Barry Morris Goldwater (January 2, 1909 – May 29, 1998) was an American politician, businessman, and author who was a five-term Senator from Arizona (1953–1965, 1969–1987) and the Republican Party nominee for president of the United States in 1964. Despite his loss of the 1964 presidential election in a landslide, Goldwater is the politician most often credited with having sparked the resurgence of the American conservative political movement in the 1960s. He also had a substantial impact on the libertarian movement.
Goldwater rejected the legacy of the New Deal and fought with the conservative coalition against the New Deal coalition. Although he had supported earlier civil rights legislation, he notably opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as he believed it to be an overreach by the federal government. In 1964, Goldwater mobilized a large conservative constituency to win the hard-fought Republican presidential primaries. Although raised as an Episcopalian, Goldwater was the first candidate of ethnically Jewish heritage to be nominated for President by a major American party (his father was Jewish). Goldwater’s platform ultimately failed to gain the support of the electorate and he lost the 1964 presidential election to incumbent Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson. Goldwater returned to the Senate in 1969 and specialized in defense and foreign policy. As an elder statesman of the party, Goldwater successfully urged President Richard Nixon to resign in 1974 when evidence of a cover-up in the Watergate scandal became overwhelming and impeachment was imminent.
Goldwater’s views grew more libertarian as he reached the end of his career; he retired from the Senate in 1987. A significant accomplishment of his career was the passage of the Goldwater–Nichols Act of 1986. He was succeeded by John McCain, who praised his predecessor as the man who “transformed the Republican Party from an Eastern elitist organization to the breeding ground for the election of Ronald Reagan.” Goldwater strongly supported the 1980 presidential campaign of Reagan, who had become the standard-bearer of the conservative movement after his “A Time for Choosing” speech. Reagan reflected many of the principles of Goldwater’s earlier run in his campaign. The Washington Post columnist George Will took note of this, writing: “We […] who voted for him in 1964 believe he won, it just took 16 years to count the votes.”
After leaving the Senate, Goldwater’s views cemented as libertarian. He criticized the “moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others [in the Republican Party] who are trying to…make a religious organization out of it.” He lobbied for homosexuals to be able to serve openly in the military, opposed the Clinton administration‘s plan for health care reform, and supported abortion rights and the legalization of medicinal marijuana. In 1997, Goldwater was revealed to be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. He died one year later at the age of 89.
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Goldwater was born in Phoenix in what was then the Arizona Territory, the son of Baron M. Goldwater and his wife, Hattie Josephine “JoJo” Williams. His father’s family had founded Goldwater’s, a leading upscale department store in Phoenix. Goldwater’s paternal grandfather, Michel Goldwasser, a Polish Jew, was born in 1821 in Konin, then part of Russian Empire, whence he emigrated to London following the Revolutions of 1848. Soon after arriving in London, he anglicized his name from Goldwasser to Goldwater. Michel married Sarah Nathan, a member of an English Jewish family, in the Great Synagogue of London.
His father was Jewish and his mother, who was Episcopalian, came from a New England family that included the theologian Roger Williams of Rhode Island. Goldwater’s parents were married in an Episcopal church in Phoenix; for his entire life, Goldwater was an Episcopalian, though on rare occasions he referred to himself as Jewish. While he did not often attend church, he stated that “If a man acts in a religious way, an ethical way, then he’s really a religious man—and it doesn’t have a lot to do with how often he gets inside a church.”
After he did poorly as a freshman in high school, Goldwater’s parents sent him to Staunton Military Academy in Virginia where he played varsity football, basketball, track and swimming, was senior class treasurer and attained the rank of captain. He graduated from the academy in 1928 and enrolled the University of Arizona. Goldwater dropped out of college after one year. He is the most recent non-college graduate to be the nominee of a major political party in a presidential election. Goldwater entered the family’s business around the time of his father’s death in 1930. Six years later, he took over the department store, though he was not particularly enthused about running the business.
In 1934, he married Margaret “Peggy” Johnson, daughter of a prominent industrialist from Muncie, Indiana. They had four children: Joanne (born January 18, 1936), Barry (born July 15, 1938), Michael (born March 15, 1940), and Peggy (born July 27, 1944). Goldwater became a widower in 1985, and in 1992 he married Susan Wechsler, a nurse 32 years his junior.
With the American entry into World War II, Goldwater received a reserve commission in the United States Army Air Forces. He became a pilot assigned to the Ferry Command, a newly formed unit that flew aircraft and supplies to war zones worldwide. He spent most of the war flying between the U.S. and India, via the Azores and North Africa or South America, Nigeria, and Central Africa. He also flew “the hump” over the Himalayas to deliver supplies to the Republic of China.
