From Goldwater to Trump

John Fea found an old LBJ ad that shows moderate Republican discomfort over ideological conservatives like Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican presidential nominee. If Don Draper had worked for the Democrats, this is how it would have looked:

Drawing parallels between Trump and Goldwater are somewhat overdone since the Arizona Senator had a distinguished record of public service and even vowed to support Nixon in 1960 to the dismay of political conservatives. But the parallels do contain an element of truth in the sense that since the 1950s conservatives (and I count myself as one) have stressed ideological purity over political pragmatism. Maybe it’s the effect of turning 39, or maybe it’s the Trump phenomenon, but compromise for the sake of not blowing things up looks a lot more appealing these days than fidelity to “the movement.”

And here’s the kicker for Roman Catholics reading, some of the most articulate and intellectually rigorous supporters of Goldwater were Roman Catholics like Brent Bozell and William F. Buckley, Jr. (the latter of whom during the 1964 campaign had to distance himself from Robert Welch, the leader of the John Birch Society). In fact, Brent Bozell was the man who put Barry Goldwater’s political convictions into words — The Conscience of a Conservative (as I understand it, the book was entirely Bozell’s effort — see below).

All of this to say, Trump may be much more the fruit of the conservative movement and its anti-establishment ways than conservatives are wont to admit.

Postscript: a little background on Goldwater, Bozell and the conservative conscience:

Goldwater and Bozell were incongruous collaborators: The easygoing Westerner and the intense Midwesterner; the college dropout and the Yale law graduate; the Jewish Episcopalian and the Roman Catholic convert; the principled politician and the activist intellectual (Bozell had run for public office in Mary-land). But they shared a Jeffersonian conviction that that government is best which governs least. They looked to the Constitution as their political North Star. And they were agreed that communism was a clear and present danger.

Goldwater gave his final approval of the manuscript in late December, and Clarence B. Manion, the moderator of a highly popular weekly radio program “The Manion Forum” and the former dean of the Notre Dame Law School, undertook the publication and promotion of a book he was convinced would “cause a sensation.” Indeed it did. Before The Conscience of a Conservative appeared, Barry Goldwater was an attractive but controversial senator from a small Western state who was at best a long-shot vice presidential possibility. After the publication of The Conscience of a Conservative, Goldwater became the political heir to Robert Taft, the hope of disgruntled Republicans, partyless Independents, and despairing Democrats, and the spokesman of a new national political movement—conservatism.

What had Goldwater—and Bozell—wrought? The Conscience of a Conservative was an original work of politics and philosophy, a vision of the nation and the world as it should be, not a compromise with the world as it was. It was a fusion of the three major strains of conservatism in 1960—traditional conservatism, classical liberalism or libertarianism, and anti-communism. It was a book by a conservative for conservatives at a time when conservatives were beginning to realize the potential of their political power.

41 thoughts on “From Goldwater to Trump

  1. “Kirk and Bozell rejected American exceptionalism….Frank Meyer was not merely arguing that traditionalists and libertarians should tolerate one another and cooperate against a common enemy. His contention was that while they could differ in their emphases, a traditionalist had to be libertarian and a libertarian had to be traditionalist, or else each would be abandoning his own foundations. ”


  2. “In your guts, you know he’s nuts.”

    I am not old enough to remember Goldwater’s time of influence, but I’ve not been inclined to think well of the man based on things like this article. Jackie Robinson’s opposition to him was something of which I was never aware, and the book The Loneliness of the Black Republican is now on my list of books to read. There are more parallels than some conservatives would like to admit.


  3. Dan, did Manion come across as RC at all? I suppose your father as a Southern Baptist might have been put off by an RC with political aspirations.


