Barry Goldwater

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Meet the original scary Republican.
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The fact that by living the "wrong" sort of economic life the United States had become an incredibly rich nation did not disturb him; as a status politician he spoke for virtue, and the millions that heeded him were willing to sacrifice their material prosperity in order to gain spiritual health by obeying the "natural law" of the marketplace.
Gore Vidal on Goldwater, New Statesman 1.13.67
I'm liberal up to a degree, I think everybody should be free, but if you think I'll let Barry Goldwater move in next door and marry my daughter, you must think I'm crazy. I wouldn't let him do it for all the farms in Cuba.
—Bob Dylan, in I Shall Be Free

Barry Goldwater (Ba AuH2O) (1909–1998) is considered the founder of the "modern" conservative movement in the United States and the primary influence of the American libertarian movement. In a failed presidential bid, his groundbreaking victories (in fact, only victories except his home state) in the Solid South served as the forerunner to the Southern Strategy by Richard Nixon and subsequent Republican Presidents.

In the 1960s, McCarthyism was at a low ebb, stoked mostly by cranks and crypto-fascists like the John Birch Society. Conservatism was even more divided than it is now, split along the lines of Dixiecrats ("Don't tread on me, man") who ditched the Democratic party over desegregation, and the anti-communists (what we now call neo-conservatives) who favored a strong government with a maximal leader.

Enter Goldwater, the first candidate to successfully bring both sides together. His hardline stances against the New Deal, the Soviet Union, the Great Society, labor unions, and the welfare state contributed to his landslide defeat by Lyndon Johnson in 1964, but his ideas eventually reached the White House when Ronald Reagan won the Presidency in 1980. ("When I ran for President 17 years ago I was told I was behind the times. Now everybody tells me I was ahead of my time," said Goldwater in 1981.)[1] Yeah, there's no sugarcoating anything – it's all this guy's fault. Hillary Rodham Clinton herself endorsed Goldwater around this time, although she was a teenage girl too young to vote.[2]

Ironically, due to his views on abortion[3] and gay rights,[4] he was actually more liberal than today's conservatives; his fierce opposition to the mutual exploitation pact between the GOP and the Christian Right, and his spoken reasons for it (see below), were highly visionary, as was his complete aversion to the idea of money in politics (see above).

Setting another bad precedent, the man they called "Mr. Conservative" died an outcast from the Republican Party… but gained kudos from a not-insignificant number of Democrats and Libertarians years later.[5]

Political career[edit]

He ran for president in 1960 and 1964. By this point, he had already established himself as a fighter within the right-wing of the Republican Party, with Edward Cain noting his disagreements with President Eisenhower over the 1957 budget as the thing which brought he his anti-spending crusade to national attention.[6]:91-92 Goldwater went on to give a series of speeches regarding the issues of the day after this event, all of which turned into the basis of his book The Conscience of a Conservative.[6]:93 From this point forward, Goldwater became infamous for his unwillingness to compromise and dedication to creating a viable right-wing. When Richard Nixon, then Vice President and nomination for the presidency, met with Nelson Rockefeller, the meeting "was described by Goldwater as a Munich meeting."[6]:96 Goldwater quickly found himself allying with the growing right-wing movement of the day, occasionally writing in William Buckley's National Review[6]:105, Buckley and his brother L. Brent Bozell also helped ghostwrite Goldwater's famous book.[7]

The 1960 race was mainly an abortive "draft Goldwater" effort by some conservatives in the Republican Party, and Goldwater himself didn't seem too interested in campaigning. In 1964, however, Goldwater actively sought and won the Republican nomination, only to lose badly to Lyndon Johnson (even Democrats would shout "Bury Goldwater!") in the general election.[8] In fact, LBJ won the highest percentage of the popular vote since 1820, when James Monroe ran essentially unopposed.[9] Many of his statements scared voters off during the campaign, including expressing a desire to end Social Security and the TVA, and hinting he would be open to using tactical nuclear weapons in Vietnam. His campaign slogan, "in your heart you know he's right" was spoofed as "in your guts you know he's nuts" and "in your heart you know he's right… far-right," and the Johnson campaign ran an ad featuring a little girl pulling petals off a daisy while a nuclear countdown commenced.[10] The ad never mentioned Goldwater, but the implication was clear that electing Goldwater would risk starting World War III. Other ads were even less flattering.[note 1] However, the 1964 race was the first time a Republican candidate managed to break through the solidly-Democratic Deep South (primarily because of the Democrats' emerging support for the Civil Rights movement). He won five Southern states plus his home state of Arizona. Richard Nixon took note of this and was inspired to develop his Southern strategy for the 1968 and 1972 elections. And unsurprisingly, Goldwater would be one of the last steadfast supporters of Tricky Dick during Watergate until the very last moment.