Following World War II, Goldwater was a leading proponent of creating the United States Air Force Academy, and later served on the Academy’s Board of Visitors. The visitor center at the Academy is now named in his honor. As a colonel he also founded the Arizona Air National Guard, and he would desegregate it two years before the rest of the U.S. military. Goldwater was instrumental in pushing the Pentagon to support desegregation of the armed services.
Remaining in the Arizona Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve after the war, he eventually retired as a Command Pilot with the rank of major general. By that time, he had flown 165 different types of aircraft. As an Air Force Reserve major general, he continued piloting aircraft, to include the B-52 Stratofortress, until late in his military career.
As a U.S. Senator, Goldwater had a sign in his office that referenced his military career and mindset: “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.”
Goldwater ran track and cross country in high school, where he specialized in the 880 yard run. His parents strongly encouraged him to compete in these sports, to his dismay. He often went by the nickname of “Rolling Thunder”.
In 1940, Goldwater became one of the first people to run the Colorado River recreationally through Grand Canyon participating as an oarsman on Norman Nevills‘ second commercial river trip. Goldwater joined them in Green River, Utah, and rowed his own boat down to Lake Mead. In 1970 the Arizona Historical Foundation published the daily journal Goldwater had maintained on the Grand Canyon journey, including his photographs, in a 209-page volume titled Delightful Journey.
In 1963 he joined the Arizona Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. He was also a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and Sigma Chi fraternity. He belonged to both the York Rite and Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, and was awarded the 33rd degree in the Scottish Rite.
In a heavily Democratic state, Goldwater became a conservative Republican and a friend of Herbert Hoover. He was outspoken against New Deal liberalism, especially its close ties to labor unions. A pilot, active amateur radio operator, outdoorsman and photographer, he criss-crossed Arizona and developed a deep interest in both the natural and the human history of the state.
He entered Phoenix politics in 1949, when he was elected to the City Council as part of a nonpartisan team of candidates pledged to clean up widespread prostitution and gambling. The team won every mayoral and council election for the next two decades. Goldwater rebuilt the weak Republican party and was instrumental in electing Howard Pyle as Governor in 1950.
As a Republican he won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1952, when he upset veteran Democrat and Senate Majority Leader Ernest McFarland. He won largely by defeating McFarland in his native Maricopa County by 12,600 votes, almost double the overall margin of 6,725 votes. As a measure of how Democratic Arizona had been since joining the Union 40 years earlier, Goldwater was only the second Republican ever to represent Arizona in the Senate. In his first year in the Senate he desegregated the Senate cafeteria, insisting that his black legislative assistant, Kathrine Maxwell, be served along with every other Senate employee. He defeated McFarland again in 1958, with a strong showing in his first reelection; he was the first Arizona Republican to win a second term in the Senate. Goldwater’s victory was all the more remarkable since it came in a year the Democrats gained 13 seats in the Senate. He gave up re-election for the Senate in 1964 in favor of his presidential campaign.
During his Senate career, Goldwater was regarded as the “Grand Old Man of the Republican Party and one of the nation’s most respected exponents of conservatism”.
Criticism of the Eisenhower administration
Goldwater was outspoken about the Eisenhower administration, calling some of the policies of the Eisenhower administration too liberal for a Republican President. “…Democrats delighted in pointing out that the junior senator was so headstrong that he had gone out his way to criticize the president of his own party.” There was a Democratic majority in Congress for most of Eisenhower’s career and Goldwater felt that President Dwight Eisenhower was compromising too much with Democrats in order to get legislation passed. Early on in his career as a senator for Arizona, he criticized the $71.8 billion budget that President Eisenhower sent to Congress, stating “Now, however, I am not so sure. A $71.8 billion budget not only shocks me, but it weakens my faith.” Goldwater opposed Eisenhower’s pick of Earl Warren for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. “The day that Eisenhower appointed Governor Earl Warren of California as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Goldwater did not hesitate to express his misgivings.” Goldwater and the Eisenhower administration supported the integration of schools in the south, but Goldwater felt the states should choose how they wanted to integrate and should not be forced by the federal government. “Goldwater criticized the use of federal troops. He accused the Eisenhower administration of violating the Constitution by assuming powers reserved by the states. While he agreed that under the law, every state should have integrated its schools, each state should integrate in its own way.” There were high-ranking government officials following Goldwater’s critical stance on the Eisenhower administration, even an Army General. “Fulbright’s startling revelation that military personnel were being indoctrinated with the idea that the policies of the Commander in Chief were treasonous dovetailed with the return to the news of the strange case of General Edwin Walker.”
1964 Republican presidential primary
In 1964, Goldwater fought and won a multi-candidate race for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. His main rival was New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, whom he defeated by a narrow margin in the California primary. Eisenhower gave his support to Goldwater when he told reporters, “I personally believe that Goldwater is not an extremist as some people have made him, but in any event we’re all Republicans.” His nomination was opposed by liberal Republicans, who thought Goldwater’s demand for active measures to defeat the Soviet Union, would foment a nuclear war. He delivered a captivating acceptance speech, to which “he devoted more care…than to any other speech in his political career. And with good reason: he would deliver it to the largest and most attentive audience of his life. No other statement of the 1950s and 1960s, including The Conscience of a Conservative, presents more truly Barry Goldwater’s basic beliefs and his positions on current issues.”