  4. DGH, that Manion was a Catholic was well known. Retired Dean of the Notre Dame Law School? In this part of the country, his radio program was almost always in search of a station, so Dad got transcripts of his programs in the mail. I think that was fairly common. Had he grounded any of his arguments in Catholic Doctrine, dad would have thrown them in the trash. He had a lot of followers in the South, though he was certainly stronger in the midwest. Manion did not endorse Nixon in 1960, but he darn sure didn’t endorse Kennedy, either. Dad held his nose and voted for Nixon. He was never convinced or tempted by any third party machinations, which Manion and others were always promoting or hoping for.

    Perlstein and Judis are both good. Manion is understudied IMO. Things like the Bricker Amendment seem quaint now, but they were important litmus tests at the time.


  5. One of my favorite books since my high school days. I managed to get a group together a couple years to read and discuss. Timeless in many ways.


  6. It seems to me that the phrase ‘that government is best which governs least ‘ is more of a mantra than a truism. This mantra neither calls for wisdom nor does ihelp much in the making of decisions. And It is questionable whether the saying is in line with The Constitution. After all, The Constitution was written in order to strengthen the federal gov’t so that it could better respond to future rebellions that could follow Shays Rebellion. The increased power of the federal gov’t was a selling point in Federalist #10 and the new power of the Federal gov’t to respond to future rebellions was the purpose of the militia, which was mentioned a few times in The Constitution. On the other hand, the mantra is somewhat in line the then attitudes of many of the Founding Fathers which allowed elites from the private sector to consolidate power and allow the wea.lthy to rule. And the same goes for today.

    It seems that one of the divides our nations has the found in its view of The Constitution and our founding fathers. There is the Conservative mythical view that projects onto many of the Founding Fathers today’s conservataive ideologies and philosophies vs the liberal view which says that we must make The Constitution a flexible document so that it can better respond to modern times.


  7. Darryl, you’ll have to tell me what I’m missing. Here’s this quote:
    “It so happens that I am in agreement with the objectives of the Supreme Court as stated in the Brown decision. I believe that it is both wise and just for negro children to attend the same schools as whites, and that to deny them this opportunity carries with it strong implications of inferiority.”

    Excerpt From: Goldwater, Barry. “The Conscience of a Conservative.” BN Publishing, 2012. iBooks.
    This material may be protected by copyright.

    Check out this book on the iBooks Store:

    He goes to then argue that the Federal government has not grounds to enforce such a thing even if it is wise and just on the basis of the constitution and States’ rights.

    So the issue isn’t race but Constitutional authority and jurisdiction. Goldwater questions the notion of civil rights as a generic category. He’s unhesitant about acknowledging voting rights.

    You’ll have to remind me if you’re talking about something else.


  8. Darryl, Next sentence…
    “I am not prepared, however, to impose that judgment of mine on the people of Mississippi or South Carolina, or to tell them what methods should be adopted and what pace should be kept in striving toward that goal. That is their business, not mine. I believe that the problem of race relations, like all social and cultural problems, is best handled by the people directly concerned. Social and cultural change, however desirable, should not be effected by the engines of national power.”

    Excerpt From: Goldwater, Barry. “The Conscience of a Conservative.” BN Publishing, 2012. iBooks.
    This material may be protected by copyright.

    Check out this book on the iBooks Store:

    So, I guess my answer is yes. Overreach is overreach.

    BTW, Trump is no Goldwater. Since when did protectionism (and it’s cousin, anti-immigration) become conservative. Republicans, not just Donald Trump, are all mixed up.


  9. Terry, you’re in good company:

    Despite her current status as a Democratic icon, former first lady, U.S. senator, secretary of state, and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had some significant exposure to conservative politics in her youth. In her autobiography Living History, Clinton described her father as a “rock-ribbed, up-by-your-bootstraps, conservative Republican and proud of it” and noted that she had been a Young Republican and a supporter of Arizona senator Barry Goldwater, the most prominent conservative Republican of his era, during Goldwater’s (failed) 1964 presidential campaign against incumbent Lyndon Johnson:

    I was an active Young Republican, and, later, a Goldwater girl, right down to my cowgirl outfit and straw cowboy hat emblazoned with the slogan “AuH2O.”

