I had a very exciting time at the Republican National Convention. My conservative allies and I all worked very hard in the presidential election.
When I woke up the day after the election, everything I had worked for appeared to be in ruins. An extreme leftist had been reelected president of the United States.
Some liberal Republicans immediately began to blame newly activated conservatives for the presidential defeat. I knew they were wrong. It was clear to me that these newly active conservatives would be the key to major future victories for conservative principles.
The day was Wednesday, November 4, 1964.
The Republican nominee, Barry Goldwater, had suffered a crushing defeat. He won just six states and 52 votes in the Electoral College. But from the ashes of that loss sprang a vigorous conservative movement.
The conservative movement grew from modest beginnings to become a major force capable of nominating and electing candidates at the local, state, and national level, including Ronald Reagan.
Waves of newly activated conservatives elected Ronald Reagan, broke the Democratic monopoly in the Congress, and were decisive in the thrilling 2010 elections. The influx of new conservatives greatly benefited the Republican Party then, as it has again in recent years.
It would be foolish for conservatives, defeated for now, to form a circular firing squad and start shooting at each other. Each element of our coalition — limited government, free enterprise, strong national defense, and traditional values — has a long and strong background of working together. These principles will lead to victories in the future as they have in the past, as recently as two years ago.
For those disappointed by the results of this year’s presidential election, remember that it is a long ball game. Politics has a natural ebb and flow.
Now is the time to study the lessons of this election and to chart a course for conservatives to win in the future. The stakes could not be higher. The margins of victory in the public policy process may be smaller now than at any other time in American history.
Conservatives must reach out and identify philosophically compatible individuals among the types of people with whom leftist organizers have had the most success.
Seek out the reasonably conservative people, the younger the better, who happen to be in categories long-targeted for organization by the left, people who share our American view of individual rights rather than group rights. Help them deepen their understanding of public policy issues. Many have strong opinions they already share with us. Then undertake systematic, persistent actions to recruit them into the public policy process, teach them political skills, and place them where they can be effective.
Work hard and wisely to increase the number and effectiveness of conservative activists in all categories of people. Do all you can to advance and to protect them. Their success will break the leftist organizers’ near monopolies among people like them.
In closing, let me share with you the most important lesson you will learn at any time in your life about success in the public policy process.
Being right in the sense of being correct is not sufficient to win. The winner in a political contest over time is determined by the number and the effectiveness of the activists and leaders on the respective sides.
You owe it to your philosophy to study how to win. You have a moral obligation to learn how to win.
That was the clinching argument Goldwater conservatives used to revive the power of conservative principles in America in 1964. I know you will find it helpful today.
Conservatives can and will win big again in presidential elections. But first we must learn from our experience, do what must be done, and study diligently to become ever more effective.
You have fought for good causes before. I pray you’ll continue your fight for good causes now. Victories may be just around the corner.
On Twitter: @MortonBlackwell. This piece ran in the Washington Times on November 15, 2012.