How I got into the 1964 Republican National Convention

This question has come up several times in the past few days, so I will tell the story.

In 1964, I was a student at the University of California at Berkeley, majoring in math. I saw a sign posted on the campus which said: "Anybody who wants to attend the Republican National Convention should show up in front of the ASUC Student Union Building at the corner of Bancroft and Telegraph tomorrow morning at 7:00 AM."

I decided to go and showed up there. There were four or five large chartered buses waiting to take students to the convention. What they had not told us was that everybody in the group that was going was going to have to wear a Scranton hat and carry a Scranton sign. We all had to sign an agreement to this effect. Then, after signing, we were given a Scranton hat and a Scranton sign, before we got on the bus to take us to the convention.

Governor William W. Scranton of Pennsylvania was a last resort candidate to stop Barry Goldwater from receiving the Republican Presidential Nomination. Goldwater had already defeated the other moderate candidates, including Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge. The moderates in the Republican Party were desperate, because Goldwater was viewed as an extremist. An "Anybody-but-Goldwater" group had formed and they had come up with William W. Scranton as a candidate.

I had met Scranton the night before. I had been at a reception at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco. A big crowd had gathered in the hotel lobby. Scranton had arrived and I had shaken his hand as he waded through the crowd. However, I knew nothing about his politics and nobody else seemed to either. (Some years later, William Scranton was implicated in a major securities swindle and was never able to run for public office again.)

After I received my Scranton hat and my Scranton sign, I got on the bus, where we were all taken to the Cow Palace in San Francisco where the Republican National Convention was being held. However, there too, the situation was different than what we had imagined. We did not have proper credentials to get into the convention. We were told by our group leader to stand in front of one of the side doors of the Cow Palace and wait.

Suddenly, the doors opened. As it happened, I was at the front of a large crowd trying to get into the doors. A bunch of security men with arms locked were at the doors, blocking anyone from entering. There was a rush for the doors and the crowd behind me pushed. Somehow, I pushed through a gap between the security guards who were trying to block the doors. I fully expected one of them to come back, grab me and drag me back out, but that did not happen. Then, I realized the reason. The security guards were trying to stop the hundreds of people behind me who were trying to get in too. They had more to worry about than just me who had gotten through. I think that only two or three others besides me got in this way.

Once inside, the first thing I did was ditch my Scranton hat and Scranton sign, fearing that that would mark me as an interloper. I walked around the Cow Palace for a while, fearing that somebody would realize that I was not wearing a proper badge or something. Fortunately, nobody seems to notice or to care.

Finally, I climbed up high in the balcony and took a seat. I sat there all day. I watched the nomination speeches and the votes being cast and counted. Barry Goldwater won easily. Scranton received only a few votes. It was later at this convention where Goldwater made his infamous speech in which he stated: "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." (San Francisco, July 16, 1964).

After the convention was over and I was leaving, I noticed a curious sight. There were many people carrying signs saying, "Bill Miller for VP". I asked who Bill Miller was. Nobody had ever heard of him. Later, we realized that Goldwater had put out the word that he wanted Bill Miller as his running mate. This turned out to be the first of many mistakes Goldwater made during his campaign: Nominating an unknown small town lawyer from Upstate New York as his vice-presidential candidate.

Outside of the Cow Palace, I met a man in the parking lot who offered to drive me back to downtown San Francisco. On the way, he told me that he believed that Barry Goldwater was going to be elected President of the United States. I told him that I did not believe that Goldwater would be elected.

As it turned out, I was right and he was wrong.

Sam Sloan

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