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The Bones and Sinews of the Conservative Movement are Barry Goldwater’s Legacy

Goldwater and Viguerie
The following is a column written by CHQ Chairman Richard A. Viguerie for a special supplement to The Washington Times celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign:

Barry Goldwater was responsible for recruiting and inspiring many of the people who built the infrastructure and organizations that to this day form the bones and sinews of the conservative movement.

After the death of Senator Bob Taft in 1953, Goldwater quickly became the most consequential figure in the Republican Party and in conservative politics.  

Part of Goldwater’s appeal was undoubtedly his larger-than-life personality. He was an Air Force pilot, a plain-talking entrepreneur, and in his trademark black glasses and rugged good looks he was the very definition of a man of the New West.  Although not a tall man, Goldwater seemed to stand head and shoulders above every other Republican political figure of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

His plain-spoken, sometimes profane, commentary on the failures and follies of the progressive Republicans and liberal Democrats of his era reflected what millions of conservative Americans believed was wrong with the government, popular culture and politics.

The importance of Goldwater’s willingness to publicly criticize the Republican establishment cannot be overstated.

In 1960 he referred to the domestic program of Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, the revered liberator of Europe, as “a dime store New Deal,” and in so doing he empowered conservatives to begin to publicly fight the Republican establishment and to demand that the GOP actually stand for and campaign on conservative principles.

Goldwater’s fight, I might add, has been taken up today by members of the Tea Party movement and other limited government constitutional conservatives. They draw their inspiration from the same principled demand that the Republican Party actually campaign and govern according to its conservative platform and principles.  This honesty in politics is now, as it was then, annoying and troubling to the Ruling Class within the Republican establishment.

In 1960, with the help of L. Brent Bozell, Jr., Goldwater published the groundbreaking The Conscience of a Conservative. The book was intended, Senator Goldwater said, “to awaken the American people to a realization of how far we had moved from the old constitutional concepts toward the new welfare state.” The book quickly went through twenty printings and sold 3.5 million copies, and it is still in print.

The Conscience of a Conservative “was our new testament,” Pat Buchanan later said. “It contained the core beliefs of our political faith, it told us why we had failed, what we must do. We read it, memorized it, quoted it. . . . For those of us wandering in the arid desert of Eisenhower Republicanism, it hit like a rifle shot.”

The book’s strong statement of the dangers of, and opposition to, world communism helped define the conservative movement as the natural political home of first- and second-generation Eastern Europeans, Cubans, and Asians who had fled Communist revolutions in their homelands, and it confirmed Barry Goldwater as the premier spokesman for rolling back the Communist tide.

It also inspired a new generation of young conservatives, including me, to become involved in the conservative movement.

After deferring to Richard Nixon and taking himself out of the running for the 1960 Republican presidential nomination (where he still received ten votes on the first ballot) Goldwater traveled the country as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee selling his new brand of conservatism.

That experience put him in contact with grassroots Republicans all over the country. After Nixon’s defeat, and more than two years before the 1964 election, “Draft Goldwater for President” committees were formed across the country.

Goldwater conservatism, the marriage of anti-communist “national defense conservatives” and economic conservatives, led to a redefinition of conservatism away from the anti-interventionist ideas of Taft and also led to a generational shift in the Republican Party.

In the haze the liberal establishment media had created in their celebration of the election of John F. Kennedy as the beginning of “Camelot,” it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the election of Kennedy coincided with the rise of a new conservative movement in the United States and in the Republican Party.

In 1960, Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) was founded and The Conscience of a Conservative was published. In 1961, conservative Republican John Tower was elected in a special election to fill Lyndon Johnson’s vacant Senate seat. And on March 7, 1962, while I served as executive secretary of Young Americans for Freedom, YAF held a huge rally at Madison Square Garden in New York City with Barry Goldwater as one of the headliners and chief draws.

I would nominate the Madison Square Garden Rally as the day the modern conservative movement had its public debut.

A Conservative Rally for World Liberation from Communism” drew a sellout crowd of 18,500 mostly young people to liberalism’s East coast citadel, and gave national exposure to the rally’s featured speakers, especially conservative Republican senators Barry Goldwater, Strom Thurmond, and John Tower.

