Goldwater, Barry Morris

views updated Jun 11 2018

GOLDWATER, Barry Morris

(b. 1 January 1909 in Phoenix, Arizona; d. 29 May 1998 in Phoenix, Arizona), U.S. senator, Republican presidential candidate, and leader of the U.S. conservative movement.

Goldwater was born in Arizona when it was still a territory, and was the grandson of an immigrant Jewish peddler. His parents were Baron Goldwater, a department store merchant, and Josephine Williams, a homemaker. The eldest of three children, Goldwater was raised as an Episcopalian. Goldwater attended Union High School in Phoenix, and then Staunton Military Academy in Virginia. He then enrolled at the University of Arizona. Following his father's death in 1929, he left college after only a year to manage the family's Phoenix department store. He married Peggy Johnson, an heiress to the Borg-Warner automobile fortune, on 22 September 1934. They had four children. In addition to his business activities, Goldwater obtained an extensive collection of Native American art, published several volumes of photographs of Arizona people and places, and helped establish the Arizona Historical Foundation.

During World War II Goldwater served with the U.S. Army Air Corps, airlifting war supplies over the hazardous 500-mile route from India over the Himalayas to China. Returning to Phoenix after the war, he was elected to the city council in 1949, then rode General Dwight Eisenhower's coattails to a victory in the U.S. Senate race in 1952. In Washington, D.C., he joined the conservative Republican bloc in the Senate and sought to reduce federal spending and curb labor union power while bolstering military defense. In 1958 he claimed leadership of the Republican right wing when he was reelected despite a national Democratic sweep that defeated more experienced party conservatives.

Goldwater cemented his authority by publishing The Conscience of a Conservative (1960), which quickly became a best-seller and eventually sold 3.5 million copies. The 123-page primer was a call to battle for conservatives. Goldwater declared that the federal government had become "a Leviathan, a vast national authority out of touch with the people, and out of their control." Government must be restrained, he wrote, limited only to establishing order, maintaining the defense, and administering justice. Powers beyond those delegated were illegitimate and unconstitutional. Goldwater's agenda was clear: the federal government must "withdraw promptly and totally from every jurisdiction reserved to the states." Specifically, he called for an end to the income tax, farm subsidies, public housing, urban renewal, and aid to education. Southerners were particularly interested in Goldwater's views on civil rights. He offered a defense of states' rights and a narrow interpretation of federal responsibilities. The Constitution, he argued, protected African Americans only in voting, contractual relations, and property holding. He denied the legitimacy of federal efforts to integrate schools or to desegregate public accommodations.

In the last chapter of The Conscience of a Conservative, which constituted a third of the book, Goldwater turned to foreign affairs. He condemned American weakness that had resulted in Communist advances in Europe, Asia, and Central America. To turn the tide Goldwater insisted that the United States confront the Communists militarily and economically at every opportunity and pursue total victory. He rebuffed negotiations, advocated the resumption of nuclear weapons testing, and called for rolling back Communist advances in Asia and Eastern Europe. However, even though Goldwater was prepared to go to the "brink," he considered the possibility of war "unlikely," for "the mere threat of American action" to save a people hostile to Soviet ambitions "would probably result in the communists' acceptance of the ultimatum." Why Not Victory?, which Goldwater published in 1962, further detailed his conservative critique of U.S. foreign policy and called for victory through strength.

In the Senate, acting on his conservative ideology, Goldwater supported a strong military, with heavy reliance on air power to counter the communist threat. He opposed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963) for fear that it would weaken U.S. defense. He rejected President John F. Kennedy's New Frontier initiatives and the Great Society of President Lyndon B. Johnson. He voted against aid for education and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as unconstitutional extensions of federal power.

