William Buckley’s Headquarters on John Lindsay’s Big Night


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November 11, 1965, Vol. XI, No. 4

They Burned Their Draft Cards

[Caption] THEY BURNED THEIR DRAFT CARDS on Saturday at Union Square in protest against America’s role in Vietnam. The protesters — facing long terms in jail — are James Wilson, Marc Paul Edelman, Thomas Cornell, David McReynolds (all shown above), and Roy Lisker. Supporting them were the 80-year-old pacifist A.J. Muste and Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker. Their bitter, very vocal opponents stood across the street, the two sides kept apart by police. [See below for photos of the counterprotest.]

Night of the Dream That Didn’t Make It

By Paul Cowan

Early in the evening at William Buckley’s election-night headquarters in the New Yorker Hotel, a small 15-year-old who looked like an Eagle Scout was describing the way he had converted his liberal parents to conservatism. Around him, on seats in the ballroom, at a bar that had been reserved for conservatives, Buckley’s supporters were already jubilant. Abe Beame was ahead and Buckley was drawing a substantial vote.

“I joined the Young Americans for Freedom last year in time for the Goldwater election,” the boy was saying, “and it was the hardest thing to get my parents to go along. I began to flood our house with literature, but that didn’t work very well. So I began to use my tape recorder to splice speeches. I got some real weirdo effects. Like once, by putting phrases from different talks together, I had Hubert Humphrey saying, ‘I am a die-hard Communist and a supporter of the Communist Party.” My parents didn’t know what I had done; when I played the tape for them they thought it was a real speech. They voted for Goldwater. It was really neat.”

…Toward 11 o’clock, as Beame’s lead began to slip and Buckley’s vote settled down four percentage points below the pollsters’ forecasts, the ballroom grew increasingly quiet. There were angry outbursts whenever a new Lindsay surge was announced, but otherwise people seemed depressed. Buckley’s older supporters began to go home to bed, and young hippies joined the crowd. It seemed as if they were going from headquarters to headquarters, making the scene, as if election night were New Year’s Eve.

…As we talked, the rest of the room was getting quieter. Lindsay was securely in front, and the people were beginning to flood away. At that point the candidate made his entrance, and quickly the atmosphere changed. There were screams and squeals, men and women climbed on top of chairs, straddled each other’s shoulders, to get a better look. Previously passive faces were transformed and transfixed, rapt. Even the smell in the room changed — it was spicier, fleshier than it had been through the entire night of weak drinks, half-finished cigarettes, doused hopes.

On the speaker’s platform Buckley went through his repertoire of gestures: lightly and repeatedly he passed his hand through his thin, blond hair; from time to time his blue eyes spun upwards, his eyebrows arched. His smile was detached, as if he were embarrassed by all the fuss. But, seeing him finally, the audience had to demonstrate. “Buckley for Senator.” “Buckley for Governor.” “Buckley for President.” Hand after hand was raised, and everywhere you saw two fingers extended upwards, above tight fists, in replicas of Churchill’s famous “V.” Finally, a little hesitant but clearly delighted, Buckley responded with the same gesture — and a new chain reaction began. The hungry, passionate Buckley supporters, the diffident, acquiescent candidate, the mass of vs, the crashing chants — all in a cause that had gained just a few more votes than Conservative mayoralty candidate Lawrence Gerosa had attracted four years earlier.

Buckley’s talk was brief and a bit pedestrian. He wasn’t yet ready to analyze the votes. The real election-night speech would come later. But he did want to congratulate his supporters on their civic mindedness and citizenship. That was all. He left the platform, pushed his way through the room, and went back to his suite upstairs.

Soon, all but a few of his supporters had left. Half an hour later, some of them were at Lindsay headquarters sharing, for the rest of the evening, in the free food and common excitement.

Letter from William Buckley

Dear Sir:

What the hell, let’s keep the record straight, even though it is unlikely that logicians will turn to Norman Mailer for examples of syllogistic reasoning.

Me: “Will you, John Lindsay, criticize Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., for what he is, a scoundrel and a rogue?”

John Lindsay: “It is hardly for me to criticize Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., since he is supporting Abe Beame.”

Me (in Queens): “John Lindsay has steadfastly refused to identify Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., for what he is , a rogue and a scoundrel.”

Norman Mailer in your pages: “Buckley accuses Lindsay of being in league with Adam Clayton Powell, in a debate, nowhere else, and Lindsday answers, Why no, Mr. Powell has given his support to Mr. Beame, and Buckley is silent on that…a week later he is making the same accusation and they are cheering his words in Queens.”

The enthymeme will not be visible to Mr. Mailer, but those of your readers who also read National Review and are therefore trained in rigorous thought will have no trouble with it.

Answer by Norman Mailer

Dear Bill:

Be a swell, don’t sue.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Go here to see the Paul Cowan article as it originally appeared in print.]