    My ninth-grade history teacher, Paul Carlon, was, and still is, a dedicated educator and very conservative Republican. Mr. Carlson encouraged me to read Senator Barry Goldwater’s recently published book, The Conscience of a Conservative. That inspired me to write my term paper on the American conservative movement … I liked Senator Goldwater because he was a rugged individualist who swam against the political tide.

    Hillary Clinton didn’t last long on that side of the political spectrum, however, reporting that “By the time I was a college junior, I had gone from being a Goldwater Girl to supporting the [1968] anti-war campaign of Eugene McCarthy.”

    But Terry, can you imagine last summer telling Mississippi they have a right to use the Confederate flag and no outsider should tell them differently? I can. But I wouldn’t say it in a book.


  10. Darryl, often youthful idealism turns into more pragmatic concerns. Look where her pragmatism has brought her.

    Looking at the racially charged events of the past few years makes me wonder, however, if Goldwater’s less revolutionary way might have spawned better results in the long run. Imagine if Mississippi had come to grips with race relations on their own rather than having had them forced down their throats. Seems like inside out tends to work better.

    As much as it’s bad theology to promote modern and American exceptionalism, there is something rather remarkable, even with its compromise re slavery, about the US constitution.


  11. Why is Mississippi my business? Isn’t that Goldwater’s point? All the states don’t have to be the same. Next thing you know we’ll be abandoning the Electoral College.

    Goldwater continues:
    “Let us, through persuasion and education, seek to improve institutions we deem defective. But let us, in doing so, respect the orderly processes of the law. Any other course enthrones tyrants and dooms freedom.”

    Excerpt From: Goldwater, Barry. “The Conscience of a Conservative.” BN Publishing, 2012. iBooks.
    This material may be protected by copyright.

    Check out this book on the iBooks Store:


  12. Terry, how very small govt. of you for a transformationalist? So why is transforming chemistry your business? Or plumbing?

    Sort of selective, no?

    We are the United States, right? We aren’t the United Provinces. So if we fought the war to preserve the union and the post Civil War amendments made the South the nation’s business, why isn’t Mississippi your business? I suppose the Ferguson, MO police are not your business. Or the Baltimore police.

    That’s fine as a conservative. Not much sense for a neo-Calvinist.


  13. Darryl, sphere sovereignty…. And, of course, when we’re talking transformationalism, we’re talking persuasion and education (fully consistent with Goldwater conservatism). For the record, I am my brother’s keeper. If there were racism in the church, then I’d be obligated to address it (through the appropriate ecclesiastical channels), as the OPC did to the Reformed Church in South Africa through the RES. What racism in the church has to do with social and legal change in Mississippi, I haven’t a clue. Well, maybe a clue… Perhaps it’s the inside out change. Citizens and government officials in Mississippi who are Christians ought to do their part in shaping opinion and, as opportunity affords, laws and the like to seek to achieve a just and righteous society. But top down unconstitutional forced change “enthrones tyrants and dooms freedom.”

    Civil War amendments are part of the constitution. But just as limited as the whole constitution. So slavery and involuntary servitude (except for due punishment) are outlawed. Citizenship and voting rights are granted. Of course, SCOTUS interprets the 14th to include all sorts of other “rights”. SCOTUS has erred before. Scalia couldn’t live long enough to help roll back everything.

    No, I don’t really think the Feds have much of a role in Ferguson or Baltimore. Of course, the church’s prayers are in order and perhaps calling on the church to stand for peace and justice and civility. How about we send in the FBI and DOJ and register all the guns and iPhones? Then, we’ll be safe and there will be justice for all.