In response to Goldwater's call to conservatives at the 1960 Republican convention to "grow up" and "take this party back," a movement arose to draft him for president. Goldwater had prepared the ground for its advance. He had served two terms as the chair of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee. In this position he became a prime source for news reporters and the point man for rallying the faithful and for raising money for Republican senatorial candidates. Those who listened to his speeches detected a greater mission than the election of Republicans. He preached the cause of modern conservatism—individualism, the sanctity of private property, militant anticommunism, and the dangers of federally centralized power. During his tenure he traveled hundreds of thousands of miles and visited nearly every state in the Union. This yeoman service enabled him to capture the loyalty of Republican partisans down to the district and county levels. Charismatic and evoking the image of the western hero, the tanned, square-jawed Goldwater appealed to Americans as a man of action, a rugged individualist standing against all odds and refusing to compromise his beliefs or country. He was candid and quotable, ready to voice his convictions regardless of consequences. The senator's staff nurtured the mystique by distributing publicity photographs of the Arizonan clad in jeans and a cowboy hat, astride a horse, or entering, dressed in his flight suit, a U.S. Air Force jet fighter.

The draft-Goldwater movement focused on capturing the party machinery and winning a majority of delegates to the 1964 convention. The conservatives' strategy bypassed liberal organizations in the eastern industrial states to forge a coalition of white, middle-class voters in the South and West. This effort alone would ensure the Arizona senator sufficient support to win a first-ballot victory. Looking forward to running against President Kennedy, Goldwater nearly left the race after his friend's assassination in November 1963. However, believing he owed a debt to the conservative movement, he reconsidered and announced his bid in January 1964.

The primary election campaign pitted him against opponents Henry Cabot Lodge, the U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam, and New York governor Nelson Rockefeller. Primaries in New Hampshire and Oregon stigmatized the Arizonan as an extremist eager to trigger nuclear war, a foe of social security, and a racist. In June 1964 Goldwater clinched the nomination by narrowly winning the bitter California primary. But the victory was a Pyrrhic one because Republican moderates and liberals balked at supporting him in the general election. Widening the breach, Goldwater made no overtures to his opponents and even provoked them by declaring in his acceptance speech, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

In the general election Goldwater faced President Lyndon Johnson, a man he detested. The campaign was certain to focus on Goldwater-the-man because he met with the president and both agreed to desist from raising the central issues of civil rights and Vietnam. Goldwater acted from a sense of patriotism and fear of exacerbating racial tensions in the wake of urban rioting during the summer of 1964. To maintain a united front before the Communist enemy in Vietnam, he avoided direct and specific mention of U.S. involvement in the war. Although the press praised both candidates for their wisdom, Goldwater's initiative on Vietnam denied a public examination of the administration's emerging policy and robbed Americans of a last opportunity to debate the war before the beginnings of a large-scale military buildup.

With opinion polls heavily in his favor, President Johnson boasted of peace and prosperity and raised the specter of Goldwater as a warmonger eager to press the nuclear button and as a pawn of right-wing extremists. Democrats exploited his gaffes in order to scare voters with the image of a politically inept and irresponsible candidate eager to destroy the world and social security. Goldwater countered by raising "the social issue"—decrying pornography, racial quotas, busing, immorality, and crime in the streets. These tactics had little effect, and Johnson slaughtered Goldwater at the polls in November 1964, winning 61 percent of the forty-three million votes cast. Only five states in the Deep South and Arizona fell into the conservative's column, yet the results masked crucial changes at the grassroots level. Republicans had made significant inroads in the Democratic South, and Johnson received a clear majority of the white vote only in Texas. In the northeastern cities Irish and Italian voters continued to drift from the Democratic to the Republican Party. Most important, conservatives had captured the Republican machinery. Future Republican candidates took notice and pursued Goldwater's electoral strategy and issues to eventual national power.

After the election Goldwater returned to Arizona and for the first time in fifteen years found himself a private citizen. National and international events ensured that his retirement was brief. Growing popular dissatisfaction with the Vietnam War gave the conservative's words new meaning and urgency. Goldwater lashed President Johnson for ignoring the advice of military commanders and demanded the quick defeat of North Vietnam through massive air bombardment and naval blockade. He also insisted that air sorties be launched against Vietcong sanctuaries in Cambodia and Laos. Similarly, as racial violence engulfed U.S. cities after 1964, people reappraised Goldwater's views about crime in the streets and the breakdown of authority and traditional values. Goldwater campaigned hard for conservatives in the 1966 congressional elections and helped spark a Republican resurgence. In 1968 he ran for reelection to the U.S. Senate and won handily.

