The New g.o.p

An outstanding victor among the Republican vanquished in the 1964 elections was CONGRESSMAN JOHN YLIET LINDSAY of the 17th (“Silk Stocking”) District in strongly Democratic New York City. A tall, dynamic man of forty-three, a graduate of St. Paul’s and Yale, he practiced law in Manhattan and served in the Justice Department in the Eisenhower Administration before entering politics. In November, he won his fourth term with a smash: of the 189,000 votes cast in his constituency, he collected 71 percent. Lindsay’s dramatic victory has, in the minds of many, marked him as a contender for bigger things, perhaps mayor of New York City or that historic launching pad, the governorship of New York state. In this interview with Robert Manning, the ATLANTIC’S executive editor, Mr. Lindsay discusses the future of his parly.



Q. You have reason to feel highly pleased with the results in your own election contest, but your party is obviously in serious difficulty. Are you optimistic about its chances for quick revival?

A. To say “serious difficulty” is to put it mildly. The Republican Party is a pile of rubble at this moment. There will be a hard and long struggle within the party as we try to put ourselves back on the track. But our recovery is indispensable for the two-party system. If there is going to be a decent, constructive opposition, which our government needs in order to function properly, it is going to take a good deal of work on the part of the survivors in the Republican Party. The moderates in particular will have to make a great effort and will have to prevail.

Q. In the face of all that has happened, can the moderate Republicans muster enough strength?

A. Yes. There will be some bloodshed; there will be battles, but they won’t be permanently crippling. Some are going to lose out. When people warn against rocking the boat, I have to smile. How can you rock a boat that’s already sunk. How else can you look at it?

There is no doubt about the fact that the party needs new leadership. I can’t put a finger on any one test that will provide it, whether at the national party level, the national committee level, or in the congressional leadership. It will take a lot of new energy, and younger men will have to be used. In time there will be changes throughout the entire party power structure. Changes chiefly come when new candidates run.

Certainly the national committee is one place where there will have to be housecleaning, and there probably will be reorganization in the Congress itself. One of the first problems is, What will the Right do now that it has lost the election? The Right is still a militant organization, and there may be unexpected turns. There could be ironies in some of them. For example, the Goldwater people seem to have decided (before the election, at least) that the House leader, Charles Halleck, was too moderate — hardly believable, but true. Therefore the pressure to get him out was generating from the Right. This could mean a three-cornered rather than a two-sided fight over the party’s House leadership. The Senate situation is a little different. One of the most important moderates is Senator Kuchel of California, and it may develop that the one who will save Senator Kuchel as Minority Whip will be Senator Dirksen, the Minority Leader. Q. Twenty-six million Americans voted for Goldwater, and some of them must have done so because they believed in what he offered. Governor Romney, one of the outstanding survivors of the debacle, says that you don’t broaden the party by kicking a lot of people out. Do you think it is possible to unite on a program that still holds the loyalty of the Goldwaterites?

A. If you mean conservatives by “Goldwaterites,” sure. The Democratic Party finds it possible to accommodate such diverse elements; for example, it has Senator Eastland of Mississippi under its big umbrella, and with his seniority he is chairman of one of the most powerful committees in the Senate. The Democratic Party consistently elevates to chairmanships eleven out of thirteen of its most conservative members. It will do so again. I don’t think that the Republicans will find it necessary to go this far, but the party must be flexible enough for honest differences. That was the trouble with the San Francisco convention — for the first time in modern history one of the two major parties refused to have a consensus. It deliberately drove the liberals out. But not for long.

Q. After his defeat Mr. Goldwater said that twenty-six million Americans voted for a Republican philosophy that the Republican Party must cling to in the years ahead. Do you agree?

A. What he is saying is, Twenty-six million Americans voted for my philosophy; therefore I am right. Apart from the faulty logic in this, were we to adopt that premise, we would be inviting voters to keep the Republicans down and out for years to come. the Democratic Party let William Jennings Bryan do precisely that to it earlier in this century. Well, we must not let it happen to the Republican Party. The American people decided that they did not want the national Republican ticket offered them last November, and an overwhelming number of Republicans joined in that decision. Let me give you examples. In Texas, the people swept out the two congressmen who were the most ardent in their advocacy of Goldwater and Goldwaterism — ardent before the convention, during it, and after. Vermont went two to one for Johnson. In upstate and suburban New York, seven congressmen lost; each of them was a hard campaigner for Goldwater and his philosophy. What does this mean? It means that the country has spoken, and Goldwater has been rejected. Nobody suggested in 1936 that Alf Landon had a mandate following his crushing defeat.

Q. You feel, then, that the one beneficial outcome of the November defeat may be to compel the Republicans to produce fresh ideas and a new approach to the nation’s problems?

