Thus, we come to the bicentennial election in the Republican party. It is doubtful if any Republican could have won the election after the shameful resignation of Richard Nixon, who, when all is said and done, really was a crook. Certainly Gerald Ford, who had just pardoned Nixon for any “high crimes and misdemeanors” he might have committed during his wretched career of war and political dirty tricks, was the least likely to win the hearts and minds of an outraged public at the polls. The GOP pros, with Sen. Dole leading, were loath to admit the villainy of the Nixon years and wanted to keep Ford in place, particularly since he was a not-too-sharp party loyalist whose performance on the Warren Commission commended his lack of curiosity.
But many of the Birch Society fringe and other leftover enthusiasts for Barry Goldwater and his old school conservatism weren’t having any. They mustered behind the media-tailored candidacy of Ronald Reagan, whose nationally syndicated radio commentaries had delivered him the governorship of California. Given a script, carefully crafted by such worthies as William Safire and Pat Buchanan, Reagan could sell anything, including his “morning in America” and “shining city on a hill” fantasies.
The Kansas City convention was bitter, with Reagan backers closing down the proceedings with hundreds of cheap plastic toy trumpets blown in a continuous low cacophony to protest the pending rigged vote for Ford. Ford, as you recall, lost to Carter, whose somewhat naïve attempts to reform government warned us of impending national moral “malaise.” Thanks to Ted Kennedy’s back-stabbing challenge to his sitting president, Reagan and his insurgent coalition of the disappointed and the neo-fascists came back to beat Carter in 1980 and it’s all been downhill since.
The prospect of Denver being a brawl, dividing the party into angry factionalist cliques, is all too real. If Clinton manages to capture the nomination it may set the stage for a political movement similar to Reagan’s resurgence, with the “new politics” of hope in place of the John Wayne wannabe machismo of the “great communicator.” As Fats Waller observed, “One never knows, do one?”
Travus T. Hipp” is a 40-year veteran radio commentator with six stations in California carrying his daily version of the news and opinions. "The Poor Hippy’s Paul Harvey,” Travus is a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views.