Remembering the 1964 Republican National Convention

12 June 2016
Tom O’Lincoln

It was June 1964 in San Francisco. Republicans were streaming into town. They were to meet at the aptly named Cow Palace.

So were we – the demonstrators. We had taken on the seemingly heartless task of keeping Barry Goldwater out of the White House.

Goldwater was an ultra-conservative and had sworn to use nuclear weapons and decisively escalate the war in Vietnam. The presidential primaries were over, and he was the presumptive nominee. The hard Republican right declared, “In your heart, you know he’s right”.

The liberals replied, “In your guts, you know he’s nuts”. But it was scant consolation.

Down on the convention floor, I was making a discovery. The anti-Goldwater forces of the party had apparently opened the doors to Cow Palace and thrown away the keys.

I led a few chants and waved my placard around. This in turn got me on TV.

The anti-Goldwater forces were pushing for the nomination of governor William Scranton of Pennsylvania. Still full of excitement, I went down to the Scranton headquarters to stuff envelopes –the start of a scurrilous rumour that I was once a member of the young Republicans.

The Scranton push failed and Goldwater was officially nominated. He went on to get thrashed in the election by Lyndon Johnson.

Relieved, I scribbled in my diary: “Goldwater is destroyed”. But he wasn’t. LBJ sent half a million troops to lay waste to Vietnam.

The demonstrators went on to bigger things.

What did I accomplish, enrolling in a liberal capitalist campaign? To stuff envelopes. But five years later I joined a revolutionary organisation. There I learned to organise against the bosses. I never looked back.

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