A. Absolutely. I don’t hold with the old nonsense about me-tooism. We Republicans can offer plenty of alternatives to the principles and the programs offered by Lyndon Johnson.

High on the list of inclispensables is the health of our cities, which are dying by slow strangulation. Our transportation is a nightmare. Then there are the problems of unemployment and automation and the population explosion. Solutions are needed for the contradiction of overabundance in certain farm areas and underabundance in others. We surely must find alternatives to the present appalling overinvestment of our national resources, and indeed even our national psychology, in the military machine — the danger President Eisenhower warned about when he left office: the threat that our society will be forever deformed or distorted out of balance by the industrial-military complex. Issues like this were never even mentioned during the presidential campaign.

Q,. What would you like to see done about that imbalance?

A. We could trim and cut back in certain areas as a simple matter of priorities. There is a lot of waste in the military apparatus of the United States, a lot of waste in the draft, a good deal of waste in the Reserve program, and, God knows, great waste in the bricks and mortar of the whole machine. Some of our crash programs for space can be severely re-examined. There are many things crying to be done in the domestic field that cannot be done because of all the treasure and energy we are putting into the military machine.

T do not minimize the need for a defense program that fits us for our tremendous commitments around the world, and I recognize the ferocity with which missile-age defense draws on our resources. And defense is not the only place to consider fresh alternatives to the present use of our resources. In our agricultural program, for example, the amount of money that goes into research on the potato exceeds that spent for research on urban renewal, yet 75 percent of our people today live in urban and suburban areas.

Q. The Republicans still argue, do they not, for less government, for less federal spending, for more states’ rights? In the course of rebuilding, aren’t you going to have to scrutinize a lot of Republican cliches that antedate Goldwater?

A. There will be a great deal of re-examination. Rather than “states’ rights,” I prefer to talk about “states’ obligations.” Our major problems today cannot be solved in the arbitrary framework of a state or a county or a municipal unit. Some of those who argue most loudly for states’ rights and freedom from Washington are, back in those states, the ones who oppose picking up the obligation that goes with the rights. This has always been true. The greatest resistance to Governor Rockefeller’s tax increase in New York to enable the state to provide needed services came from those who protested against the federal government’s providing those services.

States can no longer solve things independently. New York, for example, can’t solve its air pollution problem alone, because the solution depends on what is done simultaneously by New Jersey and Connecticut. California can’t solve its water problem without taking into consideration Arizona’s water problem, and vice versa. And none of the Southwest states can make certain dispositions of water without taking Mexico into consideration.

Look at the highways. The federal government provides ninety percent of the cost of new highways, yet by building them Washington is further contributing to the filth and deterioration of our cities. Theoretically, a state or a county can reject such dubious bounty, but in fact it cannot resist the pressures. They will be building a highway through the middle of Manhattan soon. Manhattan needs such a roadway about as badly as it needs the return of Boss Tweed. They — someone, somewhere — should have been planning rail transit years ago.

Q. But isn’t this the sort of thing Lyndon Johnson has promised for his Great Society?

A. Well, I’m not at all sure that his colleagues in the Administration yet know what they mean by the Great Society. The only program they actually talk about is medicare. We should have such a medical program for the aged, but we should have alternatives, too, instead of just the King-Anderson program. There should be a way to bring private enterprise into partnership; Senator Javits of New York and I have made suggestions, and I think it can be done. Anyway, in general I am not sure the Democrats have a clear idea of what to do with the large congressional majority they have.

The state of our alliance with Europe is one of disarray, for example, I have a particular interest in Atlantic affairs, and as a long-standing delegate to the NATO Parliamentarians Conference, I follow all Alliance developments closely, working with British and European legislators. If the Administration in Washington has any practical notion about how to halt the deterioration of the Alliance and to bring us and Europe into a sense of harmonious purpose again, I have not heard it. There is no discernible Administration thinking about the broad question of what the United States should do to take advantage of the situation created by the split within the Communist world.

Q. But are you satisfied that there is sufficient Republican initiative in all these matters?

A. Not at all. But I mention these as some of the areas where the Republicans can legitimately provide healthy and constructive debate. This is even more important now that the minority on the Hill has been reduced to a handful.

Q. In view of the heavy Democratic plurality in the Congress and in several state legislatures, are you worried about the possibility of what Tocqueville called “tyranny of the majority”?

A. I think that remains to be seen, but my hunch is that the Democrats are going to have about as much difficulty as before. That’s because the rules of the organization, and the seniority system and its power structure, make problems for the Democrats, and there seems to be no disposition to reorganize the Congress. Add to that the built-in constitutional separation of powers and the pride that the Congress takes in its own independence. Those factors play upon each other to create real checks and balances on what the Executive orders.