1964 presidential campaign
At the time of Goldwater’s presidential candidacy, the Republican Party was split between its conservative wing (based in the West and South) and moderate/liberal wing, sometimes called Rockefeller Republicans (based in the Northeast). Goldwater alarmed even some of his fellow partisans with his brand of staunch fiscal conservatism and militant anti-communism. He was viewed by many traditional Republicans as being too far on the right wing of the political spectrum to appeal to the mainstream majority necessary to win a national election. As a result, moderate Republicans recruited a series of opponents, including New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton, to challenge him. Goldwater would defeat Rockefeller in the winner-take-all California primary and secure the nomination. He also had a solid backing from Southern Republicans. A young Birmingham lawyer, John Grenier, secured commitments from 271 of 279 Southern convention delegates to back Goldwater. Grenier would serve as executive director of the national GOP during the Goldwater campaign, the number 2 position to party chairman Dean Burch of Arizona.
Journalist John Adams says, “his acceptance speech was bold, reflecting his conservative views, but not irrational. Rather than shrinking from those critics who accuse him of extremism, Goldwater challenged them head-on” in his acceptance speech at the 1964 Republican Convention. In his own words:
I would remind you that 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.
His paraphrase of Cicero was included at the suggestion of Harry V. Jaffa, though the speech was primarily written by Karl Hess. Because of President Johnson’s popularity, Goldwater refrained from attacking the president directly. He did not mention Johnson by name at all in his convention speech.
Former U.S. Senator Prescott Bush, a moderate Republican from Connecticut, was a friend of Goldwater and supported him in the general election campaign. Bush’s son, George H. W. Bush (then running for the Senate from Texas against Democrat Ralph Yarborough), was also a strong Goldwater supporter in both the nomination and general election campaigns.
Future Chief Justice of the United States and fellow Arizonan William H. Rehnquist also first came to the attention of national Republicans through his work as a legal adviser to Goldwater’s presidential campaign. Rehnquist had begun his law practice in 1953 in the firm of Denison Kitchel of Phoenix, Goldwater’s national campaign manager and friend of nearly three decades.
Goldwater was painted as a dangerous figure by the Johnson campaign, which countered Goldwater’s slogan “In your heart, you know he’s right” with the lines “In your guts, you know he’s nuts,” and “In your heart, you know he might” (that is, he might actually use nuclear weapons as opposed to using only deterrence). Johnson himself did not mention Goldwater in his own acceptance speech at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.
Goldwater’s provocative advocacy of aggressive tactics to prevent the spread of communism in Asia led to effective counterattacks from Lyndon B. Johnson and his supporters, who claimed that Goldwater’s militancy would have dire consequences, possibly even nuclear war. In a May 1964 speech, Goldwater suggested that nuclear weapons should be treated more like conventional weapons and used in Vietnam, specifically that they should have been used at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 to defoliate trees. Regarding Vietnam, Goldwater charged that Johnson’s policy was devoid of “goal, course, or purpose,” leaving “only sudden death in the jungles and the slow strangulation of freedom”. Goldwater’s rhetoric on nuclear war was viewed by many as quite uncompromising, a view buttressed by off-hand comments such as, “Let’s lob one into the men’s room at the Kremlin.” He also advocated that field commanders in Vietnam and Europe should be given the authority to use tactical nuclear weapons (which he called “small conventional nuclear weapons”) without presidential confirmation.
Goldwater countered the Johnson attacks by criticizing the administration for its perceived ethical lapses, and stating in a commercial that “we, as a nation, are not far from the kind of moral decay that has brought on the fall of other nations and people…. I say it is time to put conscience back in government. And by good example, put it back in all walks of American life.” Goldwater campaign commercials included statements of support by actor Raymond Massey and moderate Republican senator Margaret Chase Smith.
Before the 1964 election, Fact magazine, published by Ralph Ginzburg, ran a special issue titled “The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater”. The two main articles contended that Goldwater was mentally unfit to be president. The magazine supported this claim with the results of a poll of board-certified psychiatrists. Fact had mailed questionnaires to 12,356 psychiatrists, receiving responses from 2,417, of whom 1,189 said Goldwater was mentally incapable of holding the office of president. Most of the other respondents declined to diagnose Goldwater because they had not clinically interviewed him, but claimed that, although not psychologically unfit to preside, Goldwater would be negligent and egregious in the role.
