John A. Stormer, a Cold War-era anti-communist author and pastor whose widely circulated book “None Dare Call It Treason” warned of Soviet subversion in America and helped catapult arch-conservative standardbearer Barry Goldwater to the Republican presidential nomination in 1964, died July 10 at a rehabilitation center in Troy, Missouri. He was 90.

With the Soviet Union already in open control of a quarter of the world’s land mass, including Cuba, Stormer wrote in his treatise, “The hidden tentacles of the communist conspiracy exert unmeasured influence over the rest of the world.”

Stormer flooded the country with 7 million copies of his 75-cent, self-published paperback with the help of a few deep-pocketed Republican donors in the first 10 months of 1964. The red-baiting volume helped consolidate some of Goldwater’s far-right base and made the two-term Arizona senator the clear front-runner for the Republican nomination against more moderate candidates.

Goldwater was praised throughout “None Dare Call It Treason” for touting a tough military stance against Soviet expansionism abroad and warning against Communist-stoked “federal paternalism” at home – the war cry of a new Republican conservatism in the wake of the more centrist Eisenhower administration of the 1950s.

Stormer cast the Eisenhower administration’s trade agreements and nuclear test ban talks with the Soviets as “accommodation” and “concessions” in “a continual erosion of the American position.”

He agreed with the John Birch Society and other far-right groups that the State Department was honeycombed with communists and elite leftist intellectual sympathizers bent on the destruction of American democracy – a conspiratorial legacy of Wisconsin Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist witch hunt of the early 1950s.

“Lenin and his heirs have had the sometimes knowing, sometimes unknowing, cooperation of the United States State Department every step of the way,” Stormer wrote.

More broadly, he described what he saw as the gradual undermining of traditional values of American churches, schools, civic organizations and, ultimately, the government – a slow-cooked scheme of wealth redistribution, welfarism and nanny-state rules, sapping Americans of their sense of initiative and personal responsibility.

“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” Goldwater declared at the Republican National Convention, adding “moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

It was the sort of battle cry that worried moderates in the party but delighted his Democratic opponent, incumbent President Lyndon Johnson, whose surrogates painted Goldwater as unhinged and likely to trigger a nuclear war.

The infamous “Daisy” ad on television, in which the image of a young girl plucking daisy petals mutates into a nuclear countdown and mushroom cloud, played into those fears of a Goldwater presidency and the influence held by the Birchers and hawkish authors such as Stormer, who chaired his Missouri congressional district’s pro-Goldwater committee.

The “Daisy” commercial, which aired only once but was shown repeatedly on newscasts, was credited with helping Johnson win the election in a landslide. Stormer and other Republicans claimed his book’s power was lasting and helped fuel a rise of a new, more aggressive Republican conservatism that brought Ronald Reagan to the White House in 1981.

Stormer’s theories of a hydra-headed plot became emblematic of what historian Richard Hofstadter called the “paranoid style in American politics” – a phenomenon occurring periodically throughout American history. It involved, Hofstadter wrote in 1964, a belief in “the existence of a vast, insidious, preternaturally effective international conspiratorial network designed to perpetrate acts of the most fiendish character.”

Writing in Politico in 2010, scholar Matthew Dallek made a direct link between Stormer’s book and later conspiracy-minded extremists such as broadcaster Glenn Beck, who feed into “this sense of a nation besieged by liberals. They seem to see themselves in a struggle in which violence may be justified to defend the nation’s revolutionary heritage.”

Stormer’s book contained more than 800 footnotes in its 253 pages, documenting his claims of Marxist infiltration with citations from government studies, newspaper articles and congressional committee reports.

Despite the patina of scholarship, the book encountered heavy criticism. Several moderate Republican leaders questioned its more sweeping conspiracist notions. And in September 1964, two months before the presidential election, a nonpartisan citizens group called the National Committee for Civic Responsibility placed a report in the Congressional Record blasting the book in a withering page-by-page critique.

“At best,” it said, the book was “an incredibly poor job of research and documentation and, at worst, a deliberate hoax and a fraud.”

The book cited a 1934 letter by labor leaders Walter and Victor Reuther that said, “Carry on the fight for a Soviet America” – an established hoax with six different versions, according to additional research reported by the New York Times in 2017.

Nevertheless, the book and two other ultraconservative, self-published paperbacks – Phyllis Schlafly’s “A Choice Not an Echo” and J. Evetts Haley’s “A Texan Looks at Lyndon” – were distributed by the millions throughout the campaign season, often sold at discount or given away.

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