The Legacy of Barry Goldwater

Since it is likely another Senator from Arizona will lose a Presidential race, I thought it might be interesting to take another look at Barry Goldwater.

Here is the Wikipedia article on Goldwater. I’m going to ignore the mafia stuff at the end of the article.

If I would have been active in politics during Goldwater’s years, I would have disagreed with him strongly. However, Goldwater would NEVER have allowed most of the garbage that passes for Republican politics today. If someone would have shouted, “Kill him,” about LBJ, I have no doubt that Goldwater would have given that person the tongue lashing of a lifetime.

Barry Goldwater would have also supported same sex marriage. That alone today would make him persona non grata in the Republican party.

Goldwater was not a bigot. I think his vote against the Civil Rights Act 1964 was wrong, but he didn’t dish out a line of racist bullshit to support it. That is something that I, as a liberal Democrat can respect. Goldwater is well known as one of the best friends the American Indian ever had.

I think I’d love watching Goldwater take on the Religious Right today. “Every good Christian should kick Jerry Falwell in the ass” would have only been his start.

If I was stepping into the voting booth in 1964, I would have voted for Johnson. But, I’d send Barry a letter telling him why and I wouldn’t be surprised if he showed up at my door one day to talk about it.

So, what’s the debate? Has Goldwater gotten an unfair treatment based on the “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.” quotes? Even if you disagree with him on some thing, isn’t he worthy of respect? Was Goldwater’s service to the United States a net good?

As anyone who has followed my posts would note, I’m a liberal who, by default, supports the Democratic Party. I did witness the Goldwater years. So . . . . .

I pretty much agree with everything you said. I have vehement disagreements with many of his stances but he was a man of principle. I would have trusted him with my kids, my money and whatever mattered to my immediate welfare. He was the guy that went to the White House and told Nixon it was all over. In his later years he spoke his conscience on the issues of the day. He didn’t justify or make excuses for how his conservative philosophy clouded his vision.

Barry Goldwater was a good man. He was not some hypocrite. Had he won the '64 election (which wasn’t going to happen) he probably would have been a very good President. In the end reason would have won out. I don’t think he would have clung to his conservative dogma just to prove a point. Of course, some of the necessary advances in social justice that Johnson championed would have been delayed and I can’t justify that. But, on balance, sometimes its the leaders that you least expect it from that push the cause. Nixon on China, Johnson on Civil Rights, Clinton on welfare reform, Eisenhower on limiting the military, etc.

In my mind he was a statesman, more so than a politician. That sets him apart from much of what we see today.

So, I’ll pay Barry his dues.

Goldwater won the battle for minds. Until the past few months, the Goldwater wing of the Republican party had long since left the GOP and became Dems. Clinton, esp Hillary had views that were virtually indistinguishable from Goldwater. The rest of the Republican party lurched far right with Reagan and never looked back, which leaves them on the scrap heap of history, only slightly less discredited than the commies. That said, I’m an FDR Democrat and respect Goldwater.

I’d never heard the mafia stuff before I saw your link. I think it is bullshit.

Extremism is a vice in politics and law and life in general. Goldwater was wrong about that. But wrong is not a crime. This statement was ill-advised, and I doubt he expected it would become his trade mark phrase, because if he had thought it through, he would have said something different.

Goldwater was a man of principle before he was a politician, and that limited his personal success as a politician. He was not some mealy mouthed full of crap politician who would say things because he thought it would make people like him. Particularly after he lost the election for President, he was seen as an elder statesman.

The Republican party went wrong with the Southern Strategy and marrying religion with politics. Both were post Goldwater.

We could use a few more Barry Goldwaters and a few less Richard Nixons in the national discourse these days.

I admire his libertarian views, but his opposition to Civil Rights legislation–he was an architect of the 1960s “Southern Strategy” which brought a plurality of Southern whites into the Republican party, effectively shit-canning the GOP’s abolitionist roots for three generations and counting–put him in some very bad historical company and cost the party Northern support when he personally needed it.