After the election, Goldwater sued the publisher, the editor and the magazine for libel in Goldwater v. Ginzburg. “Although the jury awarded Goldwater only $1.00 in compensatory damages against all three defendants, it went on to award him punitive damages of $25,000 against Ginzburg and $50,000 against Fact magazine, Inc.” According to Warren Boroson, then-managing editor of Fact and later a financial columnist, the main biography of Goldwater in the magazine was written by David Bar-Illan, the Israeli pianist.
A Democratic campaign advertisement known as Daisy showed a young girl counting daisy petals, from one to ten. Immediately following this scene, a voiceover counted down from ten to one. The child’s face was shown as a still photograph followed by images of nuclear explosions and mushroom clouds. The campaign advertisement ended with a plea to vote for Johnson, implying that Goldwater (though not mentioned by name) would provoke a nuclear war if elected. The advertisement, which featured only a few spoken words and relied on imagery for its emotional impact, was one of the most provocative in American political campaign history, and many analysts credit it as being the birth of the modern style of “negative political ads” on television. The ad aired only once and was immediately pulled, but it was then shown many times by local television stations covering the controversy.
Goldwater did not have ties to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), but he was publicly endorsed by members of the organization. Lyndon B. Johnson exploited this association during the elections, but Goldwater barred the KKK from supporting him and denounced them.
Past comments came back to haunt Goldwater throughout the campaign. He had once called the Eisenhower administration “a dime-store New Deal” and the former President never fully forgave him. However, Eisenhower did film a television commercial with Goldwater. Eisenhower qualified his voting for Goldwater in November by remarking that he had voted not specifically for Goldwater, but for the Republican Party. In December 1961, Goldwater had told a news conference that “sometimes I think this country would be better off if we could just saw off the Eastern Seaboard and let it float out to sea.” That comment boomeranged on him during the campaign in the form of a Johnson television commercial, as did remarks about making Social Security voluntary, and statements in Tennessee about selling the Tennessee Valley Authority, a large local New Deal employer.
The Goldwater campaign spotlighted Ronald Reagan, who appeared in a campaign ad. In turn, Reagan gave a stirring, nationally televised speech, “A Time for Choosing“, in support of Goldwater. The speech prompted Reagan to seek the California Governorship in 1966 and jump-started his political career. Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, later well known for her fight against the Equal Rights Amendment, first became known for writing a pro-Goldwater book, A Choice, Not an Echo, attacking the moderate Republican establishment.
Goldwater lost to President Lyndon Johnson by a landslide, pulling down the Republican Party which lost many seats in both houses of Congress.
Goldwater only won his home state of Arizona and five states in the Deep South, depicted in red. The Southern states, traditionally Democratic up to that time, voted Republican primarily as a statement of opposition to the Civil Rights Act, which had been passed by Johnson and the Northern Democrats, as well as the majority of Republicans in Congress, earlier that year.
In the end, Goldwater received 38% of the popular vote, and carried just six states: Arizona (with 51% of the popular vote) and the core states of the Deep South: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. In carrying Georgia by a margin of 54–45%, Goldwater became the first Republican nominee to win the state. However, the overall result was the worst showing in terms of popular vote and electoral college vote for any post-World War II Republican. Indeed, he wouldn’t have even carried his own state if not for a 20,000-vote margin in Maricopa County.
In all, Johnson won an overwhelming 486 electoral votes, to Goldwater’s 52. Goldwater, with his customary bluntness, remarked, “We would have lost even if Abraham Lincoln had come back and campaigned with us.” He maintained later in life that he would have won the election if the country had not been in a state of extended grief following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and that it was simply not ready for a third president in just 14 months.
Goldwater’s poor showing pulled down many supporters. Of the 57 Republican Congressmen who endorsed Goldwater before the convention, 20 were defeated for reelection, along with many promising young Republicans. On the other hand, the defeat of so many older politicians created openings for young conservatives to move up the ladder. While the loss of moderate Republicans was temporary—they were back by 1966—Goldwater also permanently pulled many conservative Southerners and white ethnics out of the New Deal Coalition.
According to Steve Kornacki of Salon, “Goldwater broke through and won five [Southern] states—the best showing in the region for a GOP candidate since Reconstruction. In Mississippi—where Franklin D. Roosevelt had won nearly 100 percent of the vote 28 years earlier—Goldwater claimed a staggering 87 percent.” It has frequently been argued that Goldwater’s strong performance in Southern states previously regarded as Democratic strongholds foreshadowed a larger shift in electoral trends in the coming decades that would make the South a Republican bastion (an end to the “Solid South“)—first in presidential politics and eventually at the congressional and state levels, as well. Also, Goldwater’s uncompromising promotion of freedom was the start of a continuing shift in American politics from liberalism to a conservative economic philosophy.
Return to the Senate
Goldwater remained popular in Arizona, and in the 1968 Senate election he was elected (this time) to the seat of retiring Senator Carl Hayden. He was subsequently reelected in 1974 and 1980. The 1974 election saw Goldwater easily reelected over his Democratic opponent, Jonathan Marshall, the publisher of The Scottsdale Progress.
