Skip to comments.The Goldwater Myth: He didn't become a libertarian until his twilight years.
Posted on 01/11/2006 4:20:56 AM PST by Mike Bates
"During the campaign of 1964, [he] was our incorruptible standard-bearer," recalled William F. Buckley Jr. in his 1998 obituary of Barry Goldwater, the career senator from Arizona, 34 years after the watershed. Goldwater, of course, was defeated resoundingly on Election Day, winning only six states. "It was the judgment of the establishment that Goldwater's critique of American liberalism had been given its final exposure on the national political scene," Buckley continued. "But then of course 16 years later the world was made to stand on its head when Ronald Reagan was swept into office on a platform indistinguishable from what Barry had been preaching."
Strange, then, that these days many commentators believe Goldwater's conservatism was a different species from Reagan's and, especially, from George W. Bush's. Though admittedly an economic conservative, Goldwater has become an icon of opposition to social conservatism. When the 2004 Republican national convention showcased social liberals like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudy Giuliani, George F. Will proclaimed, "[Goldwater's] kind of conservatism made a comeback." By "Goldwater conservatism" Mr. Will meant "muscular foreign policy backing unapologetic nationalism; economic policies of low taxation and light regulation; a libertarian inclination regarding cultural questions."
Will was merely restating the consensus view. Darcy Olsen, president of the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute, argued on the fifth anniversary of Goldwater's death that "Goldwater conservative" had "a different meaning than just saying, 'I am a Republican,' because when you say 'I am a Republican,' people assume that you're involved in the Moral Majority. It's its own brand . . . very libertarian." Sen. John McCain said that Goldwater "disliked the religious right, because he felt they were intolerant, because Barry was not only conservative, but he was also to a degree libertarian."
(Excerpt) Read more at opinionjournal.com ...
", "[Goldwater's] kind of conservatism made a comeback." By "Goldwater conservatism" Mr. Will meant "muscular foreign policy backing unapologetic nationalism; economic policies of low taxation and light regulation; a libertarian inclination regarding cultural questions.""
I am a Goldwater Conservative.
By Will's definition of a GC?
I hope I don't lose my account for this, but yes.
That tendency to see things differently - whether caused by age or a concern for how one will be remembered - seems to affect conservatives. I remember being so surprised at Jesse Helms' admiration for Bono. What's that all about?
"I dunno if Goldwater had the beginnings of Alzheimer's but he was anti-gun in his last few years and I heard him ask why someone needed an auto-loading weapon to hunt deer with on some talking head show on a few occasions.
Reagan did a similar about face just before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, so I gave him a pass.:"
I had not heard either of those stories ..that's very sad.
On the other hand Nancy told about a group of school children visiting the Reagan Library. President Reagan came out to greet them and thought he was was at the White house greeting children and they loved and adored him...a sweet story inside a painful (for those around him)and slow death.
I have often wondered about this myself. I supported Goldwater in 1964 (although I could not vote until the next election). In his later years, I was disgusted by what I heard coming from his mouth (and yes, I also heard him say anti-gun things). I wondered if I was that naive in 1964 of if he had changed. It sounds like he had changed -- for the worse.
I think Goldwater was married to liberal women. His first wife was a big Planned Parenthood supporter. Goldwater was pro-life in those days but apparently she nagged him about it. After she died, he married a very liberal woman and she pushed him into the pro-abortion column and also moved him leftward on other social issues.
Goldwater was hated by the the liberal press for most of his career. In his 1964 campaign for president they smeared him with every slur imaginable. Until Reagan's rise, he was the most hated Republican in the country from the liberal establishment point of view.
But in the late 80's when he went left on abortion, guns, and gay issues, he became a media darling. Reagan, Bush, and others were declared to be dangerously ultra-conservative when compared to the "moderate & sensible" Goldwater. "Barry Goldwater conservatism" became the media's new favored brand of Republicanism.
Such "conservatism", of course, is nonsense. A Barry Goldwater conservative is one who opposes socialism, but supports a liberal social agenda that makes socialism inevitable.
AuH2O Married his nurse.... don't ask me why.... She was a real left winger, and due to his weakened mental and physical state she was able to coerce him to betray just about everything he believed in for his previous 75 years.
Goldwater didn't so much change in his later years as the Republicans changed into big-government Christian Socialists. (As opposed to the Opposition big-government Social Democrats.) The US has become much more Europeanized in outlook since 1964. Neither the Dems nor the GOP have any desire to reduce governmental control; they just take turns running things.
Didn't Goldwater suggest he would drop atomic bombs on Hanoi? Sounds more hawkish than Reagan or George W. Bush.
The government was Christian to begin with. The socialism came into being along with the acceptance of a secular world-view by the republican party. Most conservatives that I know are essentially Christian libertarians who want less government and are most unhappy about the fact that both parties are now about bigger government.
As I recall, what he suggested was the possibility of using low-yield nuclear weapons to defoliate the jungle and cut off supplies from Red China. Predictably, the media turned this into a "he's an insane warmonger" story.
Politics must require a higher brain function that is available to some of the eldery. My father in law, an active and really smart conservative all his life, was whinning at age 94 that the government should pay for his heart drugs. He had plenty of money and insurance to afford the drugs and he would NEVER advocate for a "free" drug program before his mind began failing him.
Pat Robinson is suffering the same problem right now and so did Goldwater as he aged. Jimma proves the point.
Arizona is on the Mexican border. I wonder if Barry Goldwater was an open borders libertarian. Which I definitely have no use for. I wonder if he said much about the topic. Not much shows on a google search
That's what I've been saying all along, the real (and socially conservative) Barry Goldwater is the one from the 60s and 70s, not the one from the 80s. It's incredible that he could support the Human Life Amendment in 1980 and then oppose in 1983, on "pro-choice" grounds, an amendment that merely overturned Roe and returned abortion to the states; senility is the only explanation.
There was a famous commercial of a little girl holding a flower and then the bomb going off. Made BG out to be a warmonger and then LBJ went in and engaged fully in the process of war rather than the objective.
No, I think that there is a latent tendency in older conservatives where they need to prove that they aren't hidebound ideologues and are still "relevant". At times, old folks, like young folks, simply crave attention.
When I learned more about Goldwater, I felt he was more of a mixed figure. Respectable in some areas, rightly reviled in others. Senility was cited as a possibility for his shift, which may be partly true, also the influence of his wives, but another angle was resentful jealousy. It was Reagan and others that would ultimately reap the rewards of the movement Goldwater got the ball rolling on, and he had a serious problem with it. If he was NOT senile at all and changed his positions to repulsive and destructive liberal ones to curry favor with the media after years of their disdain for him, and unfortunately, I think that is true to a certain degree, then he would rightfully deserve scorn. I think we would've been better off if he had been defeated by the pro-life Democrat Bill Schulz in 1980, it would've at least preserved his dignity during his public career. I'll always cheer on and respect the Goldwater of the Cow Palace in 1964, but hang my head in disappointment of the mean-spirited, bitter, and jealous Goldwater of the '80s and '90s.