Q. Turning to civil rights: it seems to be established now that the much-talked-about white backlash was not important in the election, and at the same time the President collected almost the unanimous Negro and pro-civil-rights vote. Won’t the Republicans have to take a more aggressive approach to civil rights?

A. This will be one of the fiercest battlegrounds of the struggle within the Republican Party; but I am sure of the outcome. We Republicans are not going to give up our rightful claim to be the party of civil rights, the protectors of civil rights. Until Senator Goldwater voted against the civil rights bill, the Republican claims were giant in this area. In fact, it was because of the constructive work of Republicans in the Congress that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was possible, and only because of Republican pressures that the Administration finally submitted legislation. I recognize the fact that we lost great ground among Negro voters because of the aberrations of this last campaign. That ground will have to be regained. In 1910, Theodore Roosevelt said — and I used this in my campaign — “While the Republican Party may be beaten even if it stands for progressive policies, it will surely be beaten, and what is more, deserve to be beaten, if it does not.” What I am trying to say is that the Republican Party in its tradition and history has had the best to offer in the country. You can’t throw a heritage like that away in one campaign.

Q. Do you think, then, that a large majority of the party is struck by the irony of the situation in which the party of Lincoln winds up with little more than the electoral votes of five unreconstructed Southern states?

A. It is ironic and infuriating. But change can come quickly; don’t forget what happened in 1952 and 1956, only eight years ago, when Eisenhower won handsomely beeause the country approved of the man and his policies — and the Republicans had been out of office for twenty years, except for a short period of time in the Congress. I think this can change very fast providing a lot of hard work is done by a lot of young men. The future of both parties has got to be determined by young men.

Q. What will that mean to the Republican standbys like Romney, Rockefeller, and Nixon? What role do you foresee for Scranton?

A. They will all be needed, each in his own way. All I can hope is that the high-ranking Republicans who have been active in the past will want to join forces with the younger men who are so eager to bring drive to the Republican Party.

Q. By younger men you mean people like Robert Taft of Ohio and Charles Percy ol Illinois, who went down in this debacle?

A. Yes. their talents have to be widely recognized and used. Taft and Percy are very good men.

Q. What about legislative reapportionment?

A. Reapportionment doesn’t bother me, and it won’t hurt the party if the Republicans run decent candidates and campaigns in the suburbs, This is the area where federal representation is going to grow. Some people think that growth is all going to come out of the big, central cities, which is not the case. The big cities will have greater representation in most areas of the United States, but the biggest growth will be in the suburbs; and if the Republicans run realistic candidates who are energetic and progressive, they will win.

Q. Will there be any deliberate effort in the hierarchy to avoid the stigma of “Eastern domination.‟ which was such a useful club for the Goldwater advocates in the fight for the presidential nomination?

A. It’s foolish to think in those terms at the moment for one clear reason; and that is, we are starting almost from scratch. Republicans across the country and all other Americans who want the Republican Party to recover — becouse they want the two-party system to stand —think that you have a balance of issues here, and that it is silly to care whether a man is from the East or the Far West. We have to develop a consensus and pull together if we are to rebuild a party through strength. I am thinking of the millions of commonsense realists in the United States who are Republicans and were ignored on this trip.

When I went on television after the returns were in, I said I looked forward to working with likeminded Republicans, and I was immediately deluged with messages from all over the United States. Before the convention, I spoke in twelve states for Rockefeller and Scranton. I could see as I traveled from state to state that the Republican machinery had already been captured, and I was worried and troubled because of it; and the people I talked to in those communities knew it, and they were troubled too. Yes, the people, the material for our party’s resurgence, are there.

Q. There is one question you have been asked

repeatedly, and which I’d like to bring up again: considering your position on most important issues, wouldn’t you really be more comfortable in the Democratic Party?

A. The answer to that is no, emphatically. Having grown up in New York City and having seen what Tammany Hall and the Democratic machine have made of that city, I could not go along with them. The city has had bad government, which has turned it into a second-class place, and I think that on its record the Republican Party offers more responsible government, more moderate government, and better government. There are always political clichés, but there is one in which the Republicans believe that they make good — that is, in the party’s past dedication to the individual. In this age of massive threats, big government, big institutions, and the organizational way of life, we are sliding more and more into easy acceptance of encroachments on our rights as individuals. Look at the ease with which invasions of privacy through wiretapping and other means are countenanced. Look at the recent spectacle of Pentagon security officers applying lie detectors to government officials, even the Deputy Secretary of Defense, to track down a news leak. It is a lot more than political phrasemaking to say that Republicanism in its proper conception stands for the individual, for the particular person with his own life to lead.