Presidential politics has few untainted heroes and Goldwater sure wasn’t among them. I would’ve liked to have known him socially, though. I feel much the same way about him as I do about Dole and McCain.

Just to be clear, though, he was hardly alone on this one - the civil rights issue in the 1960s pretty badly divided the Democratic Party, and not just along North-South lines. The examples of Sam Yorty in LA and the first Mayor Daley in Chicago are sad examples of this - and not isolated ones.

I met him once. I was just a high school kid. Still, he impressed me very much with his energy and sincereity. He was a hell of a guy.

My admiration has grown over the years. He and Jack Kennedy had planned to run for President against each other in 1964, but they wanted to campaign together! The plan was to go from place to place debating and discussing the issues before the public.

Yet another leftist here who majorly admires Barry. “You don’t have to BE straight, you just have to SHOOT straight.” IIRC, didn’t he read Reagan the riot act over Iran-Contra too?

It’s a damned shame that it was LBJ that was pushing for the civil rights legislation, considering what a corrupt SOB Johnson was.

If Goldwater were alive & politically active today, voting & campaigning the way he did back in his heyday, this lovefest would be noticeably lacking. He’s now beloved because he dissed Falwell while still in office & AFTER RETIRING came out for abortion & gay rights.

Cite? Not that I don’t believe you, but that’s - extraordinary. One of my cherished fantasies - alongside “become an astronaut” - is to run a campaign for office like that. That anecdote hits home for me.

It sez here:

I’ve just finished a very interesting book about Goldwater’s campaign. He deserves our enormous respect for his personal integrity and sincerity, and his honest sense of duty to his country (for which he allowed himself to be drafted for a presidential run he really did not much want), and for nothing else. He was not an intelligent man (as U.S. senators go), he undermined his own campaign by placing it in the hands of an “Arizona Mafia” of proudly ignorant and provincial cronies when there were seasoned professionals eager to win it for him, he was emotionally unhinged and showed it, his perceptions of “liberty” and “justice” were fundamentally wrong, and the modern American ideological-conservative movement of which he was the forerunner, Reagan the triumph, and W the disgrace, has done this country and the world untold damage and we would be better off today if it had never existed.

Goldwater was not emotionally unhinged. While I agree that the movement that started with his name was a disaster, he was not personally a disaster, unlike Reagan and W. And wishing the movement never existed is just wishful thinking because such a movement was inevitable in American politics. It’s success was a disaster and will be for a generation to come, if not permanently.

I’m not sure I agree with you on that. The “after retiring” timing in part reflects the profound social changes that took place over the course of the second half of the last century. I don’t think that it’s that he waited till he was “safe” to support gay rights – I think it’s that he continued to be actively engaged in the political discourse even after retirement, and when he got to a place when he realized that anti-gay discrimination was wrong, he spoke out about it. It was because he was old when he grokked this that it was after his retirement – but it was because he was old, at an age when most folks (politicians or not) have long since stopped reexamining their assumptions, that it is so admirable that he did.

I’m another boomer who found him scary as all hell in the '60s, and was astonished to find myself admiring him greatly a couple of decades later.

I think a big part of his “transformation” on the gay rights issue is that he had a gay grandson.

I didn’t know that-that’s interesting.

I also believe he championed abortion rights as well in the '70s and '80s. Seems like the guy was socially liberal, fiscally conservative. And he was a real smartass, as well. I like that.

They named a bombing range after him. Somehow I suspect he would have liked the idea.

I was 14 delivering newspapers in southern Ontario during the election campaign in 64. An enduring memory was the prevalent fear that Goldwater was a war hawk and if elected would cause World War III. So we got Vietnam instead.

Really interesting how the image of Goldwater has been rehabilitated amongst Democrats.

He was not mentally ill in a clinical sense, but he did get very emotionally unhinged during his presidential campaign; he was way out of his depth there and did not deal well with the pressure. Johnson was almost as unhinged and committed even more open-mike gaffes, but got away with it. Partly because the Johnson team succeeded in making Goldwater look a whole lot crazier than he was – and Goldwater did nothing but make it easy for them. That’s the picture in Perlstein’s book, anyway.