    I don’t see any conflict between my neo-Calvinist views and my political conservatism. (I did wonder how long it would take you to accuse me of such.) And, of course, some of today’s “transformationalists” are just progressive social gospel advocates. They criticize the sphere sovereignty arguments of the Kuyperian Dutch and South Africans on this very point. And they (and you) are wrong about this. Transformationalism is not about theocracy and revolution. It’s about Christians (both as individuals and in societal structures (labor unions, political parties, etc.)) being salt and light in society in their particular sphere of influence. It really is about persuasion and education and lawful (constitutional) action at the appropriate level.

    How long would it have taken the South to come around? I suspect not too long. Might have spared the nation some agony had the North been more patient. A less forced approach might have hastened settlement of subsequent racial conflict. Sadly, alternate histories are the fodder of science fiction. But, perhaps we can learn something from the thought experiment.


  14. Terry, “What racism in the church has to do with social and legal change in Mississippi, I haven’t a clue.”

    Ever heard the neo-Calvinist complaint that 2k limits the gospel to the end of the church parking lot?

    Coherent up.

    So if Mississippi would have changed without the feds, how about without King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference? Was it just preachy northerners who kept the South from doing what was right?


  15. Persuasion and education. Even marches are okay. Everything but federal (and unconstiturional) force. Salt and light goes way beyond the parking lot. Shame on any believer who doesn’t live his or her whole life to the glory of God. Old School Presbyterians (as individuals and members of societal institutions) in the South should have and still should be standing for justice in their work and community as they are called (as citizens or even activist citizens or civil magistrates) and as they are able.

    Again, no conflict of principle here. The Christian magistrate does what he/she can to see to a just society.


  16. Terry,
    Depends on how we are comparing items, but I look at transformationalism as being on the same continuum as theocracy, dominionism, and Constantism. I would call transformationalism ‘Christian Paternalism’ noting that such is not a monolith. I don’t see any necessary contradiction between neo-Calvinism and either political conservatism or progressivem. And I don’t see how those who are more progressive would have to criticize sphere sovereignty though I can understand why some would.

    I agree with persuasion, but my problem with transoformationalism is that when one asks ‘how should Christians share society with nonChristians,’ I don’t see transformationalists answering the question with: ‘as equals.’ There are strnegths from both transformationalism and 2KT that when combined together, makes a better approach for how Christians could be active in society and politics.


  17. Darryl, why is that so hard? Federal judges arbitrate based on the Constitution and Federal law (not the Bible). If a matter in Mississippi is a State rather than Federal issue, that’s exactly what the judge should say.


  18. Curt, I’m not sure why you say that. I’m taking some cues from APJ and their advocacy of principled pluralism. A role of the state in this era between Christ’s first coming and second coming is to enable the various worldviews/religions to operate on an equal playing field (hence, public money for religious school of choice). As far as I know, Kuyper never calls for a Christian state. Justice means allowing Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and secularists in addition to Protestants to express their worldview/religion and carve out societal realms for those things peculiar to their worldview/religion. In the sphere of the state there is joint governance, coalition building, finding common ground where possible, etc.

    Of course, Christians think their vision for society is correct. As do each of the others. Negotiating as equals does not necessitate negotiating disrespectfully.


  19. Terry, and when 2kers insist that the church’s jurisdiction is narrow — you know, like states’ rights — we are supposed to deny the Lordship of Christ — sort of like big government.


  20. Darryl, by sphere sovereignty the institutional church’s jurisdiction IS narrow. That’s neo-Calvinism (Kuyperianism) (and 2k from what I can gather.) The organismal church, every believer in all of life being salt and life, however, is exceedingly broad. That’s neo-Calvinism (Kuyperianism) too. I’d guess it’s part of 2k as well. Frankly, I don’t have much disagreement with 2k on this point. It would be nice to hear a concession from you sometime that there are fundamental differences (worldview/antithesis) between believers and unbelievers and that believers operate according the Lordship claims of Christ in all of life and unbelievers do not. By notions of common grace I am also willing to admit that there can and should be cooperation with unbelievers on some things where common cause can be found. Of course, at the very deepest level we know that such common cause also involves the antithesis, but that doesn’t preclude cooperation concerning certain and many creational enterprises.

