Ross Douthat has some thoughts about the election, aimed at pro-life folks who are, holding their stomachs and gasping for air, thinking of voting for Trump. It’s a pretty good one; I think he’s getting something like this: A Clinton Presidency will require conservative pro-life forces to refine their message, to resist each predictable assault on Third and Fourth Amendment rights, and will demand that conservatives stop the foolish and damaging doctrinal cannibalism that afflicts them. A Trump victory allows in forces that we don’t want to come into play, who have been exiled for a long time. Lurking behind the scenes is Douthat’s awareness that the “alt-right” component of Trump’s support must be excluded. There are folks who cannot, of course, be shut up; neither should they be listened to. Reading this, I was again reminded of events of over a half century ago, when the still rather young conservative movement looked the John Birch Society in the eye and said, “No.”
There’s a good memoir of those days, early in 1962, by William Buckley, to be found here. Early in 1962, the possible Kennedy-Goldwater election in 1964 was considered a toss up; it would certainly have been interesting and unique. We can only speculate what the effect of the Cuban Missile Crisis later in 1962 would have had on the election, had Kennedy lived; but with Kennedy’s murder in 1963, Lyndon Johnson’s election was assured. What is pertinent to our time, and must occur again, is that clear boundaries were set. Buckley, Kirk, and the others found a way for Goldwater to reject the Birchers and made sure that Robert Welch’s oddities did not become defining characteristics. Something very similar must occur in the aftermath of the election on Tuesday.