Nation: To the Right, March

WAS Barry Goldwater four years ahead of his time? Every reading of the nation's temper suggests that he was. Tetchy, confused, aggrieved and a little fearful, the American electorate has moved sharply rightward since Goldwater's conservative banner waved for naught in 1964. Today the "silent center" of which Richard Nixon speaks is by no means silent—or content with the center.

The moods and motivations of U.S. voters in 1968 fit no single, simple doctrinaire definition of conservatism. Some respond to rational calls for decentralizing federal functions, an old creed with new relevance in...