Eric Rauchway on Barry Goldwater
AuH2O all over again: “Conscience” features numerous dog-whistle appeals to American racists.... [H]is vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act would speak for itself, even if Goldwater didn’t speak for it: “the Supreme Court decision is not necessarily the law of the land,” he said in 1964, and he (or Bozell) said likewise in 1960, describing Brown v. Board of Education and allied decisions as “abuses of power by the Court.” In italics, Goldwater declares that politics needs to take into account “the essential differences between men.”... In a 1974 article trying to explain why liberals love Goldwater, the journalist Roy Reed tried to distinguish Goldwater and George Wallace: Goldwater’s crowd:
was not scary in the same way a George Wallace rally is.... The difference is in the build of the men at the top.... While Wallace is a demagogue, Goldwater is merely a crowd pleaser.
Apparently, whatever race-baiting Goldwater encouraged, it was not sincere: He really just wanted to defend a limited interpretation of the Constitution.
So far, so libertarian.... But the tenth chapter of “The Conscience of a Conservative” repudiates the first nine. Up to the book’s conclusion Goldwater harps on the need to cut government down, but here he declares, let government’s power grow. Why? The title of the chapter is “The Soviet Menace,” but Goldwater... sees [the enemy] as an idea... war on an -ism....
Our goal must be victory.... [W]e must always try to engage the enemy at times and places, and with weapons, of our own choosing.
So important is this strategy of aggression, so pressing is the need for a preemptive military war against an ideology that could be anywhere that, Goldwater says, he’s willing to set aside his libertarian principles:
As a Conservative, I deplore the huge tax levy that is needed to finance the world’s number-one military establishment. But even more do I deplore the prospect of a foreign conquest, which the absence of that establishment would quickly accomplish.
Someone who truly believes, as Goldwater writes, that “individual liberty depends on decentralized government,” might nevertheless subordinate his principles in time of war. But once you declare war on an idea, you’ve declared endless war: Once you’ve committed yourself to maintain a permanent war footing and a first-strike capacity anywhere at will, you’ve no kind of libertarian principles at all.... CC Goldwater says, “Anyone who motivates our decisions by fear cannot restore the principles of a country founded in freedom.” And she is surely right. Unfortunately her grandfather laid the foundation for the modern use of that motivation. Liberals don’t recognize it. But it’s all there if you read Goldwater on Goldwater.