RICK PERLSTEIN (AUTHOR, BEFORE THE STORM: BARRY GOLDWATER AND THE UNMAKING OF THE AMERICAN CONSENSUS): Theyre desperately trying to keep the people in the galleries quiet, because this looks like this is going off the rails. This is like the Conservative Woodstock.
CONVENTIONAL WISDOMTHE OUTSIDER REPUBLICAN: 1964
RICK PERLSTEIN: The drama of the 1964 convention starts with 1952. Conservatives were absolutely certain that the convention had been stolen from them. Theyre convinced that they have to take back the party from what they call the Wall Street Republicans, the New York Kingmakers. And they back this guy named Barry Goldwater, who is this cowboy Conservative from Arizona over the moderate Nelson Rockefeller.
ARCHIVAL (ASSOCIATED PRESS):BARRY GOLDWATER : Im returning here to San Francisco today to win in the contest for the nomination of my party.
RICK PERLSTEIN: By the time that the convention rolls around, Barry Goldwater really seems to have sewn up the nomination. But the establishment will not let well enough alone. Theyre trying even at the last minute at the convention to run one of their own: a blue blood governor of Pennsylvania named William Warren Scranton.
TANYA MELICH (POLITICAL RESEARCH DIRECTOR, ABC NEWS, 1964): A lot of the journalists couldnt believe that this fellow out of Arizona with these strong opinions was going to get the nomination.
RICK PERLSTEIN: Goldwater is far to the right of the mainstream and the Republican Party. He votes against the Civil Rights Act, he really seems like hes very reckless when it comes to nuclear war.
ARCHIVAL (REPUBLICAN CONVENTION, LBJ PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY, 1964):CROWD: We want Barry! We want Barry!
RICK PERLSTEIN: The Goldwater campaign is absolutely convinced that unless they basically run this convention with military discipline, the Eastern establishment will steal the Republican Party from the conservative base.
ARCHIVAL (EFOOTAGE, 1964):BARRY GOLDWATER: If there is a victory, its not a victory for Barry Goldwater, its a victory for the mainstream of Republican thinking.
J. WILLIAM MIDDENDORF (TREASURER, GOLDWATER 1964): We were all prepped for weeks in advance of the convention. We had the 36 hotels where delegates were staying. Each one had a radio transmitter right to headquarters. We knew that people would pull the plug on speakers, on microphones we had backup for all that stuff.
RICK PERLSTEIN: Theyre not going to give any quarter when it comes to any platform planks, any procedural rules, theyre just going to vote down the line for Goldwater. Now the liberal side, who are horrified that the public is going to see the Republicans as captive of extremists, decide that theyre going to put forward three platform planks. One promising to uphold the Civil Rights law, another to denounce extremism whether it comes from the Ku Klux Klan or the Communist Party and another denouncing racism. They give these very soaring speeches and the Goldwater delegates just consider this an insult.
TANYA MELICH: So when the famous Rockefeller speech occurs, the galleries erupted.
ARCHIVAL (REPUBLICAN CONVENTION, EFOOTAGE, 1964):NELSON ROCKEFELLER: The Republican Party is in real danger of subversion by a radical, well-financed, highly disciplined majority.CHAIR: May we have order, may we order so that the governor can be heard.CROWD: We want Barry! We want Barry!
TANYA MELICH: It was great drama. here is the, the Governor of the State of New York who had just been a serious candidate for president a millionaire, billionaire being booed by his party.
RICK PERLSTEIN: Rockefeller wants this to happen. He wants the extremism of the Goldwater forces to be revealed for all to see.
J. WILLIAM MIDDENDORF: None of us knew how important television was. Americans were seeing these screaming people.
RICK PERLSTEIN: At a certain point things are so violent the passions against the media are so great they literally start grabbing the spindles that are holding these glass booths for the networks and shaking them.
J. WILLIAM MIDDENDORF: I grew up in the age of silent films. The first taste of radio any of us had was Roosevelts fireside chats. But television hits the emotion.
ARCHIVAL (REPUBLICAN CONVENTION, EFOOTAGE, 1964):PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: Mr. President, Barry Goldwater.
RICK PERLSTEIN: Its the job of the nominee traditionally to give this unifying speech, to kind of usher all that rancor under the bridge. But Barry Goldwater is so sick of these snooty, arrogant, Eastern elites telling him what to do, and treating his delegates like theyre children, that he decides, the hell with it. Thats the context for the most famous line of the convention.
ARCHIVAL (REPUBLICAN CONVENTION, ASSOCIATED PRESS, 1964):BARRY GOLDWATER: I would remind you, that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
RICK PERLSTEIN: The impact of the convention in 1964 was, the moderates in the Republican Party were right. Barry Goldwater was seen as a dangerous extremist.
J. WILLIAM MIDDENDORF: The convention pretty much killed us. I mean, I had a sinking feeling that it was pretty much over. It was mitigated by the roar of the crowds, but thats very misleading. We lost by 15 million votes in the actual election. But Id say because of Goldwaters breaking the ice, so to speak, the conservative movement became very important within the Republican party. After Goldwater, we went on to Reagan.
RICK PERLSTEIN: This idea that the Republican Party is fighting a civil war between a conservative base and a moderate establishment endures today.
TANYA MELICH: The Jeb Bushes of this world are like the old Rockefeller-Scrantons. The difference is that I dont remember Barry Goldwater ever doing all of the nasty things that Trump has said.
RICK PERLSTEIN: Even though a guy whos seen as the right-wing insurgent lives in a high-rise on 5th Avenue, and has many positions that betray conservative orthodoxy, stylistically the template is still there. The idea that you have this small band of string pullers, and the true authentic conservative red meat base it seems like even with the craziness of this election, that basic architecture refuses to die.