book, was selected by The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and The Washington Post for their year-end "notable book" lists. Perlstein was named one of The Village Voice's Writers on the Verge in 2000 and has received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for independent scholars. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.


"One of the most stylish, riveting achievements in narrative history to appear in years."

--Mark Greif, The Village Voice

"Perlstein is a gifted writer and a talented storyteller. His sweeping narrative amounts to nothing less than a social history of modern conservatism."

-- Steven M. Gillon, Chicago Tribune

"Combining prodigious research with journalistic flair, Rick Perlstein ... has produced a detailed and dramatic narrative of the rise of the modern right .... It's an amazing story, and Perlstein, a man of the left, does it justice."

-- William Kristol, The New York Times Book Review

"Before the Storm is smart and lively, and the description is delightfully thick ... The point of Rick Perlstein's animated re-creation of the Goldwater campaign is that Barry Goldwater is as much a man of the 1960s as Abbie Hoffman or Malcolm X, and, what's more, his shadow looms a good deal larger than theirs."

-- Louis Menand, The New Yorker

"Writing with the authority of an academic historian and the dash of a journalist, Mr. Perlstein manages to break free of the partisan idèes reçues and doctrinal laziness that typify so much writing on recent history. There is something independent, un-bought-out and, in the best sense, radical about this book."

-- Christopher Caldwell, The New York Observer

"Occasionally a book comes along which causes historians to rethink an entire era. Rick Perlstein's remarkable Before the Storm is such an achievement: elegantly written, copiously researched, brimming with fresh anecdotes. Perlstein illuminates how conservatism erupted into a mass political movement while the academic scholars and media pundits were embracing Great Society Liberalism and Counterculture Despair. A truly landmark study."

-- Douglas Brinkley, author of The Unfinished Presidency :
Jimmy Carter's Journey Beyond the White House

"Anyone who has read Perlstein's wonderfully colorful account of the Goldwater nomination and his subsequent defeat in November 1964 will be sorry that the book stops there ... Let us hope that Perlstein is already at work on another book about it all."

-- William A. Rusher, National Review

"Offer[s] much background on the remarkable fact of contemporary politics: most of our major political institutions ... are today owned by the right, although, issue by issue, the causes of the right are unpopular ... Perlstein has a nose for pungent detail. It is hard to imagine that he has missed any interesting or delicious fact about Goldwater or his circle of devotees."

-- Todd Gitlin, Boston Review

"Perlstein is such a great storyteller -- one of the most enjoyable historians I've ever read."

-- Robert Sherrill, The Nation

"One of the finest studies of the American right to appear since the days of Hofstadter. Read it and understand where the mad public faiths of our own day came from."

--Thomas Frank, editor of The Baffler and author of One Market Under God

"Perlstein retells this story with energy and skill ... His vibrant, detailed narrative moves swiftly and brings a large cast to life."

-- Sam Tanenhaus, The New Republic

"Comprehensive and compelling .... The heart of Perlstein's lengthy book is his colorful account of the intellectual giants, the canny political operatives, and the far-out fellow travelers in the conservative cause."

-- Richard S. Dunham, Business Week

"Before the Storm is told dazzlingly. Perlstein re-creates the social and cultural milieu that gave rise to the conservative movement with earned authority and easy patience ... Insightful, gracefully written, well-paced and sympathetic to its central characters' motivations."

-- Michael Tomasky, Newsday

"Perlstein's narrative ... is never less than compelling, brilliantly researched and reported."

-- Sara Scribner and David Daley, The Hartford Courant

"Although conservative Republicans suffered a humiliating defeat in 1964, the principles they had embraced and the organization they had built endured, soon to bring them local, state and then national victories. Perlstein tells this story with energy and insight, and in lively prose."

-- Gary Gerstle, Dissent

"Finally, a gifted writer has told the full story of the difficult birth and exuberant adolescence of the conservative movement that went on to transform American politics. Rick Perlstein's indispensable history is stuffed with wit, learning, and drama. After reading it, you will never think of the 1960s in the same way again."

-- Michael Kazin, co-author of America Divided : The Civil War of the 1960s

Before the Storm : Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus , by Rick Perlstein
Please select an edition to check the price and shipping information
March 2001, 671 Pages
April 2002, 688 pages

Book review by reprinted with permission

Not every presidential election is worth a book more than a quarter-century after the last ballot has been counted. The 1964 race was different, though, and author Rick Perlstein knows exactly why. That year, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, a Democrat, trounced his opponent, Barry Goldwater, a Republican senator from Arizona, in a blowout of historic proportions. The conservative wing of the GOP, which had toiled for so long as the minority partner in a coalition dominated by more liberal brethren, finally had risen to power and nominated one of its own, only to see him crash in terrible splendor. It looked like a death, but it was really a birth: a harrowing introduction to politics that would serve conservatives well in the years ahead as they went on to great success. Conservatives learned a lot in 1964:

"It was learning how to act: how letters got written, how doors got knocked on, how co-workers could be won over on the coffee break, how to print a bumper sticker and how to pry one off with a razor blade; how to put together a network whose force exceeded the sum of its parts by orders of magnitude; how to talk to a reporter, how to picket, and how, if need be, to infiltrate -- how to make the anger boiling inside you ennobling, productive, powerful, instead of embittering."

These were practical lessons that anybody in politics must pick up. For conservatives, the rough indoctrination came in 1964, and Perlstein (who is not a conservative) tells their story in detail and with panache. Before the Storm is not a history of conservative ideas (for that, read The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America, by George Nash), but a chronicle of how these ideas began to matter in politics. The victory of Ronald Reagan in 1980 -- to say nothing of Newt Gingrich in 1994 and George W. Bush in 2000 -- might not have been possible without the glorious failure of Barry Goldwater in 1964. As Perlstein writes, "You lost in 1964. But something remained after 1964: a movement. An army. An army that could lose a battle, suck it up, regroup, then live to fight a thousand battles more."

-- John J. Miller

Before the Storm : Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus , by Rick Perlstein
Please select an edition to check the price and shipping information
March 2001, 671 Pages
April 2002, 688 pages

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