Peggy Goldwater reportedly hoped that her husband’s Senate term, due to end in January 1981, would be his last. Goldwater decided to run, planning to make the term his last in the Senate. Goldwater seriously considered retirement in 1980 before deciding to run for reelection. Goldwater faced a surprisingly tough battle for reelection. He was viewed by some as out of touch and vulnerable for several reasons; most importantly, because he had planned to retire in 1981, Goldwater had not visited many areas of Arizona outside of Phoenix and Tucson. He was also challenged by a formidable opponent, Bill Schulz, a former Republican turned Democrat and a wealthy real estate developer who was able to infuse massive amounts of money into the campaign from his own fortune.
Arizona’s changing population also hurt Goldwater. The state’s population had soared, and a huge portion of the electorate had not lived in the state when Goldwater was previously elected; hence, many voters were less familiar with Goldwater’s actual beliefs, and he was on the defensive for much of the campaign. Early returns on election night seemed to indicate that Schulz would win. The counting of votes continued through the night and into the next morning. At around daybreak, Goldwater learned that he had been reelected thanks to absentee ballots, which were among the last to be counted. Goldwater’s surprisingly close victory in 1980 came despite Reagan’s 61% landslide over Jimmy Carter in Arizona. Republicans regained control of the Senate, putting Goldwater in the most powerful position he ever had in the Senate.
Goldwater said later that the close result in 1980 convinced him not to run again. He retired in 1987, serving as chair of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees in his final term. Despite his reputation as a firebrand in the 1960s, by the end of his career he was considered a stabilizing influence in the Senate, one of the most respected members of either major party. Although Goldwater remained staunchly anti-communist and “hawkish” on military issues, he was a key supporter of the fight for ratification of the Panama Canal Treaty in the 1970s, which would give control of the canal zone to the Republic of Panama. His most important legislative achievement may have been the Goldwater–Nichols Act, which reorganized the U.S. military’s senior-command structure.
Goldwater became most associated with labor-union reform and anti-communism; he was a supporter of the conservative coalition in Congress. His work on labor issues led to Congress passing major anti-corruption reforms in 1957, and an all-out campaign by the AFL-CIO to defeat his 1958 reelection bid. He voted against the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954, but he never actually charged any individual with being a communist/Soviet agent. Goldwater emphasized his strong opposition to the worldwide spread of communism in his 1960 book The Conscience of a Conservative. The book became an important reference text in conservative political circles.
In 1964, Goldwater ran a conservative campaign that emphasized states’ rights. Goldwater’s 1964 campaign was a magnet for conservatives since he opposed interference by the federal government in state affairs. Although he had supported all previous federal civil rights legislation including the 1957 Civil Rights Act H.R. 6127 and the 1960 Civil Rights Act H.R. 8601 and had supported the original Senate version of the bill, Goldwater made the decision to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His stance was based on his view that Article II and Article VII of the Act interfered with the rights of private persons to do or not to do business with whomever they chose, and believed that the private employment provisions of the Act would lead to racial quotas. In the segregated city of Phoenix in the 1950s, he had quietly supported civil rights for blacks, but would not let his name be used.
All this appealed to white Southern Democrats, and Goldwater was the first Republican to win the electoral votes of all of the Deep South states (South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana) since Reconstruction (although Dwight Eisenhower did carry Louisiana in 1956). However, Goldwater’s vote on the Civil Rights Act proved devastating to his campaign everywhere outside the South (besides Dixie, Goldwater won only in Arizona, his home state), contributing to his landslide defeat in 1964.
While Goldwater had been depicted by his opponents in the Republican primaries as a representative of a conservative philosophy that was extreme and alien, his voting records show that his positions were in harmony with those of his fellow Republicans in the Congress. According to Hans J. Morgenthau, what distinguished him from his predecessors was his firmness of principle and determination, which did not allow him to be content with mere rhetoric.
Goldwater fought in 1971 to stop U.S. funding of the United Nations after the People’s Republic of China was admitted to the organization. He said:
I suggested on the floor of the Senate today that we stop all funds for the United Nations. Now, what that’ll do to the United Nations, I don’t know. I have a hunch it would cause them to fold up, which would make me very happy at this particular point. I think if this happens, they can well move their headquarters to Peking or Moscow and get ’em out of this country.
Goldwater was grief-stricken by the assassination of Kennedy and was greatly disappointed that his opponent in 1964 would not be Kennedy but instead his Vice President, former Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas. Goldwater disliked Johnson (saying he “used every dirty trick in the bag”), and Richard Nixon of California (whom he later called “the most dishonest individual I have ever met in my life”). After Goldwater again became a senator, he urged Nixon to resign at the height of the Watergate scandal, warning that fewer than 10 senators would vote against conviction if Nixon were impeached by the House of Representatives. The term “Goldwater moment” has since been used to describe situations when influential members of Congress disagree so strongly with a president from their own party that they openly oppose him.
