Romney & Santorum: Still Channeling Dewey & Goldwater, Throwing Caution to the Crowds & Selling Sex

On the eve of the Michigan and Arizona primaries, the two leading Republican Presidential Candidates, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum may be looking to the future, but they often still look like the past. Specifically, both men strike a tone to their agenda which echoes those of two previous Republican Presidential candidates – who both lost: Thomas Dewey in 1948, and Barry Goldwater in 1964. Renewing these threads of thought from a piece done in October, here’s a brief look back to suggest what looks like ahead….

Mitt W. Romney & Thomas E. Dewey

Efficiently Cautious Northeast Governors

Dewey parsed such vague views he was hit like Mitt with the flip-flop label.

Neither rising nor falling among the pack, Romney’s failure to win the ’08 nomination  fuels his ’12 caution much like nominee Dewey’s election loss in ’44 led to his excessive modulation, and thus loss in ’48. Mitt warning: Dewey’s  honorable refusal to mudsling soured right-wing enthusiasm for him. In a sense, it comes down to acting like a former President before even being elected to become an incumbent President.

What is almost eerie about the way Romney uses assertive voice and body gestures to suggest boldness and throws caution….to the crowds - just like Dewey. Striving to maintain a balance between extremes, Dewey managed to attack Communists and promise to ferret them out, while also protecting their right to exist, drawing the support of nobody except perhaps the most doggedly pro-contradiction:

Rick Santorum & Barry Goldwater

Morality Player

In line with Goldwater’s moral purity, his campaign giveaways were bottled water and cigars – made of bubblegum.

Formal,  immaculately groomed, and depicted as having his trigger-finger on the button to press the atomic bomb, Goldwater shifted all his political views under his larger message of what “was right,” based on a strict morality. While addressing the full range of issues, Santorum has also framed his views (most famously his opposition to same-gender marriage and permitting the military to disclose their sexual preference)  as being directed by “moral code.”

Among the most provocative issue, nothing quite captures public attention like sex – of any kind, even if only to be used by opponents as evidence of a candidate’s obsession with it. This clip below from the Goldwater film “Choice” almost suggests that he’d have outlawed even Playboy.

It goes on at enough of a length and with such salacious detail that if begs the question of whether there was a campaign strategy to actually using “sex”  to promote the candidate against it, on the theory that even prurient attention is good – and if the Santorum media advisers are consciously doing likewise.

Goldwater campaign button popular with liberal and moderate Republicans – and all Democrats.

Goldwater campaign button popular with conservative Republicans.


Categories: History, Politics

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4 replies »

  1. In New Hampshire, shortly before the JFK assassination – I recall a political button reading: “Kennedy for King – Goldwater for President”
    Today, I have friends on the Far Right and the Far Left. The don’t like it when I suggest that in 50 years their differences will be hard if not impossible to detect. Recently, I recycled the Goldwater quote: “Extremism in the Defense of Liberty is No Vice!” to a friend occupied with Occupying Boston. She loved it! She marveled that there was an historical figure who expressed her political views so well.

    • In sum and accordance with your wise and witty words there Mr. Cooke, I’d just say – that’s why more people are discovering the secret of how much more fun it is to be an Independent. All of the perspective and none of the banner-heaving.

  2. Amen to the benefits of being an Independent! Having said that, I loved the president’s speech yesterday where he talked about the “other” values such as helping one another, employment, etc. It’s unfortunate that when the “values” card is generally played, the values in question are those that most impact the individual rather than the whole. I’ll never say that the right has the corner on using such issues to appeal to the worst in us, but at present it certainly seems to be the most adept. Just think of some of the issues the likes of Santorum and his followers consider to be so vitally important! Imagine, people losing their homes, no health care, etc. yet things like the freedom to serve openly in the military or to marry who you want to marry are thought to be of great national import. Oh well, it’s great fun to look back and see that things were ever thus!

    • Having trained for journalism as a profession but earning my way as a self-employed person, being an Independent has turned out to define me more than any other single label except for “writer” and “Carl.” I wouldn’t trade that way of perception for anything. To get to enjoy everything and detach less emotionally. And laugh at the distractions and fume at the hypocrisy of all organized political parties.

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