Ironically, Goldwater showed little evidence of personal racism; in fact, his early career suggests the opposite. He voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1957Wikipedia.[11] Though a practicing Episcopalian, Goldwater was ethnically half-Jewish and never hid that fact, at a time when anti-Semitism was still a touchy issue in American politics. As a member of Phoenix's City Council in the early 1950s, he pushed for desegregation of Phoenix businesses and helped desegregate Arizona's Air National Guard. For a time, Goldwater was even a member of the NAACP. In 1964, Goldwater refused requests by his aides to make race riots a campaign issue, saying he would rather drop out than exploit racial violence.[12] He told Life magazine that "I don't like segregation in any form, any place, amongst any people."[13]

However, Goldwater's goodwill on racial matters vanished when he voted against the Civil Rights Act based upon tortured states' rights arguments, arguing that state and individual rights superseded concerns about institutional racism. Goldwater's moral myopia further extended to embracing the extremists and segregationists, including the John Birch Society, who flocked to his presidential campaign. While finding them distasteful, Goldwater refused to repudiate such a large and enthusiastic base of supporters. Goldwater awkwardly defended his stance: "Our aim… is neither to establish a segregated society nor an integrated society as such. It is to prefer freedom."[13] Many Goldwater supporters ignored these hairsplitting justifications and simply supported the candidate opposing the Civil Rights Act.

The current reactionary strain of American conservatism grew directly out of Goldwater's campaign, as did the early libertarian movement (the two were somewhat cross-pollinating during the 1960s, before openly splitting over the draft and the Vietnam War). Noted loon Phyllis Schlafly's 1964 book A Choice, Not An Echo was a best-seller during the Goldwater campaign and made her a well-known conservative activist, while Reagan emerged as a neoconservative icon during the campaign as well. There's no denying that Goldwater was far to the right of his party in the final session. He was a gadfly, though, with a penchant for brinksmanship. (Even Pat Buchanan deemed Barry a liability to the cause.[14]) In the end, Republicans merely took notes from the no-flash, unelectable Goldwater and repackaged them into Reagan to temper his extremist platform.

Goldwater rule[edit]

Fact magazine

During the 1964 race, Fact magazine published a special issue title "The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater". The editor, Ralph Ginzburg, had commissioned a poll of psychiatrists and printed that "1,189 psychiatrists say Goldwater is psychologically unfit to be president!" Goldwater sued Ginzburg and won in court (Goldwater v. GinzburgWikipedia). An unintended result was a special rule, informally known as the Goldwater RuleWikipedia, that was added to the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) code of ethics, stating that it was unethical for members to publicly offer a professional opinion unless they had conducted an examination and been given permission of the patient. The Goldwater Rule is why several psychiatrists have offered rather grave reservations about the mental fitness of Donald Trump but have always couched it with reservations, such as that he should have a full neuropsychiatric evaluation before assuming office.[15]

The crazy never die[edit]

Goldwater migrated to the social left towards the end of his life (he had always been magnanimous toward African Americans and encouraged gays to join his party). Many Republicans, especially in the South, were to the right of him on social issues. He was even willing to compromise with the left-wing, which cannot be said for the current rash of wingnuts. And he was the only senior Republican figure to criticize the White House over Iran-Contra. He'd bolt from the party if he was still alive (either as an Independent or with the Libertarian Party, most likely). His son certainly thinks so, himself being one of the first boosters of the Ron Paul campaign.

