Essay: Philosophy of Barry Goldwater

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This essay discusses the philosophy of Barry Goldwater. Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign in 1964 shocked, perplexed, and intrigued political and rhetorical analysts of that time. The common view at that time was that the Arizona conservative had constantly violated perhaps the most essential tradition of campaigning.

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!” (Goldwater 1964)

“I am a conservative Republican,” Barry Goldwater wrote in a 1994 Washington Post essay, “but I believe in democracy and the separation of church and state.  The conservative movement is founded on the simple tenet that people have the right to live life as they please as long as they don’t hurt anyone else in the process.” (Washington Post)

Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign in 1964 shocked, perplexed, and intrigued political and rhetorical analysts of that time. The common view at that time was that the Arizona conservative had constantly violated perhaps the most essential tradition of campaigning, by ignoring-or even disagreeing against-the obvious needs of many audiences he addressed. After he lost the election by the largest margin and total vote in American presidential elections to that time (White, 400), close observers offered a wide range of explanations for his rhetorical failures:  for example, Goldwater tried not to convince the general electorate but to move his party’s ideology to the right or its geographical center to the West, surrendering the election as not winnable against a popular current in a period of economic prosperity and political dominance by liberalism (Bernd, 10); or Goldwater lacked intellectual and other capacities, his advisers were inexperienced political amateurs, and therefore he was rhetorically insensitive or inept (Rovere, 148-49; Brennan, 100).

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