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February 13, 2013

Reinterpreting The "Buckley Rule" To Argue For Nelson Rockefeller Over Barry Goldwater

Spend enough time on the internet and you'll see everything.

Avik Roy writing at National Review's The Corner takes on one of conservatism's most sacred cows.

But itís worth pointing out that the landslide defeat of Goldwater to Lyndon Johnson led to the enactment of the Great Society, and most notably, Medicare and Medicaid. In other words, the very fiscal crisis we face today ó for which, at our most courageous, we recommend but modest reforms ó was a direct result of the disastrous Goldwater campaign.

We may all prefer the policies of Goldwater to those of Rockefeller. But itís at least debatable whether or not the conservative movement was better off, or worse off, for having nominated Barry Goldwater in 1964. Indeed, the 1964 election may be the most salient example of what happens when we donít pick the most conservative candidate who can win.

This is heresy of the highest order to conservatives. Personally, I find anyone who doesn't have a bit of heresy in their arsenal but I prefer it to be somewhat more grounded in reality.

My biggest problem with this formulation is that in the aftermath of John F. Kennedy's assassination Rockefeller had any more of a chance against Lyndon Johnson than Barry Goldwater did. There's simply no reason to believe that's true.

I pointed this out to Roy and he replied

Aside from the movement of the goal posts this ignores a major fact.... despite popular belief the Social Security Act amendments of 1965 that created Medicare and Medicaid passed with significant (near majority) support of Republicans in Congress.
The House adopted a conference report -- a unified House-Senate version of the bill -- on July 27, 1965, and passed it by a 307-116 margin. That included 70 Republican "yes" votes, against 68 "no" votes.

Then, on July 28, 1965, the Senate adopted the bill by a vote of 70-24, with 13 Republicans in favor and 17 against. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it two days later.

How would the nomination of the more liberal and thus more "electable" Rockefeller have led to more conservative Republicans in Congress?

More inconvenient for Roy's argument is Rockefeller supported the creation of Medicare before the 64 election.

When the second session of the 88th Congress convened in January 1962, a major administration push for Medicare got underway. Reports at that time indicated that the President's strategy was to obtain floor action in both houses of Congress, if possible, even if there were not enough votes for passage. The President was said to have concluded that the issue was popular with the voters (Gallup polls showed public support running as high as 69 percent); in the fall campaign, the President was expected to make Medicare his "cutting edge issue"-- the symbol of his whole New Frontier program.

As the session progressed, a feeling of optimism developed among Medicare supporters. The polls continued to show strong public approval. Grass-roots pressures continued to build and mail from constituents was running heavy and favorable. The President was regularly questioned about Medicare in his press conferences. Other administration spokesmen maintained a busy speechmaking schedule. Indications that the administration was willing to make reasonable compromises also improved the congressional attitude, as did a disappointing report, in May, on the first 18 months of the Kerr-Mills Act. The report showed that only a little more than half the States had put the program into operation and only 88,000 elderly people had been helped, mainly in four States.

Another hopeful sign was a split among Republicans and hints of flexibility on the part of the AMA. First, Representative Frank T. Bow (Republican of Ohio) introduced a bill (H.R. 10755) to grant income tax credits of up to $125 a year for persons over age 65, toward the purchase of specified types of private health insurance. (Those who paid less than $125 a year in taxes would have received compensatory "certificates" from the Government.) Soon afterward, Representative John V. Lindsay (Republican of New York) introduced a bill (H.R. 11253) on behalf of Governor Nelson Rockefeller embracing the social security financing mechanism but including a private insurance option. Even more significant was a similar shift by a group of Republicans in the Senate, led by Senator Javits. This group introduced a new bill (S. 2664), calling for social security financing of a program providing three benefit options, one of which, as in the Lindsay bill, would have permitted beneficiaries to use private insurance. (24)

The ever helpful "moderates" always splitting the Republicans to help the liberals.

As Governor,Rockefeller was an early proponent for NY joining Medicaid and not surprisingly he loved to spend.

These federal dollars are a huge incentive for states to expand their health-care initiatives. And when Medicaid was new, nobody extended his hand to the federal till more enthusiastically than New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, who wanted his state to offer the most lavish Medicaid benefits in the country. Rocky also asked New York cities and counties to contribute half of the programís nonfederal costsómeaning that state lawmakers could drive up spending using federal and local dollars without assuming the full brunt of the fiscal or political cost. Medicaid spending immediately shot far beyond even Rockefellerís grandiose expectations. In 1966, his administration estimated that annual Medicaid costs would be $80 million; by 1969, they had exploded to $330 million.

This is who Roy thinks is a cautionary tale in the moderate vs. conservative debate?

If we're going to drag history into today's Establishment vs. tea party wars, at least let's be accurate about that history.

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posted by DrewM. at 01:32 PM

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