conference were raised from Texas sources with the help of Lowenstein, who flew down to speak at a series of small parties around the state. ADDOX, WHO ruefully admits that he has gift for saying the wrong thing, said at one point during an interview in Dallas that Countdown ’72 wanted to register “the right kind of voters.” That statement did not make him popular and seems to have been at least partially responsible for the first withdrawal of support from Countdown by a Texas group. The Texas League of Young Voters, a homegrown Countdown working in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, promptly blasted Countdown \(Obs., More confusion followed. The Dallas organizer denied that Countdown was out to dump Nixon while the inimitable Maddox replied stoutly that of course they wanted to dump Nixon. Maddox was then firmly instructed to shut up. By this time Countdown ’72 had acquired a steering committee of sorts. The state had been divided into 16 regions for organizational purposes and the 16 regional directors were put on the steering committee along with the heads of Texas youth groups and, apparently, anyone who hung around the Countdown office and worked a lot. A permanent steering committee was supposed to be elected by delegates to the conference: since none of the temporary steering committee members were elected, their later charges about “self-appointed” spokesmen \(aimed The conference was beset by more than the usual number of last-minute crises. A steering committee meeting the Friday night before the conference, at which none of the Registration Summer organizers or their Texas allies appeared, determined to reaffirm the non-issue orientation of Countdown ’72. Maddox was to keep out of it: Al Celayda and Mrs. Kathy Engel were elected co-chairmen and were to do all the talking. The conference seemed to go fairly well Saturday. It was indeed bi-partisan: one of the most effective workshops of the day was run by Dr. Doug Harlan, who was Paul Eggers deputy campaign chairman. He presented an excellent pitch for the Republicans. The delegates from around the state seemed to be able to get what they needed in terms of information on how to register voters and set up registration drives from the various resource people at the conference. The rally Saturday night was clearly a success. Lowenstein made a strong anti-war, anti-Nixon, re-order-the-priorities speech and was cheered wildly. Likewise, McCloskey. John Henry Faulk and Peter Yarrow, who provided the entertainment, were enthusiastically received. Older liberals in attendance beamed mistily upon the throng and declared that the young people were the hope of Texas. But at a press conference preceding the rally, Maddox again opened his mouth. The results were not happy. In accordance with the direction decreed Friday night by the steering committee, Maddox tried to deny that Countdown ’72 was a Dump Nixon movement: newsmen had Maddox’ press release saying it was indeed a Dump Nixon movement right in front of them. Maddox also, in a mistake that was to be repeated throughout the Sunday fight by almost everyone, confused non-partisan and bi-partisan. When asked if Countdown was non-partisan, he replied, yes, of course, Republicans were part of it. Many of the newsmen present apparently decided that the “secret” anti-Nixon angle was the one to play. Their questions made those who wanted a non-partisan Countdown more nervous than ever. THE WHOLE MESS erupted Sunday. The temporary steering committee tried to set up guidelines for the selection of a permanent steering committee and were unable to agree. A compromise resolution, asking such notables as Reps. Carlos Tritan and Frances Farenthold to name the permanent steering committee was introduced at the post-conference business meeting that started at 3 p.m. Chaos. The anti-Lowenstein faction, as they came to be called for simplification’s sake, had a legitimate issue and quite possibly were politically correct in their desire for a registration drive. The chief, or at least the most intemperate spokesman for the Young, head of the Student Action Committee. Young brought to the conference his experience as coordinator of the student registration drive in Austin last spring which had a happy effect on the outcome of the city council elections \(Obs., SAC’s carefully non-partisan drive last spring was greeted with an alarmist front-page editorial in the Austin A m erican-Statesman, which warned citizens that their fair city was about to be taken over by student longhairs who would do God knows what with it. One can only imagine what the paper would have said if the drive had been partisan. In addition, said the anti-Lowenstien forces, county tax assessor-collectors, who must approve registrars, are anti-young people in general and anti-peacenik in particular. Unfortunately for reason and the English language, the anti-Lowenstein faction seemed to be constitutionally incapable of making their case on those grounds. People got up and screamed about “outside agitators” and “Yankee carpetbaggers.” Instead of recognizing a series of misunderstandings, Young charged the Registration Summer organizers with lies and deceit and declared, “They have not said an honest word since they set foot in this state.” Gross provincialism and Texas chauvinism poisoned the air. Lowenstein charged in and made an emotional speech during which the mike kept flickering on and off, lending a hopelessly burlesque cast to the affair. Lowenstein told the remnants of the conference that of course he was against the war and of course the Registration Summer kids were organizing to end the war and no one had ever lied to them and anyone who hadn’t gotten that message by now was, in essence, a damn fool. “Texas is part of the United States,” Lowenstein shouted. “You don’t need a visa to get in here. It’s time you people recognized that.” One young lady, her voice shaking with emotion, told Lowenstein, “If you want to come down here and run down this great state and make fun of us, you can just take your organizers and your money and get the hell out of Texas.” That added a lot of light to the occasion. Other speeches were even worse. Anti-Lowenstein groups kept walking out. For their part, some members of the pro-Lowenstein faction cleverly elevated the discussion by accusing the anti-Loweinstein people of being in favor of the war and for Nixon, charges which reduced the anti’s to gobbling fury. At the close, the compromise resolution was passed and the majority sentiment of those remaining seemed to be to carry on with Countdown ’72 as an umbrella organization for a statewide voter registration drive. It seemed clear that in any case most of the delegates were fired up to go home and register voters and would do so with or without assistance from Countdown ’72. The few older liberals at the fight clutched their heads in a cross between amusement and despair. “Maybe Texas liberals are just so accustomed to walking out of any political gathering that it’s now transmitted in the genes,” suggested one. Stu Long of Long News Service shook his grey head and said it all reminded him of the old story of what the lady said on the third night of her marriage. ” ‘0 Lord, I’ve done this so many times before.’ ” THE NEW DAY did not bring the return of sweet reason. By Sunday night, it had been discovered that Countdown ’72’s files had been stolen from the office. Young said Sunday afternoon, “We have their files,” but then denied he had said it at the Monday press conference. It seemed clear that the anti-Lowenstein faction had indeed taken the files, but did not consider it a case of stealing since some of them had been on Countdown’s temporary steering committee. Some of the Registration Summer organizers had rather hysterically threatened to bring charges over the theft of the files. The anti-Lowenstein faction August 27, 1971 13
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