Both Reagan and Schlafly married religion to the Republican Party, and nowadays, church-funded lobbyists and PACs directly control Republican politicians. By 1996, Hillary Clinton, a once-proud Goldwater girl, said "I don't recognize this brand of Republicanism that's afoot". Today's conservatism has switched from Barry's limited constitutional interpretation to a ramshackle theocracy with Anarcho-Capitalist tendencies.

That said, Goldwater's wackier side never entirely vanished. In the 1970s, he began attacking the Trilateral Commission as America's greatest enemy, devoting a large swathe of his memoir, With No Apologies, detailing the Commission's alleged influence on American policy. Goldwater also became a major proponent of investigating UFOs.

His son, Barry Goldwater, Jr., was a Congressman, serving from 1969 to 1983. After retiring from politics, he became a lobbyist for the rooftop solar industry in Arizona, but got pimp-slapped by the Invisible Hand.[16] Free market leaning in favor of the status quo? Say it ain't so. Goldwater Jr. is also director and spokesperson of the National Collector's MintWikipedia, mostly known for selling fraudulent tacky 9/11 coins.

Best of Barry[edit]

I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them.[17]:15
I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!
—From his Acceptance Speech at the 1964 GOP convention. This was a nod to the John Birch Society after anti-JBS/anti-KKK language failed to be added to the GOP platform.[18]:127

Applying the brakes[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Stopped clock
Every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.[19]
On religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.

I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in "A," "B," "C" and "D." Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?

And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of "conservatism."[citation needed]
When you say 'radical right' today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.[20]
You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.[21]
Lifting the ban on gays in the military isn't exactly nothing, but it's pretty damned close. Everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar.[22]
Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them.[23]
It's time America realized that there is no gay exemption in the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence.[24]
Do not associate my name with anything you do. You are extremists, and you've hurt the Republican party much more than the Democrats have.
—To the Republican Establishment[25]
We're the new liberals of the Republican party. Can you imagine that?[26]



  2. Hillary Worked for Goldwater?
  3. Goldberg, Robert Alan (1995), Barry Goldwater, p. 331
  4. Grove, Lloyd Barry Goldwater's Left Turn, The Washington Post, July 28, 1994 (archived version from December 13, 2013)
  5. Bugliosi, Vincent (2001), The Betrayal of America,Wikipedia p. 19
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 They'd Rather Be Right by Edward Cain
  7. From Goldwater to Trump: When Parties Fail to Stop Alarming Candidates
  8. 1964 Presidential General Election Results
  9. See the Wikipedia article on List of United States presidential elections by popular vote margin.
  10. 1964 Presidential campaign spots
  11. HR. 6127. CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1957.. GovTrack. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  12. Rick Perlstein, Before the Storm, pp. 395-397
  13. 13.0 13.1 Robert Alan Goldberg, Barry Goldwater, p. 89
  14. Hayward, Steven, "From Barry Goldwater To The Tea Party", The Federalist (9/23/14). Hayward: "It is not much of a stretch to see Goldwater as the first victim of what would later become known as "political correctness"… Without Goldwater, Reagan's presidency might never have happened."
  15. Is Donald Trump Mentally Ill? 3 Professors Of Psychiatry Ask President Obama To Conduct 'A Full Medical And Neuropsychiatric Evaluation' by Richard Greene (12/17/2016 01:53 pm ET | Updated Dec 20, 2016) The Huffington Post.
  16. Sheppard, Kate, "Here Comes the Son: Barry Goldwater Jr. Fights for Solar Power in Arizona", Mother Jones (7/11/13 5:00 AM EDT).
  17. The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater
  18. Birchers: How the John Birch Society Radicalized the American Right by Matthew Dallek (2023) Basic Books. ISBN 1541673565.
  19. The Brethren's First Sister: Sandra Day O'Connor, Time
  20. "Barry Goldwater's Left Turn," Washington Post
  21. Goldberg, Robert Alan (1995). Barry Goldwater. p. 332.
  23. Said in November 1994, as quoted in John Dean, Conservatives Without Conscience (2006)
  24. Foster, Stephen D. (May 13, 2012). "Barry Goldwater's War Against the Religious Right". Addicting Info. 
  25. Bugliosi, Vincent, The Betrayal of America, p. 19
  26. To Bob Dole. When you make Barry feel like a liberal you know you've gone off the deep end…