Bob Schwartz

Tag: Barry Goldwater

The Democrats Need Boldness Not Gamesmanship

“Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the elder Democratic leadership in Congress were able to fend off an insurgency and keep their jobs. It was explained that they deserved to maintain their roles, even if they are beholden to the old ways, because they are all veteran insiders who know how the game is played.

Knowing how the game is played has value, but not nearly as much value electorally as being bold. Being passionate. Convincing people that you believe in something so wholeheartedly that nothing, not even keeping your job, is more important. The evidence mounts that Democrats have ignored this, don’t believe it or can’t do it.

When Barry Goldwater was nominated for President by the Republicans in 1964, the party establishment rent its garments in despair at his supposed extremism, and felt vindicated by his colossal loss in the election. But within 20 years he was the intellectual soul of the party, and within 50 years—right now—even though Republicans speak with reverence about Ronald Reagan, the one they really owe their dominance to is Goldwater. They are the political heirs to his boldness.

In an alternate universe, the Democrats nominated Bernie Sanders, who proceeded to lose, maybe not as badly as Goldwater did, but possibly badly. Yet immediately after the election, an entire generation of young Democrats gets genuinely fired up, remaking the party as a vehicle of sweeping progress, of resistance to the worst and change for the best. Within a few years, Republicans have a fight on their hands, and within a few more years the tide turns—not just in Congress, not just in the presidency, but in the governorships and state legislatures, where the Democrats are also currently a minority. This happens not because President Trump or the Republicans are so bad, but because the Democrats are so bold, charismatic, appealing and inspiring.

Genius, power and magic. That’s the Democratic ticket.

Politics and People of Conscience

Conscience of Conservative

There’s talk of Barry Goldwater in the context of the current election cycle. I’ve written about him before—as it turns out, a few times, here, here, and here. It’s not that I’m a fan of conservative politics; it’s that I’m a fan of conscience.

Goldwater’s unlikely and iconoclastic nomination for President at the Republican National Convention in 1964 was predicted to be a disaster. It was, as he was crushed by Lyndon Johnson in the election. On the other hand, his political philosophy lived on in the party—coming into full flower with Ronald Reagan and, more than fifty years later, is still the touchstone of conservative Republican politics.

Goldwater’s famous book was a manifesto called The Conscience of a Conservative. Focus on that word “conscience.” It means principles that are grounded in the deepest part of your beliefs, principles that are often difficult to stand by. On one side is the temptation of expedience. On the other is being criticized for standing in the way and being outcast. Or in Goldwater’s case, for leading the party into a (temporary) black hole.

In both parties right now, conscience is being tested.

Paul Ryan and others are speaking their mind about Donald Trump, even in the face of calls for unity over conscience, for party above principle. Other Republicans, seeing the same candidate, admit he is flawed in ways they have trouble abiding, but a unified party has a shot a victory, while a splintered one has none.

Among Democrats, even some Hillary Clinton supporters, in candid moments, admit that they have deep reservations about her on fundamental grounds of honesty, integrity, and transparency, but say that winning is everything, and that she is the path to victory—whatever her shortcomings.

We shouldn’t indict those who compromise their conscience, in politics or elsewhere. Each of us does it or has done it, and we live with it. Maybe sleeplessly sometimes, but we live with it. What we should do is praise those who manage to know their conscience and follow it, often at a price. This is what we try to teach our children. This is what we should suggest to our politicians.

Donald Trump, You’re No Barry Goldwater

Donald Trump is now being compared to Barry Goldwater in 1964, an unfavored Republican candidate for President who lost big yet did not destroy the party.

I wrote recently about how the Bernie Sanders phenomenon is like the Goldwater one: a philosophical wing that will eventually take over the whole party—as Goldwater conservatism took over the Republicans.

To compare Goldwater and Trump, following are excerpts from their literary masterworks: Goldwater’s erudite and principled The Conscience of a Conservative, which is for many still the Bible of the modern conservative movement, and Trump’s Trump: The Art of the Deal, which is still…something.


The root difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals of today is that Conservatives take account of the whole man, while the Liberals tend to look only at the material side of man’s nature. The Conservative believes that man is, in part, an economic, an animal creature; but that he is also a spiritual creature with spiritual needs and spiritual desires. What is more, these needs and desires reflect the superior side of man’s nature, and thus take precedence over his economic wants. Conservatism therefore looks upon the enhancement of man’s spiritual nature as the primary concern of political philosophy. Liberals, on the other hand,—in the name of a concern for “human beings”—regard the satisfaction of economic wants as the dominant mission of society. They are, moreover, in a hurry. So that their characteristic approach is to harness the society’s political and economic forces into a collective effort to compel “progress.” In this approach, I believe they fight against Nature.

