Barry Goldwater

Matt Welch on Barry Goldwater: 'He may not recognize our world, but we can recognize his fingerprints all over it'


Barry Goldwater. |||

This Thursday, June 5, Zócalo Public Square and Arizona State University are co-hosting a debate event in Scottsdale (featuring former Reasoner Dave Weigel, among others) on the topic "Is Goldwater Libertarianism Dead?" In advance of the discussion, the public-affairs website has published a mini-symposium on "What Did Barry Goldwater Leave Us?"

My contribution is headlined "Believing in the potential of individual pursuits free of government meddling," and begins this way:

For a charismatic, larger-than-life sonofabitch, Barry Goldwater had a pretty humble view of his impact on politics and the world. "I don't think I've had the great influence that is attributed to me," Mr. Conservative told The Phoenix Gazette just after stepping down from his fifth and final term in Congress. If pressed, he might cough up a regional intra-party success: helping tilt the GOP away from the stuffy northeastern establishment, and toward the wide-open Sun Belt.

So it's left to us to chart the legacy strains of Goldwaterism. Start here with the obvious: In 2014, a half-century after Goldwater helped galvanize a new generation of self-consciously ideological young conservatives and libertarians into winning the GOP presidential nomination, another attractive upstart senator in his early 50s has vaulted himself near the top of the Republican field, on a message of constitutionalism, limited government, and fiercely independent thinking.

Go to the link for the full piece and others, including one from The Heritage Foundation's Lee Edwards, who writes in part:

Goldwater's greatest legacy is that, despite 80 years of progressivism, a majority of Americans still want less, not more, government. They still understand the senator's famous maxim that any government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.

The intrinsic libertarianism of most Americans is confirmed in Gallup and other polls, in the election of small government senators like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and governors like Scott Walker and Mike Pence, and in the Tea Party that has not faded away but continues to play an influential role in electoral politics.

Reason on Barry Goldwater here.

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  1. Goldwater’s greatest legacy is that, despitebecause of 80 years of progressivism, a majority of Americans still want less, not more, government.


    1. Policies so good you need to shove it down the People’s throats. Government so glorious you need to fight their will every step of the way.

      1. Good and hard, Dweebston – good and hard

    2. I think Lee meant to say “despite 80 years of voting for progressivism, a majority of Americans are still such hypocrites that they say want less, not more, government.”

      1. Correct. If the Heritage dude is into Gallup polls, he ought to try reading this one.

  2. larger-than-life sonofabitch

    This is so problematic I literally just can’t even.

    In seriousness, I read Conscience of a Conservative back in high school thinking it would explain modern Republicans (this was in the early years of Bush II: The Bushening).

    Oh, how I laugh at my naivety.

  3. Great article Matt. This helps since I’m currently working on a cover letter for a job at the Goldwater Institute.

  4. Question: was there really a ‘Goldwater Revolution’ that lead to Reagan?

    1. Goldwater’s forlorned run had two results:

      1. It significantly raised Reagan’s public profile since his “A Time for Choosing” speech at the GOP convention in 1964 was one of the greatest convention speeches ever

      2. His landslide defeat ironically dragged down a bunch of old-guard Republican candidates and incumbents, clearing the field for a younger generation of Republicans that would become Reagantites

      1. It cemented the 2 wings of the Republican Party.

  5. Mass immigration and changing demographics threaten “the intrinsic libertarianism” of America. As the New York Times’ Josh Barro recently said:

    “The rush to stand with Mr. Bundy against the Bureau of Land Management is the latest incarnation of conservative antigovernment messaging. And nonwhites are not interested, because a gut-level aversion to the government is almost exclusively a white phenomenon.”

    You know it’s true.

    1. Are you a fish-enthusiast? Or just fish-curious?

    2. I don’t completely buy this. The unstated assumption of this argument is that the American character doesn’t get instilled in families over time, that families retain the outlook and perspective of the first generation. Much the same thing was said of immigrants in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Yet, there is no shortage of libertarians and small-government conservatives among the ranks of their descendents.

      1. The founding stock of America were WASPs. Individual rights, the rule of law, the Magna Carta–it all came from the English. The melting pot worked when the ingredients were white. Within one or two generations, the descendents of European immigrants reached the middle class, identified as Americans, and bought into Don’t-Tread-on-Me heritage.

        That’s no longer the case. A huge number of immigrants today come from corrupt, tribalistic, despotic, poverty-stricken societies with no traditions of common law or limited government. They don’t “get” America, and they don’t do very well here. In many cases they seem to bear historical grudges against the people whose ancestors built this country.

        Take Hispanics, for example. They typically languish in the lower classes for four or five generations after coming to America. Latinos are 3x more likely to live in poverty, 3x more likely to drop out of high school, 3x more likely to have a child out of wedlock, and 3x more likely to commit violent crimes. About half (47%) of Hispanics say they consider themselves to be very different from the typical American. And just one-in-five (21%) say they use the term “American” most often to describe their identity. Hispanic Americans self-identity primarily by national origin (as Salvadorians, Guatemalans, Mexicans, etc.), rather than as Americans or Hispanics. Even the minorities do well in America–Jews and Asians–love big government.

        Only white people care about freedom.

        1. STFU and die Merican.

    3. Heeeeey, ‘murcan!

  6. Goldwater’s greatest legacy is that, despite 80 years of progressivism, a majority of Americans still want less, not more, government.


    1. Every few years they have the opportunity to get less government.

  7. a majority of Americans still want less, not more, government

    I have noted previously, and I will note again here – I. Do. Not. Buy. This.

    Look at the results, and the number of idiots who still support the current incumbent President (PBUH) despite his clear incompetence (RAAAAAAACIST!) and disregard for the constitution (RAAAAAAAAAAACIST!).

    There are fits and starts, and I see a bit more at a state and local level, although still not to a degree that leads me to believe “most” Americans want less government. I believe “most” Americans want more of “their” kind of gummint and less of “the other guy’s gummint”. Progderps are definitely worse than the TEAM RED maroons, but in both cases (and they comprise the majority of the country), they wants them some MOAR gummint cheese.

    So – abandon hope, all ye who enter. Have a nice day!

  8. Goldwater, wasn’t he the evil Conservative that wanted to Nuke the girl picking daisies? /smartprog

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