Goldwater and the revival of American conservatism
Although Goldwater was not as important in the American conservative movement as Ronald Reagan after 1965, he shaped and redefined the movement from the late 1950s to 1964. Arizona Senator John McCain, who had succeeded Goldwater in the Senate in 1987, summed up Goldwater’s legacy, “He transformed the Republican Party from an Eastern elitist organization to the breeding ground for the election of Ronald Reagan.” Columnist George Will remarked after the 1980 presidential election that it took 16 years to count the votes from 1964 and Goldwater won.
The Republican Party recovered from the 1964 election debacle, acquiring 47 seats in the House of Representatives in the 1966 mid-term election. Further Republican successes ensued, including Goldwater’s return to the Senate in 1969. In January of that year, Goldwater wrote an article in the National Review “affirming that he [was] not against liberals, that liberals are needed as a counterweight to conservatism, and that he had in mind a fine liberal like Max Lerner“.
Goldwater was a strong supporter of environmental protection. He explained his position in 1969:
I feel very definitely that the [Nixon] administration is absolutely correct in cracking down on companies and corporations and municipalities that continue to pollute the nation’s air and water. While I am a great believer in the free competitive enterprise system and all that it entails, I am an even stronger believer in the right of our people to live in a clean and pollution-free environment. To this end, it is my belief that when pollution is found, it should be halted at the source, even if this requires stringent government action against important segments of our national economy.
Throughout the 1970s, as the conservative wing under Reagan gained control of the party, Goldwater concentrated on his Senate duties, especially in military affairs. He played little part in the election or administration of Richard Nixon, but he helped force Nixon’s resignation in 1974. In 1976 he helped block Rockefeller’s renomination as vice president. When Reagan challenged Ford for the presidential nomination in 1976, Goldwater endorsed Ford, looking for consensus rather than conservative idealism. As one historian notes, “The Arizonan had lost much of his zest for battle.”
In 1979, when President Carter normalized relations with Communist China, Goldwater and some other Senators sued him in the Supreme Court, arguing that the President could not terminate the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty with Republic of China (Taiwan) without the approval of Congress. The case, Goldwater v. Carter 444 U.S. 996, was dismissed by the court as a political question.
By the 1980s, with Ronald Reagan as president and the growing involvement of the religious right in conservative politics, Goldwater’s libertarian views on personal issues were revealed; he believed that they were an integral part of true conservatism. Goldwater viewed abortion as a matter of personal choice and as such supported abortion rights.
As a passionate defender of personal liberty, he saw the religious right’s views as an encroachment on personal privacy and individual liberties. In his 1980 Senate reelection campaign, Goldwater won support from religious conservatives but in his final term voted consistently to uphold legalized abortion and in 1981 gave a speech on how he was angry about the bullying of American politicians by religious organizations, and would “fight them every step of the way”. Goldwater also disagreed with the Reagan administration on certain aspects of foreign policy (for example, he opposed the decision to mine Nicaraguan harbors). Notwithstanding his prior differences with Dwight D. Eisenhower, Goldwater in a 1986 interview rated him the best of the seven presidents with whom he had worked.
He introduced the 1984 Cable Franchise Policy and Communications Act, which allowed local governments to require the transmission of public, educational, and government access (PEG) channels, barred cable operators from exercising editorial control over content of programs carried on PEG channels, and absolved them from liability for their content.
After his retirement in 1987, Goldwater described the Arizona Governor Evan Mecham as “hardheaded” and called on him to resign, and two years later stated that the Republican party had been taken over by a “bunch of kooks”.
He is a 1987 recipient of the Langley Gold Medal from the Smithsonian Institution. In 1988, Princeton University‘s American Whig-Cliosophic Society awarded Goldwater the James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service in recognition of his career.
In a 1994 interview with The Washington Post, the retired senator said,
When you say “radical right” today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican party and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.
Goldwater visited the small town of Bowen, Illinois, in 1989 to see where his mother was raised.
In response to Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell‘s opposition to the nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court, of which Falwell had said, “Every good Christian should be concerned”, Goldwater retorted: “Every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.” According to John Dean, Goldwater actually suggested that good Christians ought to kick Falwell in the “nuts”, but the news media “changed the anatomical reference”.[page needed] Goldwater also had harsh words for his one-time political protegé, President Reagan, particularly after the Iran–Contra Affair became public in 1986. Journalist Robert MacNeil, a friend of Goldwater’s from the 1964 presidential campaign, recalled interviewing him in his office shortly afterward. “He was sitting in his office with his hands on his cane… and he said to me, ‘Well, aren’t you going to ask me about the Iran arms sales?’ It had just been announced that the Reagan administration had sold arms to Iran. And I said, ‘Well, if I asked you, what would you say?’ He said, ‘I’d say it’s the god-damned stupidest foreign policy blunder this country’s ever made!'”, although aside from the Iran–Contra scandal, Goldwater thought nonetheless that Reagan was a good president. In 1988 during that year’s presidential campaign, he pointedly told vice-presidential nominee Dan Quayle at a campaign event in Arizona “I want you to go back and tell George Bush to start talking about the issues.”