Goldwater strongly endorsed President Richard M. Nixon. Not only was Nixon one of the few Republican leaders who had campaigned for Goldwater in 1964, but the new administration recruited key Goldwater loyalists. Goldwater cheered Nixon's escalation of the air war against Vietnam and the invasions of Laos and Cambodia. Still, Goldwater chafed at Nixon's decisions to institute wage and price controls, withdraw from Vietnam, and pursue diplomatic overtures to the People's Republic of China. As the Watergate scandal evolved into a national crisis, Goldwater kept his doubts to himself and vigorously supported the president. Only in August 1974, when White House tapes revealed the extent of Nixon's participation in the cover-up, did the Arizona senator desert the cause. Part of a three-man delegation sent to the Oval Office by fellow Republicans, Goldwater informed the president that his support in the Senate had collapsed, and he pressed Nixon to resign. Reelected again in 1974 and 1980, Goldwater retired from the U.S. Senate in 1987. He died of natural causes, and his ashes were scattered over the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

Goldwater was a businessman, artist, historian, philanthropist, and politician. In spite of his overwhelming defeat in the 1964 presidential election, the five-term U.S. senator from Arizona profoundly affected U.S. history. He led a conservative movement that captured control of the Republican Party, developing a campaign strategy that linked whites living in the South and West. Goldwater also introduced "the social issue" to national politics, an element that became a staple of Republican campaigning. Goldwater's challenge to liberalism began the shift of the U.S. mainstream to the right.

Goldwater's papers are housed in the Arizona Historical Foundation, Arizona State University. His autobiographies are With No Apologies (1979), and Goldwater (1988), with Jack Casserly. Recent biographies include Robert Alan Goldberg, Barry Goldwater (1995), Lee Edwards, Goldwater: The Man Who Made a Revolution (1995), and Peter Iverson, Barry Goldwater: Native Arizonan (1997). See also Mary Brennan, Turning Right in the Sixties: The Conservative Capture of the GOP (1995), and Rick Perlstein, Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (2001). Obituaries are in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post (all 30 May 1998).

Robert Alan Goldberg

Goldwater, Barry Morris

views updated May 23 2018


Barry Morris Goldwater was a former U.S. senator and presidential nominee. During almost 40 years in public life, he became the outspoken and controversial leader of the conservative wing of the republican party.

Goldwater was born January 1, 1909, in Phoenix, Arizona. His paternal ancestors were Orthodox Jewish innkeepers who emigrated from Poland in the mid-1800s to join the California gold rush. Goldwater's father, Baron Goldwater, managed the family's general store in Phoenix. This store was the humble beginning of what would become an enormously profitable chain, Goldwater's Department Stores. Goldwater's mother, Josephine Williams, was a nurse who raised Goldwater and his siblings in her Episcopalian faith. A woman who loved out-door activities, she took her children hiking and camping throughout Arizona and taught them the colorful history of the region. From her, Goldwater acquired an abiding love of the Southwest and a deep appreciation of its people and its beauty.

Goldwater was a mediocre student who preferred sports and socializing to studying. At Phoenix Union High School, he was elected president of his first-year class, but the principal advised his father that Goldwater should probably attend school elsewhere the following year. Against his strenuous objections, his parents sent him to Staunton Military Academy, in Virginia. There, he excelled at athletics and did better academically than anyone expected, being named best all-around cadet in 1928.

Goldwater loved the military and dreamed of attending West Point. But when he graduated from Staunton, his father was in ill health, and Goldwater instead enrolled at the University of Arizona, at Tucson, to be near his home. His father died before he had finished his first year in college. Goldwater left school a year later to enter the family business.

