Conservatives are, once again, at a crossroads as the race towards another presidential election year begins to pick up before us. Do we pick the most ‘red meat’ candidate possible and risk the general election? Do Republicans need to pander down to moderates, assuming they still exist in our post-COVID-19 lockdown world?
What does it mean to be a conservative anymore anyway? What do we fight for? What hills are we willing to take a stand on and which are we willing to let go so we can take on larger battles ahead?
What drives the conservative to be a conservative anymore? Does it mean anything?
If there was any political figure in American history who set the standard for what it truly means to be a liberty-oriented, Constitution-focused conservative, it was “Mr. Conservative” himself, the great senator from the state of Arizona, Barry Goldwater.
Here are some of his most notable quotes along with the reasons why we think they stand out today as much as they did when he first spoke them.
Goldwater was, through and through, a statesman who was willing to make what was considered radical claims about the relationship between the individual and the state during a time in which progressives had largely controlled the 20th century.
Whether it was progressivism under Republican Theodore Roosevelt or the New Deal progressivism under Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, which grew the size and scope of the federal government to levels not seen before in American history, the fact is that Goldwater was in government at a time when the Constitution was treated more like a recommendation list than the rule of law, the welfare state was seen as a solution for all our problems, and states truly wondered what powers they still possessed.
Goldwater, a student of history and servant of the US Constitution, knew the proper role of government and was willing to call out those who sought to grow the state while shrinking the freedoms of the individual:
“Throughout history, government has proved to be the chief instrument for thwarting man’s liberty. Government represents power in the hands of some men to control and regulate the lives of other men. And power, as Lord Acton said, corrupts men. ‘Absolute power,’ he added, ‘corrupts absolutely.’
Where he stood most apart from his Republican colleagues in the senate was his emphasis on a more libertarian take on a truly free market economy, a drastic contrast to the New Deal Democrats and ‘Big Government’ Republicanism that began to solidify after WWII, especially in the 1950’s under President Dwight Eisenhower.
Goldwater understood that in order to truly build America, and the world for that matter, back up from decades of economic disarray at home and abroad was to take down the barriers that were restricting the entrepreneurship, free trade, and innovation brought about by pro-capitalism policies that made the United States the economic powerhouse it had once been
“This country has grown great and strong and prosperous by placing major reliance on a free economy… Private property, free competition, hard work-these have been our greatest tools.”
With that said, Goldwater knew an economy and nation could only be as prosperous as its people, and was an avid opponent to the federal government’s increasingly heavy handed influence on public education:
“We have forgotten that purpose of education. Or better: we have forgotten for whom education is intended. The function of our schools is not to educate, or elevate society; but rather to educate individuals and equip them with the knowledge that will enable them to take care of society’s needs.”
Imagine today if more of our elected officials on both sides of the aisle focused on empowering individuals instead of empowering themselves and the tentacles of the federal government that impede our abilities to live our lives to the fullest?
Heck, by today’s standards Goldwater would be viewed as a ultra right-wing radical.
Barry Goldwater, while not achieving his goal of winning the 1964 presidential election against incumbent Lyndon Johnson, still won against the Rockefeller Republican faction which essentially made the GOP a neutered Democrat-lite party.
By fighting for his party’s nomination that year and establishing an unabashed, bold conservative platform, Goldwater established a new conservatism which largely became a permanent and consistent ideology still held by many who identify as conservatives today.
During his acceptance speech when receiving the Republican nomination that year, Goldwater took the political establishment head on with his declaration of war on the progressive ideologies crippling the American dream, saying out loud:
“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!”
Imagine if every Republican candidate running for president in 2024 didn’t just speak like that, but truly believed it? Our country would be a completely different place today if everyone chose to always pursue freedom over the deceptive nature of “safety” brought to you by a self-serving government.
What are some of your favorite Barry Goldwater quotes and moments from the late senator? Drop them in the comments below!
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