Some of Goldwater’s statements in the 1990s alienated many social conservatives. He endorsed Democrat Karan English in an Arizona congressional race, urged Republicans to lay off Bill Clinton over the Whitewater scandal, and criticized the military’s ban on homosexuals: He said that “Everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar“ and that “You don’t need to be ‘straight’ to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight.” A few years before his death, he addressed establishment Republicans by saying, “Do not associate my name with anything you do. You are extremists, and you’ve hurt the Republican party much more than the Democrats have.”
In 1996, he told Bob Dole, whose own presidential campaign received lukewarm support from conservative Republicans: “We’re the new liberals of the Republican party. Can you imagine that?” In that same year, with Senator Dennis DeConcini, Goldwater endorsed an Arizona initiative to legalize medical marijuana against the countervailing opinion of social conservatives.
Hobbies and interests
Goldwater was an avid amateur radio operator from the early 1920s onwards, with the call signs 6BPI, K3UIG and K7UGA. The last is now used by an Arizona club honoring him as a commemorative call. During the Vietnam War he was a Military Affiliate Radio System (MARS) operator.
Goldwater was a prominent spokesman for amateur radio and its enthusiasts. Beginning in 1969 up to his death he appeared in numerous educational and promotional films (and later videos) about the hobby that were produced for the American Radio Relay League (the United States national society representing the interests of radio amateurs) by such producers as Dave Bell (W6AQ), ARRL Southwest Director John R. Griggs (W6KW), Alan Kaul (W6RCL), Forrest Oden (N6ENV), and the late Roy Neal (K6DUE). His first appearance was in Dave Bell’s The World of Amateur Radio where Goldwater discussed the history of the hobby and demonstrated a live contact with Antarctica. His last on-screen appearance dealing with “ham radio” was in 1994, explaining a then-upcoming, Earth-orbiting ham radio relay satellite.
Electronics was a hobby for Goldwater beyond amateur radio. He enjoyed assembling Heathkits, completing more than 100 and often visiting their maker in Benton Harbor, Michigan, to buy more, before the company exited the kit business in 1992.
In 1916 Goldwater visited the Hopi Reservation with Phoenix architect John Rinker Kibby, and obtained his first kachina doll. Eventually his doll collection included 437 items and was presented in 1969 to the Heard Museum in Phoenix.
Goldwater was an amateur photographer and in his estate left some 15,000 of his images to three Arizona institutions. He was very keen on candid photography. He got started in photography after receiving a camera as a gift from his wife on their first Christmas together. He was known to use a 4×5 Graflex, Rolleiflex, 16 mm Bell and Howell motion picture camera, and 35 mm Nikkormat FT. He was a member of the Royal Photographic Society from 1941 becoming a Life Member in 1948.
For decades, he contributed photographs of his home state to Arizona Highways and was best known for his Western landscapes and pictures of native Americans in the United States. Three books with his photographs are People and Places, from 1967; Barry Goldwater and the Southwest, from 1976; and Delightful Journey, first published in 1940 and reprinted in 1970. Ansel Adams wrote a foreword to the 1976 book.
Goldwater’s photography interests occasionally crossed over with his political career. John F. Kennedy, as president, was known to invite former congressional colleagues to the White House for a drink. On one occasion, Goldwater brought his camera and photographed President Kennedy. When Kennedy received the photo, he returned it to Goldwater, with the inscription, “For Barry Goldwater—Whom I urge to follow the career for which he has shown such talent—photography!—from his friend – John Kennedy.” This quip became a classic of American political humor after it was made famous by humorist Bennett Cerf. The photo itself was prized by Goldwater for the rest of his life, and recently sold for $17,925 in a Heritage auction.
Son Michael Prescott Goldwater formed the Goldwater Family Foundation with the goal of making his father’s photography available via the internet. (Barry Goldwater Photographs) was launched in September 2006 to coincide with the HBO documentary Mr. Conservative, produced by granddaughter CC Goldwater.
On March 28, 1975, Goldwater wrote to Shlomo Arnon: “The subject of UFOs has interested me for some long time. About ten or twelve years ago I made an effort to find out what was in the building at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where the information has been stored that has been collected by the Air Force, and I was understandably denied this request. It is still classified above Top Secret.” Goldwater further wrote that there were rumors the evidence would be released, and that he was “just as anxious to see this material as you are, and I hope we will not have to wait much longer”.