"A Government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away."
—Barry Goldwater

With his father gone, Goldwater turned to an uncle for advice and direction. He quickly worked his way up from junior clerk, to general manager in 1936, and to president in 1937. Under his leadership, Goldwater's became Phoenix's premier department store and leading specialty shop. Goldwater pioneered the five-day workweek and instituted many progressive fringe benefits for his employees, including health and life insurance, profit sharing, and use

by employees of a vacation ranch. Also, Goldwater's was the first Phoenix store to hire African Americans as salesclerks.

Goldwater entered politics in 1949 when he was elected to the Phoenix City Council as a reform candidate. He was surprised to find that he loved politics. In 1950, he managed Howard Pyle's successful campaign for governor of Arizona. In 1952, he was elected to the U.S. Senate on the strength of voter dissatisfaction with Democratic president harry truman and the korean war. Elected as a Republican, Goldwater described himself as "not a me-too Republican" but one "opposed to the superstate and to gigantic, bureaucratic, centralized authority." He quickly developed a reputation for "outspoken unreliability" because even his Republican colleagues could not predict what he might say.

A maverick who spoke his mind regardless of consequences, Goldwater was the personification of the Western ideal of rugged individualism. He opposed any intrusion by the federal government in what he considered to be the state's domain. While in the Senate, he consistently opposed federal spending for social programs, argued that contributions to social security should be voluntary, and contended that medical programs for poor and elderly people would lead to socialized medicine. "I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom," he said. Throughout his career, Goldwater sought to reduce the role of government in citizens' lives by eliminating unnecessary laws and social programs.

One of Goldwater's most controversial actions in the Senate was his staunch defense of Senator joseph r. mccarthy, a notorious Communist hunter whose committee, through innuendo and guilt by association, ruined the lives and careers of many U.S. citizens by labeling them Communists or Communist sympathizers. Goldwater was criticized for trying to forestall a Senate vote on censuring McCarthy and then voting against the censure.

In 1958, Goldwater was easily reelected to the Senate despite a concerted campaign to defeat him by organized labor, a group he distrusted and criticized. By that time he had established himself as the outspoken leader of conservative Republicans. His statements were frequently off-the-cuff, sometimes contradictory, and always quotable. He has been credited with saying that Walter P. Reuther, a labor movement leader, was a bigger threat than the Communists; that Supreme Court chief justice earl warren, noted for his liberal opinions, was a socialist; and that Cuban premier Fidel Castro was just another Communist who needed a shave. He was notoriously disdainful of what he called the Eastern establishment, who, according to him, were elitist and out of touch with the rest of the United States. He supported a strong military, and opposed efforts to lower defense spending and increase social spending. His detractors scoffed at him, but his followers were fiercely devoted, perhaps because his nonintellectual, candid style reflected their own values.

While in the Senate, Goldwater befriended john f. kennedy, and, though they disagreed vehemently, they remained close friends until Kennedy's death. Goldwater had hoped to run against Kennedy in 1964; the two had discussed the possibility of traveling the country together on an old-fashioned debating tour. When Kennedy was assassinated, Goldwater lost his desire to run. He felt he could not beat lyndon b. johnson. Nonetheless, supporters persuaded him to run.

At the 1964 Republican convention in San Francisco, Goldwater was unanimously nominated after an intense floor fight. In his acceptance speech, he uttered the words that would haunt him during the coming campaign and paint him, perhaps unfairly, as a one-dimensional warmonger. "I would remind you," he said, "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." Johnson and the Democrats blasted Goldwater as a trigger-happy extremist who was willing to drop bombs whenever and wherever necessary to defend the interests of the United States.

Capitalizing on the country's growing unease with the war in Vietnam, the Johnson campaign developed a television commercial that many feel ushered in a new era of negative campaign advertising. The commercial showed a young girl standing in a field plucking petals from a daisy. A background voice recited an ominous countdown. Finally, the child evaporated in a mushroom cloud, and viewers were urged to vote for Johnson because, "The stakes are too high for you to stay home." Goldwater acknowledged later that the Johnson campaign effectively exploited the public's fear of his militancy. "In fact," he said with sardonic wit, "if I hadn't known Goldwater, I'd have voted against the s.o.b. myself."

