A Choice Not an Echo

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Cover of A Choice Not an Echo.
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A Choice Not an Echo was a bestselling self-published 1964 book by John Birch Society member[note 1] Phyllis Schlafly that argues that the "secret kingmakers" are screwing over her preferred candidates and stopping them from saving the nation from the evils of socialism or something.[2] According to Schlafly, all Republican candidates from 1936 until 1952 "snatched defeat from the jaws of victory"[2]:24 through not talking about her pet issues. (Oddly, her only exception is Dwight D. Eisenhower, whom she says "offered the voters a clear-cut choice over the liberalism of Adlai Stevenson"[2]:25, in spite of Eisenhower being so famously moderate that both parties originally asked for him to run for President on their ticket both when he first ran in 1952,[3] with the popular newspaper U.S. News & World Reports suggesting it again in 1956.[4]:9-10)

In what amounts to anti-intellectualism, Schlafly blamed the "egghead" elite for coming up with complex solutions to complex problems, rather than the one-sentence solutions that Senator Barry Goldwater was notorious for.[2]:81[5]:166


Schlafly makes frequent reference to "secret kingmakers" (including a whole chapter, "Who are the Secret Kingmakers?") whom she claims "selected every Republican presidential nominee from 1936 through 1960."[2]:7 Mind you, Schlafly is far from wrong when she complains about the lack of democratic control that average Republicans had over who was nominated for President (funnily enough, this lack of democracy would lead the other party to riot at their convention just four years later,[6]) but the main issue with the book is her assumption of conspiracy when it is simply not needed.

For example, she wrote regarding the selection of the Republican Presidential Nomination process of 1936 that "It was not mere coincidence that the kingmakers passed over Herbert Hoover as too conservative."[2]:31 However, Schlafly shows no evidence that Hoover was rejected because of how conservative he was.[note 2] Instead, the more likely situation is that Hoover was rejected as the nominee because he would be going up against the man whom he could not even win forty percent of the vote against in 1932.[9] Hoover was also at least in enough of an ideological agreement with Landon — the actual Republican nomination in 1936 — to actively campaign for him.[10] It's also ironic given that the same wingnuts whom Schlafly claim these kingmakers disenfranchise would disagree with her view that Hoover is a conservative.[note 3]

However, according to Schlafly, no person has been more screwed over by these kingmakers than Robert Taft. The fact that doing this would mean that the kingmakers — who are supposed to be oligarchs and establishment politicians — are fighting against the son of a former President[13] is a contradiction that in no way bothered her. This also begs the question as to why Eisenhower got a free pass from her list of people selected by the "kingmakers," given Eisenhower only decided to enter the 1952 Presidential race because of "Taft’s strident commitment to isolationism."[14]

At one point she wrote that "Taft had the best vote-getting record of any Republican in the country, and had proved this ability in Ohio in his tremendous 1950 victory."[2]:53 However, she never explains what metric she's using to justify this. It's worth noting that Taft barely won Ohio in 1944 (his home state)[15] and although he did win in a landslide in 1950,[16] he was far from the only Republican to do so. Richard Nixon of California,[17] Herman Welker of Idaho,[18] Milton Young of North Dakota,[19] Wayne Morse of Oregon,[19] Francis Case of South Dakota,[19] and George Aiken of Vermont[19] all did better in their elections than Taft did. None of this is even getting into the fact that succeeding in one state does not inherently mean you will win nation wide, Thomas Dewey, for example, was "reelected governor by a whopping 680,000-vote margin" in 1946,[20] two years before his loss to Harry Truman during the following Presidential Election.[21]

Goldwater '64![edit]

See the main article on this topic: Barry Goldwater

Easily the thing this book is most famous for is its unapologetic promotion of Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign, to the point where many credit this book as the reason he won the Republican nomination in 1964,[22] and due to this the book was especially popular in Goldwater-supporting circles. The book itself got its title from a line from Goldwater's 1964 announcement speech, where he declares "I will offer a choice, not an echo."[23] Theodore White notes in his famous book The Making of the President, 1964 notes that "the Goldwater banners in blue and gold read, 'we want a choice, not an echo.'"[24]:117

Throughout this book, Schlafly portrays Goldwater as the only person who can get a true conservative into the White House, and hindsight has not been kind to this book. Seeing Schlafly write that "Barry Goldwater is the one Republican who can and will win"[2]:80 is downright cringe-worthy if one is reading this knowing that Goldwater not only won the nomination in 1964, but lost to Johnson in a landslide.[25]


  1. Schlafly is believed to have resigned from the John Birch Society in the same year that she published the book.[1]:213
  2. Doing so would be especially odd on the part of the kingmakers given Hoover was not all that conservative, even compared to his own party at the time. In fact, many progressives were fans of Hoover's presidency, and many of the ideas that were put into action by Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal originally came from Hoover,[7] with Hoover doing what many historians now call the "Hoover New Deal" while President.[8]
  3. Examples of this include people like Tom Woods[11]:140-144 and Lee Ohanian.[12]


  1. Birchers: How the John Birch Society Radicalized the American Right by Matthew Dallek (2023) Basic Books. ISBN 1541673565.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 A Choice Not an Echo by Phyllis Schlafly (1964) Pere Marquette Press. ISBN 0686114868.
  3. Badge, Dwight Eisenhower, 1952
  4. One Man's America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation by George Will. Crown Publishing Group, 2008.
  5. How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America by Heather Cox Richardson (2022) Oxford University Press. ISBN 019758179X.
  6. 1968 Democratic Convention
  7. Hoover as the father of New Deal liberalism and modern conservatism by Michael Taube (December 1, 2017 at 3:04 p.m. EST) The Washington Post.
  8. Before FDR, Herbert Hoover Tried His Own ‘New Deal’
  9. 1932 The American Presidency Project, UC Santa Barbara.
  11. The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History by Tom Woods (2004) Regnery. ISBN 0-89526-047-6
  12. Hoover and the Great Depression
  13. Robert A. Taft: A Featured Biography
  14. What The 1952 Republican Primary Teaches Us About Today’s Primary
  15. 1944 United States Senate election in Ohio
  16. 1950 United States Senate election in Ohio
  17. 1950 United States Senate election in California
  18. ID US Senate
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 "Statistics of the Presidential and Congressional Election of November 7, 1950"
  20. New Faces of 1946
  21. United States presidential election of 1948
  22. Phyllis Schlafly
  23. Goldwater Announcement Speech
  24. The Making of the President, 1964 by Theodore White (1965) Atheneum Publishers.
  25. 1964 Presidential Election