News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Friday, January 18, 2019

The relevance of Barry Goldwater

In 1964, Barry Goldwater lost the presidential election to Lyndon Johnson by a landslide.  Republicans were split back then between the conservatives led by Goldwater and moderates led by Nelson Rockefeller.  There were many factors behind the rejection of Goldwater.  He had been endorsed by the KKK, although he stridently disavowed their support.  Still, many voters feared that some of his policies would pave the way for overt racial discrimination.

The biggest fear of Goldwater was that his fierce anti-communist stance and his belligerent threats for possible military action would result in a nuclear war.  The Johnson campaign exploited his attitude to great effect.  That historical  memory obscures other aspects of Goldwater's conservatism as measures of how drastically the Republican Party has changed.  Goldwater warned the country exactly what those changes would be.  Here are some statements he made:

  • Small men, seeking great wealth or power, have too often and too long turned even the highest levels of public service into mere personal opportunity. 

  • Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed.

  • Religious factions will go on imposing their will on others unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy. They must learn to make their views known without trying to make their views the only alternatives.

  • 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.

  • I am a conservative Republican, but I believe in democracy and the separation of church and state. The conservative movement is founded on the simple tenet that people have the right to live life as they please as long as they don't hurt anyone else in the process.

  • A woman has a right to an abortion. That's a decision that's up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right.


Bearcreekbat said...

Well now you have gone and done what I thought was inconceivable! You turned me into a Goldwater fan. . . .

David Newquist said...

I was a farm and business editor for a newspaper in 1964, and the CEO of a farm equipment manufacturer at a meeting of other manufacturers led a discussion of why they could not support Goldwater because of his focus on the military when equipment manufacturers had invested heavily in the international market. I would still not vote for Goldwater unless the alternative was Trump, but he certainly was a very prescient man we should pay attention to.

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