Goldwater was defeated by Johnson in a landslide, carrying only Arizona and five southern states. He was unapologetic about his "extremism" speech, saying, "Protecting freedom is what this country has been about. We'll go to any extent to protect it. I know people were thinking 'nuclear' when I said [extremism,] but … I think it had to be said, and I never lost any sleep over it." The final irony, of course, is that Johnson escalated the war in Vietnam, and it dragged on until 1973. According to Goldwater, Johnson's Vietnam policy cost the country far more money and lives than if Goldwater, the supposed warmonger, had been elected.

After his loss to Johnson, Goldwater returned to Arizona and private life. Although his defeat was stunning, and he was treated like a pariah by other Republicans, he was undaunted. "Politics has never been the making or breaking point of my life," he said."I worked hard to make Arizona a better state and my country a better country. If I failed, I've taken the criticism." He returned to politics in 1968 when he easily won the Senate seat vacated by retiring Democrat Carl Hayden. As an older and somewhat more moderate statesman, he relished his positions as chair of the Armed Services Committee, the Intelligence Committee, the Communications Subcommittee, and the Indian Affairs Committee. He continued to work against big government and in favor of a free market economy. Summing up his opposition to federal control, he said, "All the great civilizations fell when people lost their initiative because government moved in to do things for them."

Goldwater served in the Senate for almost twenty additional years and left with his reputation and his convictions intact. "I was luckier than hell—politics is mostly luck—and I made a lot of friends," he said. "It would be hard for me to name an enemy in Congress. People disagreed with me violently, but we remained very good friends." In addition to a loyal conservative following, Goldwater's friends included liberal Democrats Morris Udall, Daniel Inouye, edward m. kennedy, Walter F. Mondale, and hubert h. humphrey. One conservative Goldwater removed from his list of friends was richard m. nixon. Unable to accept Nixon's failings or forgive his deceptions during the watergate crisis, Goldwater called the scandal "one of the saddest moments of my life. For twenty years or so, he and I worked hand in glove all over this land—not to help Nixon, not to help Goldwater, but to help the Republican Party and our country. But I was slow to see the real Nixon."

Goldwater retired from the Senate when his term ended in 1987 and returned to his home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, overlooking Phoenix. He remained active, although slowed somewhat by arthritis. In the 1990s, he took up an unlikely new cause: gay rights. "The big thing is to make this country … quit discriminating against people just because they're gay," he asserted. "You don't have to agree with it, but they have a constitutional right to be gay. And that's what brings me into it." Always a strict constructionist when it came to the Constitution, Goldwater felt that his defense of gay rights was consistent with his lifelong devotion to individual freedom. Then governor of Oregon Barbara Roberts said that because people do not expect someone like Goldwater to speak up for gay rights, they look at the issue in a new light when he does. "He causes people to focus on the real issue," she said."Should the country that celebrates life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness allow discrimination for a group of Americans based on sexual preference?" Goldwater's position on gay rights put the former conservative standard-bearer squarely in conflict with religious conservatives who opposed any effort to outlaw discrimination against homosexuals.

Goldwater died at the age of 89 on May 29, 1998. He was a member of many organizations, including the Royal Photographic Society, the American Association of Indian Affairs, and the veterans of foreign wars. He was honorary cochairman of Americans against Discrimination, a lobbying effort aimed at securing gay rights. He and his second wife, Susan Goldwater, lived in Paradise Valley, Arizona, at the time of his death.

further readings

Goldwater, Barry M. 1979. With No Apologies. New York: Morrow.

Goldwater, Barry M., with Jack Casserly. 1988. Goldwater. New York: Doubleday.

Perlstein, Rick. 2001. Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus. New York: Hill & Wang.


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