from The American Spectator:
How did our national government grow from a servant with sharply limited powers into a master with virtually unlimited power?
— Senator Barry Goldwater writing in The Conscience of a Conservative (1960)
July, 1964. Fifty years ago this month. The Republican Party nominates Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater for president. The resulting uproar was somewhere north of hysteria. And that was just from the GOP establishment of the day. Followed famously by a November landslide Goldwater “defeat” in which the Arizonan carried a mere five states in his race against Democratic President Lyndon Johnson.
Goldwater was the first conservative Republican to win nomination since the 1924 selection of Calvin Coolidge (the vice president who had succeeded Warren Harding after his death). From 1928 all the way through 1960, every GOP nominee from Hoover to Nixon was drawn from the progressive/moderate wing of the party.
In the battle for the 1964 nomination Goldwater was pilloried by prominent members of his own party — including liberal GOP governors Nelson Rockefeller (N.Y.), William Scranton (Pa.), and George Romney (Mich.). Goldwater accused liberal Republicans of supporting a “dime store New Deal” — liberalism on the cheap. Goldwater in turn was accused of being an extremist, anti-Social Security, anti-federal aid to education, and anti-civil rights — the latter charge a particular slur against a founder of the Arizona NAACP who had helped integrate Phoenix schools. When it came to foreign policy he was said to be flat-out dangerous, a man who believed the United States shouldn’t co-exist peacefully with the Soviet Union, but rather win the Cold War outright. And this was before he faced off with LBJ, whose campaign simply picked up the themes of Goldwater’s intra-party rivals and drove them home.
All of this uproar came about because Goldwater believed — really believed — in what the Republican Party said it believed in: limited government. In today’s terms he was something of a libertarian, the Rand Paul of his day. In 1960 he had published a surprise bestseller (ghost written by Brent Bozell, the brother-in-law of National Review founder William F. Buckley, Jr. and father of today’s Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center).The Conscience of a Conservative made the conservative case that modern-day liberalism had not only set the federal government on the path to an unlimited (and unconstitutional) expansion, but that both political parties had signed on to that expansion.