When Barry Goldwater is recalled to today’s popular imagination, he is remembered as an extremist, a danger, and a war hawk. In his 1964 acceptance speech at the Republican convention, he famous said, “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.” Critics heard the threat of nuclear war in these words and missed the fact that Goldwater was paraphrasing Cicero.
The popular memory of Goldwater is not in line with the reality of his record. He was an aggressive desegregationist in a time when the government moved too slow for what he thought was right. He was also a principled politician who changed the Republican party’s course and, ultimately, American history – even if he makes the list of one of The Losers in this podcast series.
Goldwater ran for President in 1964 and was trounced by Lyndon B Johnson at the polls. The nation grew so divided in the next four years Johnson himself chose not to run again. So how might a Goldwater presidency have been different? Would a Goldwater presidency have diverted America’s course from the divisions and chaos of the late 60s, or would it have been worse?
The story of Barry Goldwater is an incredible story of one of the candidates who nearly changed everything America with his presidential run, and probably changed more than he is given credit for. It is part 4 in our series, The Losers, where we tell the stories and consider the “what-ifs” of a history that might have been.
This is the Daisy ad we mentioned within the podcast episode. When Johnson’s campaign ran the ad in 1964 it was the apex of negative political ads.
This is the famous Ronald Reagan ad for Goldwater. Reagan was a life long FDR New Dealer but Barr Goldwater converted him to a Republican Conservative.