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Tags: goldwater | conservatism | tea party | reagan | Republicans

Barry Goldwater: A Man of Consequence 50 Years After Huge Loss

Barry Goldwater: A Man of Consequence 50 Years After Huge Loss
(CBS/Landov)

John Gizzi By Tuesday, 04 November 2014 11:07 AM EST Current | Bio | Archive

As Americans nationwide decide the fate of their members of Congress, governors and other elected officials, the influence and impact of someone who met an overwhelming defeat 50 years ago is still felt.

In losing the presidency by a record margin to Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Barry Goldwater nevertheless laid the groundwork for what is the modern Republican Party that would go on to win presidential elections, and today controls the House and may well control the Senate tomorrow.

Simply, Goldwater made conservatism cool and even Democrats today say that some of the more shrill elements in the GOP such as the tea party could learn a lesson from the Arizona senator remembered as "Mr. Conservative." Goldwater himself was pilloried mercilessly in his heyday as “extremist” for taking such positions as selling government agencies (notably the Tennessee Valley Authority) to the private sector, making Social Security voluntary, and actually winning foreign conflicts with hostile countries such as the Vietnam War.

Citing Goldwater’s slogan "In your heart, you know he’s right," authors Stephen Hess and David Broder wrote in the "The Republican Establishment": "In their hearts, Republican professionals may have known who was right, but his kind of rightness was a luxury they could not afford."

When Goldwater carried only five Southern states and his home state of Arizona in ’64, the Republican Party went down with him. Democrats claimed 68 out of 100 U.S. Senators, and 295 U.S. Representatives to only 140 for the Republicans. More than 500 state legislators were unseated and Republicans lost control of both houses of state legislatures in 12 states.

Two years later, however, candidates running as “Goldwater Republicans” were winning resoundingly nationwide. Republicans gained three seats in the Senate and 47 in the House, and such proud supporters of Goldwater as Nevada’s Paul Laxalt would win governorships. Most significantly, one of Goldwater’s strongest campaigners won the governorship of California by nearly one million votes in 1966.

Recalling to Newsmax the nationally televised "A Time for Choosing" speech that TV actor Ronald Reagan made on Goldwater’s behalf in September of ’64 and how he voiced the presidential candidate’s views in a softer and more marketable way, influential conservative journalist and author M. Stanton Evans said: "I turned to my wife and said 'That’s the guy who should be running for president.'"

"[T]here is no doubt that Barry Goldwater’s message was Ronald Reagan’s message," Reagan pollster Richard Wirthlin told Goldwater biographer Lee Edwards, adding his view that Goldwater was the "forerunner" of conservatism and Reagan "the consolidator."

Goldwater’s endorsement was key to Richard Nixon wrapping up the Republican nomination for president in 1968. Nixon had stumped hard for the Arizonan in ’64, while his ’68 rivals — Govs. Nelson Rockefeller of New York and George Romney of Michigan — ignored their nominee. As a retired senator in 1988, Goldwater endorsed George H.W. Bush for president and this blessing probably helped the then-vice president win a close New Hampshire primary over another Goldwater Republican, Bob Dole.

Goldwater’s view of small government and greater freedom formed the basis for the Republican "Contract With America" on which the GOP captured the House and Senate in 1994.

Incoming House Speaker Newt Gingrich was a fervent Goldwater admirer, who proudly recalled how the Arizonan stumped for him in his first House race.

Reviled as simple-minded and worse by the national press when he ran for president, Goldwater began to win press applause after returning to the Senate in 1968. In part, this was because he began to criticize fellow conservatives. Perhaps jealous of the success Reagan had by voicing his own platform that he was so vilified for, Goldwater backed Gerald Ford over his old friend in the 1976 primaries and even cut a commercial in which he warned that Reagan’s support of the Panama Canal might lead to war — much like the Democratic commercials in ’64 warning how Goldwater’s own hard-line anti-Communism might lead to war. (Goldwater actually voiced a position on the Panama Canal the same as Reagan and ended up voting against giving it away in 1977.)

He also sharply attacked the "religious right" and moved away from conservatism on social issues (even though in the 1950s, he had taken to the pages of the conservative weekly "Human Events" to urge churches and clergyman to get in the public area and fight against Communism; Goldwater canceled his subscription to "Human Events" in the 1980s, even though his subscription was complimentary).

Goldwater had his moments, conservatives like to say, and they prefer to recall the "early Goldwater" and the movement he launched that persists to this day. Even Bill Clinton sounded much like the young Goldwater when he ran for president and governed as a "New Democrat" who embraced such issues as reform of Social Security and ending the deficit.

"The era of big government is over," Clinton declared in 1995, invoking a favorite Goldwater theme.

Barry Goldwater is gone now. But as people go to the polls on Nov. 4 and perhaps mourn the defeat of a candidate they backed, they might well remember the man who lost disastrously 50 years ago, and whose words and influence shaped the politics of today’s America.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.


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John-Gizzi
As Americans nationwide decide the fate of their members of Congress, governors and other elected officials, the influence and impact of someone who met an overwhelming defeat 50 years ago is still felt.
goldwater, conservatism, tea party, reagan, Republicans
1074
2014-07-04
Tuesday, 04 November 2014 11:07 AM
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