Before that day what we in the conservative movement were doing was mostly out of the public eye. But when thousands were lined up around Madison Square Garden and the speeches and sellout crowd were front-page, “above the fold” news the next day in The New York Times, the conservative movement leapt onto the national political stage – and it was a movement largely inspired by Goldwater and the new brand of conservatism he shared with intellectuals such as William F. Buckley, Jr., M. Stanton Evans, Russell Kirk, Frank S. Meyer, William F. Rusher and L. Brent Bozell, Jr.

Far from being intimidated by the media’s love affair with Kennedy, or swept away in the glamour and liberal celebrity worship surrounding “Camelot,” conservatives were an energized and growing force rallying for the ideals of freedom, liberty, and limited government.

And Barry Goldwater was our chief spokesman and inspiration.

Goldwater was enthusiastic about the prospects of running against President John F. Kennedy and drawing a sharp contrast to Kennedy’s policies. What’s more, Goldwater understood that the problem was as much the establishment Republican Party leadership as it was the Democrats.

In 1961, F. Clifton White organized a movement to nominate a Republican conservative for president. Traveling around the country, White exhorted conservatives to seize control of their local Republican Party organizations and elect conservative delegates to the Republican National Convention – it was much the same message I preached in my recent book TAKEOVER.

The movement White orchestrated gave conservatives more influence over the inner workings of the Republican Party than they had had during Taft’s 1952 defeat and helped persuade Goldwater to run for president.

This scared the devil out of the progressive-dominated Republican establishment, who were all for Eisenhower’s “dime store New Deal.” They had long embraced me-tooism and ceded the national agenda to the Democrats.

New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton and Michigan Governor George Romney all lined-up against Goldwater in a furious “Stop Goldwater” movement that attacked him during the Republican primaries, through the Republican National Convention in San Francisco and straight through to his epic defeat on Election Day 1964.

In the wake of Kennedy’s assassination, Goldwater briefly considered dropping his campaign. He recognized that the American people would be unlikely to opt for three presidents in fourteen months, but he was persuaded to continue by his grassroots supports, a desire to wrest control of the Republican Party away from the establishment’s Eastern liberals, and for what Bill Middendorf called the “noble reason” of building the conservative movement.

And in that sense, Goldwater’s 1964 campaign succeeded far beyond expectation.

In his epic defeat Goldwater cleared the way for one of his strongest supporters, then-actor Ronald Reagan, to make an electrifying television speech “A Time for Choosing.” That speech refreshed conservatism’s appeal and led to former Democrat Reagan entering Republican politics to become Governor of California and eventually America’s first conservative president of the modern era.

Although conservatives were in a darkness of Biblical proportions after Goldwater’s defeat, we didn’t give up. We started new organizations to advance conservative ideas. We took note of Ronald Reagan’s optimistic assessment of the election that, although Goldwater lost, we attracted 27 million conservative voters who shared our values.

To communicate with those 27 million newly identified conservative voters I began copying by hand (as was legal in those days) a list of Goldwater campaign donors and less than two months after Barry Goldwater’s defeat I founded the Viguerie Company – America’s first conservative direct mail company.

Through direct mail we created an alternative media that bypassed the Left’s monopoly on the country’s microphones and editorial pages and allowed conservative candidates and organizations to communicate with the growing bloc of conservative voters free of any liberal filters.

 Today, the members of the “Stop Goldwater” movement are largely forgotten and “Rockefeller Republican” is a term of derision. But The Conscience of a Conservative is still in print. And the organizations founded by the people that Barry Goldwater inspired, including the Viguerie Company, remain vigorous and growing.

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The Great Barry Goldwater

Barry Goldwater should have ben elected POTUS. Instead the Leftists again with the MSM orchestrated an attack on him by saying He wanted to use Nuclear Weapons in Viet Nam. (like The Atomic Bomb) This was a blatant Lie ! He recognized Viet Nam as a Jungle War and knew of our defoilants. He did suggest they be used to clear the ground cover in which the Enemy hid. Incidently, his suggestion WAS USED! Agent Orange was and is a Defoilant. No one knew that it would be used to coat our men in the field, and the after effects, as No Research had been done in that regard. Planes were used, instead of the ground troops and the results were both good and bad. Goldwater believed, as do we all of sensible mind, that if we get in it, we must be "In It to Win It" Oh btw Hitlery LIED when she claimed to have been a Golwater Republican. Her father was, but both she and her mother were NOT. They would laugh behind his back and support the DemocRAT!="H.R.Clinton" wrote. ~Rick Magee, "MOLON LABE" !