Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

What's in a Name?

The "No Left Turns" logo was used by John Ashbrook in his 1972 Presidential Primary bid against Richard Nixon.

Although Congressman Ashbrook was one of the founders of the draft Barry Goldwater movement in 1963 and supported Goldwater's presidential candidacy in 1964, he supported Nixon's bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968. He urged fellow conservatives not to bolt to the third party candidacy of Alabama governor George Wallace arguing that Nixon's election would provide a unique opportunity to build a nationwide conservative coalition. By December 1971 Ashbrook publicly broke with the Nixon administration, criticizing "the presentation of liberal policies in the verbal trappings of conservatism." He especially opposed the president's budget deficits, wage and price controls, and recent rapprochement with China, he claimed, " have not been changed but extended and refined" under the Nixon presidency.

At the end of 1971, Ashbrook announced his intention to oppose Nixon's re-nomination in a number of Republican primaries. In justifying his candidacy, he denounced the Nixon administration for squandering an opportunity to build a conservative coalition to govern the country: "The result of such leadership could well have been a period of conservative and Republican ascendancy to match the Democratic era that followed upon the victory of Franklin Roosevelt. Instead, the net result of this administration may be to frustrate for years to come the emergence of the conservative majority."

Ashbrook denied that his purpose was either personal ambition or the expectation of success, rather offering his candidacy as the "rallying point" for those Americans who wanted to remind the Nixon of his campaign promises of 1968. Adopting the motto "No Left Turn," he called his campaign in New Hampshire "a small Paul Revere ride." Although he received only 9.6 percent of the vote in the Republican primary in New Hampshire, he pushed on to Florida, where he got less than 9 percent. The campaign was chaotically run and always in financial difficulties, and his 10 percent showing in California persuaded him to withdraw from the presidential contest. He supported Nixon's reelection campaign in 1972 "with great reluctance."

Although unsuccessful in shaping congressional policy substantially, Ashbrook's conservative challenge to an incumbent Republican President helped pave the way for Ronald Reagan's challenge to Gerald Ford's nomination in 1976, and Reagan's successful nomination and election in 1980. Reagan became the beneficiary of a new conservative majority that Ashbrook had helped create.

For more information, please visit: See also John M. Ashbrook and Randy McNutt, No Left Turns: A Handbook for Conservatives Based on the Writings of John M. Ashbrook (1986); Charles A. Moser, Promise and Hope: The Ashbrook Presidential Campaign of 1972 (1985); and U.S. Congress, Memorial Services Held in the House of Representatives and Senate of the United States, Together with Tributes Presented in Eulogy of John M. Ashbrook, Late a Representative from Ohio, 97th Cong., 2d sess., 1982. Obituaries are in the New York Times and the Washington Post, 25 Apr. 1982.

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