    So, I would agree that there are some analogies between limited government conservative political approaches and properly stated relations between church/state or church/society in 2k and neo-Calvinism.


  21. And, yes, when neo-Calvinists participate in the State in a pluralistic government/society, they allow for the expression of views that are contrary to the Lordship of Christ. But such an allowance is in accord with the Lordship of Christ if that is the Christian view of the State at this point in redemptive history.

    Again, neo-Calvinism is for pluralism, not theocracy.


  22. Terry, but the way you and many neo-Cals describe the organismal church doesn’t recognize the sort of states’ rights you find so congenial in politics. The Lordship of Christ knows now state borders or Constitutions.

    As for affirming the anti-thesis, what blog are you reading?


  23. Seems to me that the 1958 CRCNA revisions admit to sphere sovereignty and are very close to the American revisions of the Westminister Standards. Is there really debate about this?

    No borders for the believer, that’s correct. I don’t, however, expect unbelievers to act as if they’re regenerate. And, if you agree that God’s will for the State in this redemptive history era is “pluralism” for the sake of the peace and mission of the church, then you get sphere sovereignty and a mandate for magistrates who are believers which does recognize such limits.


  24. Terry,
    First, I don’t know what APJ is. My comments came from a perception that you supported some form of transformationalism.

    As for what I said about transformationalism and paternalism, realize that I don’t think that Christian Paternalism advocates a Christian state. I believe the degrees of control over society which Christian Paternalism advocates are significantly less than what would be in a Christian state.. There can be a great deal of tolerance of other religions promoted by various forms of Christian Paternalism but there are red lines drawn. The fight over same-sex marriage in society was such a red line that brought together transformationalists and even some 2Kers. The 2Kers used the Christian understanding of natural law as the non-religious basis for their opposition to the legalization of same-sex marriage in society.


  25. Curt, Sorry for my jargon and obscurantism. APJ is the Association for Public Justice, now known as the Center for Public Justice. It’s a think tank of sorts promoting Kuyperian principles in the US public square. Jim Skillen was its founder (or partially). It’s my recollection that Skillen had some Westminster East and OPC connections.

    I think this approach is much more consistent Kuyperianism than the CRC’s current Office of Social Justice which seeks to locate action on Justice issues inside of the institutional church when it more properly belongs outside.

    The CRC now has expanded the office of deacon to include these justice matters and even notions of community organizer on these concerns (immigration, social welfare, environmental action, abortion, sex trafficking, etc.). This development only reinforces the 2k critique. In my opinion it’s Kuyperianism gone awry.


  26. Believers are members of multiple spheres (citizens of both kingdoms in your lingo). They are salt and light and submit to their Lord in whatever sphere they’re operating in. It may well be the case that Christ has different rules in different spheres (e.g. tolerating idolatry in the State but not in the church). There may well be tasks for which unbelievers and believers have common goals, say public safety, environmental protection, national defense, etc. In some spheres cooperation in these matters is quite appropriate. But it would be inappropriate (at this point in redemptive history) for a Christian POTUS to take action against idolatry and to require anti-idolatry laws in all 50 states. (And this would be true about any action that is not constitutional. In a particular sphere a Christian acts as salt and light within the context of that sphere.) I hope this clarifies my “no borders” comment.


  27. Terry,
    Thank you for the clarification. To me, the issue is not what the Church does itself, but how it shares society with others. Thaat means that the institutional Church should speak prophetically to the sphere of the public square in ways that include joining with nonChristians on the same issues.

    One of the problems I have with 2Kers is that they don’t believe that the institutional Church should speak on social justice issues. One of the problems I have with Transformationalists as I have heard them is that they believe that the Church should not join nonChristians in speaking on social justice issues. Another problem I have with them is that they don’t want to share society with others as equals in all issues.

    Anyway, thank you again for the info.


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