The April 25, 1988 issue of The New Yorker carried an interview where Goldwater said he repeatedly asked his friend, General Curtis LeMay, if there was any truth to the rumors that UFO evidence was stored in a secret room at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and if he (Goldwater) might have access to the room. According to Goldwater, an angry LeMay gave him “holy hell” and said, “Not only can’t you get into it but don’t you ever mention it to me again.”
In a 1988 interview on Larry King‘s radio show, Goldwater was asked if he thought the U.S. Government was withholding UFO evidence; he replied “Yes, I do.” He added:
I certainly believe in aliens in space. They may not look like us, but I have very strong feelings that they have advanced beyond our mental capabilities… I think some highly secret government UFO investigations are going on that we don’t know about—and probably never will unless the Air Force discloses them.[unreliable fringe source?]
The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986. Its goal is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields.
The Scholarship is widely considered the most prestigious award in the U.S. conferred upon undergraduates studying the sciences. It is awarded to about 300 students (college sophomores and juniors) nationwide in the amount of $7,500 per academic year (for their senior year, or junior and senior years). It honors Goldwater’s keen interest in science and technology.
Goldwater’s public appearances ended in late 1996 after he suffered a massive stroke; family members then disclosed he was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. He died on May 29, 1998, at the age of 89 at his long-time home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, of complications from the stroke. His funeral was co-officiated by both a reverend and a rabbi. His ashes were buried at the Episcopal Christ Church of the Ascension in Paradise Valley, Arizona. A memorial statue set in a small park has been erected to honor the memory of Goldwater in that town, near his former home and current resting place.
Buildings and monuments
Among the buildings and monuments named after Barry Goldwater are: the Barry M. Goldwater Terminal at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Goldwater Memorial Park in Paradise Valley, Arizona, the Barry Goldwater Air Force Academy Visitor Center at the United States Air Force Academy, and Barry Goldwater High School in northern Phoenix. In 2010, former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, himself a Goldwater scholar and supporter, founded the Goldwater Women’s Tennis Classic Tournament to be held annually at the Phoenix Country Club in Phoenix. On February 11, 2015, a statue of Goldwater by Deborah Copenhaver Fellows was unveiled by U.S. House and Senate leaders at a dedication ceremony in National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Barry Goldwater Peak is the highest peak in the White Tank Mountains.
Goldwater’s granddaughter, CC Goldwater, has co-produced with longtime friend and independent film producer Tani L. Cohen a documentary on Goldwater’s life, Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater, first shown on HBO on September 18, 2006.
In popular culture
In his song “I Shall Be Free No. 10“, Bob Dylan refers to Goldwater: “I’m liberal to a degree, I want everybody to be free. But if you think I’ll let Barry Goldwater move in next door and marry my daughter, you must think I’m crazy.”
- Command Pilot Badge
- Service Pilot Badge (former U.S. Army Air Forces rating)
- Legion of Merit
- Air Medal
- Army Commendation Medal
- American Defense Service Medal
- American Campaign Medal
- European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
- Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with campaign star
- World War II Victory Medal
- Armed Forces Reserve Medal with three bronze hourglasses
- Presidential Medal of Freedom (1986)
- American Legion Distinguished Service Medal
- Marconi Gold Medal, Veteran Wireless Operators Association (1968)
- Marconi Medal of Achievement (1968)
- Bob Hope Five Star Civilian Award (1976)
- Good Citizenship Award, Daughters of the American Revolution
- 33rd Degree Mason
- The Douglas MacArthur Memorial Award
- Top Gun Award, Luke Air Force Base
- Order of Fifinella Award – Champion of the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) (1978)
- Thomas D. White National Defense Award 1978
- Conservative Digest Award (1980)
- Senator John Warner Award for Public Service in the field of Nuclear Disarmament (1983)
- Alexander M. Haig, Jr. Memorial Award (1983)
- National Congress of American Indians Congressional Award (1985)
- Space Pioneer Award, Sixth Space Development Conference (1987)
- James Madison Award, American Whig-Cliosophic Society (1988)
- National Aviation Hall of Fame (1982)
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Goldwater’s son Barry Goldwater Jr. served as a Congressman from California from 1969 to 1983. He was the first Congressman to serve while having a father in the Senate. Goldwater’s uncle Morris Goldwater served in the Arizona territorial and state legislatures and as mayor of Prescott, Arizona. Goldwater’s nephew Don Goldwater sought the Arizona Republican Party nomination for Governor of Arizona in 2006, but he was defeated by Len Munsil.
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The first major candidate known to be of ethnic Jewish origin, Goldwater used to joke that only half of him could join an exclusive country club.
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Goldwater did not run as a Jew and did not seek the support of other Jews. He did not go out of his way to support Israel, either. On the other hand, he never disavowed his Jewish antecedents. … Whether Goldwater should be seen as Jewish is an open question.
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[He] opposed Big Government, Big Business, Big Labor, and Big Media.
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