INTERVALE, N.H. — This story is seldom told, even less often remembered, almost certain never to be repeated. It is the story about a brand of politics long forgotten, about a political world long vanished, about a political tactic long abandoned. And yet this story illuminates so much about our current politics that it deserves to be retrieved from history and retold at its 50th anniversary.
On the surface it is a story about how an American ambassador in a strife-torn faraway land — a man twice defeated by the shining political star of his time, relegated to the back corridors of diplomacy and with no electoral prospects whatsoever — rocked the political world by pulling off a New Hampshire primary victory against the two most famous political figures of his party.
It is a story about how a movement went viral when the term meant something else entirely.
It is a story of how two brilliant elected officials — one destined to be regarded as the founding father of modern conservatism, the other destined to be vice president of the United States — completely misread the political landscape in which they had invested heaps of time and treasure.
And it is a story about how the ancient art of political organizing, married to the ancient yearning for something fresh and new, produced upheaval in a party now full of insurgents but then a redoubt of social order.
This is the story about how Beverly’s Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. — defeated by John F. Kennedy in one of the signature Senate races of the century in 1952, then defeated again by Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson when he was Richard M. Nixon’s running mate in 1960, and then ensconced by Kennedy, out of political sight, in the Saigon embassy complex — won New Hampshire a half-century ago Monday without even stepping into the state.