Second, the Republican Party with its history — forgotten in the campaign — has understood that the original and most important function of the federal government as the knitter of our system of separate states is to safeguard the individual from the possible tyranny of large majorities. This is the meaning of civil rights and, in part, of the Bill of Rights.

Third, the Republican Party should be best fitted to energize and to see the special genius and power of the American free enterprise system for the solution of national and, indeed, international problems.

The free enterprise system must be respected and invited to work with the government. Neither should dominate the other. A Democratic Administration if unchecked tends increasingly to permit the government to dominate. The Republican Party when properly oriented should be best equipped to keep the balance. Here, again, this was hardly articulated in the campaign.

I’m for the Republican Party and would like to help pull it back to a moderate and progressive course. Look at the election returns. Republicans in overwhelming numbers voted for moderate Republicans, voted for the philosophy that I among others advocate.

Q. Who are some of the younger Republicans around the country for whom you foresee a bigger role in the party?

A. I hesitate to mention names because of the risk of important omissions. There are, of course, men like Governors Romney, Hatfield, Scranton, and Rockefeller. I think Percy of Illinois and Taft in Ohio, even though they were defeated, have roles to play and will surely be heard from. In the state of Washington there is a young new governor, Daniel Evans. There is my former colleague in the House, Bill Avery, now to be the governor of Kansas. He’s one of the moderate Republicans of the type who survived the avalanche. There is Governor John Chafee of Rhode Island, who won spectacularly. There are congressmen like Conte and Morse of Massachusetts, Mailliard and Bell of California, Mosher ofOhio, Stafford of Vermont, Mathias of Maryland, Robison, Horton, and Reid of New York, all young men. Then we have Senators Kuchel of California, Case of New Jersey, Javits of New York, Cooper and Morton of Kentucky. We have many good young men who have ability and a great deal to offer. In the House, I belong to an informal group, the Wednesday Club, consisting of thirteen members, all of moderate stripe, and the membership is now in the process of expanding. We have invited some of the new congressmen to join us, and they have accepted with alacrity.

Q. There has been renewed talk, as frequently happens after an election, of the tremendous advantage of power that falls to the incumbent party in this country.

A. It is an obstacle, but it is not impossible to overcome. For all the power at his command, Lyndon Johnson, when he begins to work it out, may present a program full of holes; he may be more vulnerable than you think. If we perform the necessary surgery on ourselves and get together on the right kind of program, we Republicans will find many opportunities to work with. I really think that if the moderates work hard and do the job they must do, and spend as much time and sacrifice as they have to, you will see a great upturn in Republican fortunes in a relatively short period of time. By 1968, the Johnson Administration should be facing an entirely different kind of opposition. This was really a “no contest” election for the Johnson Administration. They will be facing a real contest in 1968, depending on the willingness of the Republican young men and women of the center to bend themselves to the effort.

Q. It is plain from everything you have said that what isípresented by the Republican Party and its candidates in sixty-six and sixty-eight will be a different program, presented by different people, than in 1964.

A. That’s my opinion, but of course it is going to require a tremendous effort and a huge amount of work on the part of the Republican moderates; and it will not happen without wrenches and bloodshed and differences among ourselves. We are going to be witness to some colliding ambitions. But that’s OK. It’s healthy and necessary.

Q. Are you disturbed at all about the persistence after the election of some of the bitterness that marked San Francisco and the campaign, an emotion which seemed to go far deeper than simply a party issue, and which — not always with formal Republican endorsement —relied on such books as None Dare Call It Treason, which questions the very patriotism and morality of many leading Americans and portrays our freely elected government as traitorous?

A. That was very bad stuff, an attack on everybody. I was hit by a lot of that in the campaign myself. But this element in our politics has received a devastating setback. The conservative party candidate threw a lot of very raw stuff at me, much of it amounting to an attack on the Eisenhower Administration. But the conservative party candidate received only 9500 votes; I received 135.000. By the same token, all over the country the candidates of the Right were defeated, and the Republican moderates who stood up to them, and to stout Democratic opposition, were elected. This means that the people were saying something. They were giving us a message.

I’d like to go back to the question of how the Republicans can effectively oppose the Democratic program. There is a certain amount of truth in the old saying that the Democrats are very good at elections but not very good at running government, and that’s true in many states also, I don’t know what is going to happen in New York state with a Democratic-controlled majority in the legislature. The Republicans have provided, generally speaking, excellent government in New York. Voters everywhere are careful; they are more and more discerning. If the Republicans run good candidates and offer programs that are sensible and attractive and reflect the realities of the country and the world, they will win and go on to good government.

Q. A lot of people talk about the likelihood some day in the not too distant future of a political collision between you and your new senator, Robert Kennedy. Is it in the cards?

A. I don’t have any idea. I rather doubt it, but I have no idea. The future will tell.