Surely the first obligation of a political thinker is to understand the nature of man. The Conservative does not claim special powers of perception on this point, but he does claim a familiarity with the accumulated wisdom and experience of history, and he is not too proud to learn from the great minds of the past…

So it is that Conservatism, throughout history, has regarded man neither as a potential pawn of other men, nor as a part of a general collectivity in which the sacredness and the separate identity of individual human beings are ignored. Throughout history, true Conservatism has been at war equally with autocrats and with “democratic” Jacobins. The true Conservative was sympathetic with the plight of the hapless peasant under the tyranny of the French monarchy. And he was equally revolted at the attempt to solve that problem by a mob tyranny that paraded under the banner of egalitarianism. The conscience of the Conservative is pricked by anyone who would debase the dignity of the individual human being. Today, therefore, he is at odds with dictators who rule by terror, and equally with those gentler collectivists who ask our permission to play God with the human race.

With this view of the nature of man, it is understandable that the Conservative looks upon politics as the art of achieving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the maintenance of social order. The Conservative is the first to understand that the practice of freedom requires the establishment of order: it is impossible for one man to be free if another is able to deny him the exercise of his freedom. But the Conservative also recognizes that the political power on which order is based is a self-aggrandizing force; that its appetite grows with eating. He knows that the utmost vigilance and care are required to keep political power within its proper bounds.

The Conscience of a Conservative
Barry Goldwater


I don’t do it for the money. I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.
Most people are surprised by the way I work. I play it very loose. I don’t carry a briefcase. I try not to schedule too many meetings. I leave my door open. You can’t be imaginative or entrepreneurial if you’ve got too much structure. I prefer to come to work each day and just see what develops.

There is no typical week in my life. I wake up most mornings very early, around six, and spend the first hour or so of each day reading the morning newspapers. I usually arrive at my office by nine, and I get on the phone. There’s rarely a day with fewer than fifty calls, and often it runs to over a hundred. In between, I have at least a dozen meetings. The majority occur on the spur of the moment, and few of them last longer than fifteen minutes. I rarely stop for lunch. I leave my office by six-thirty, but I frequently make calls from home until midnight, and all weekend long.

It never stops, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I try to learn from the past, but I plan for the future by focusing exclusively on the present. That’s where the fun is. And if it can’t be fun, what’s the point?

Trump: The Art of the Deal
Donald J. Trump

Bernie Sanders Is Barry Goldwater

Bernie Sanders for the Democrats is what Barry Goldwater was for the Republicans.

In the short run that might make the current generation of Democrats unhappy. In the long run, they should ask the Republicans how that turned out.

This is how it turned out. An unlikely, marginalized, and idealistic candidate tried to remind a party of its deepest philosophical roots. He won the party’s nomination for President, against all odds and against the wishes of many in the party, who believed he would lead them to total and inglorious defeat. Which he did.

Barry Goldwater also won. It is understandable that the Republican Party lionizes Ronald Reagan as its hero, model and godfather, since Reagan went on to serve two inspiring terms as President. But it was Goldwater, that embarrassment to some in 1964, who inspired Reagan himself and that first young generation of modern Republican conservatives (including Hillary Clinton, who began her political involvement as a Goldwater Girl).

We don’t know how the Bernie Sanders adventure turns out, either in the upcoming caucuses and primaries or at the convention. He is just as unlikely, marginalized and idealistic as Goldwater, and maybe less likely to win the nomination.

But in the long run, progressives who have been sidelined by the siren song of unwavering pragmatism—politics as the art of the possible—may be the winners. A new generation of genuine and fearless progressives may be born, even as the unlikely messenger is pushed aside.

In the words of Barry Goldwater, and as Bernie Sanders might also say:

“And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

Romney v. Goldwater


There are many things to say about Barry Goldwater. Agree with him or disagree vehemently, he knew what he believed and told you what he believed, in detail. He was capable of now-famous rhetoric—“ 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!”—but he backed his words up with specific plans, which did seem extreme to many. He was compelled to tell you because he knew that without that detail, you would not know where he stood nor how to reach the America he envisioned.

That’s what still makes the Presidential election of 1964 so interesting. When pundits talk about competing visions between candidates, that is the model. LBJ was just as clear about his beliefs, especially since he had been an unapologetic architect of mid-century America. There’s nobody then or now who doesn’t know where Goldwater and LBJ stood and the size of the gap between them. Goldwater’s extremism may have been successfully overstated and caricatured, as in Tony Schwartz’s infamous, shown-only-once Daisy ad, but the differences between them could not be overstated. American voters had a choice, and they overwhelmingly chose LBJ.

In the endless talk about what Paul Ryan’s selection as Mitt Romney’s VP candidate means, one of the touted benefits is that we will now—finally—have a clear-cut discussion about competing visions because we will have a clear, executable vision from the Romney ticket. This may be. Ryan is no Goldwater, if for no other reason than American politics has only produced one Barry Goldwater. But Ryan does seem to have a vision, even if it’s not as fully-formed as that of his hero and mentor Jack Kemp (whose political career began, not so coincidentally, as a Goldwater volunteer).

When it comes to detailed vision from Mitt Romney himself, even in the wake of the Ryan pick, expectations remain low. Romney is not only not Barry Goldwater, he is the anti-Goldwater. Besides being one of the most ardent “true believers” to ever be nominated in modern times, Goldwater was a notoriously plain-spoken Arizonan, as in plainly profane, taking no prisoners. If today he came back and got Mitt Romney in the back room, his very vocal thoughts on the candidate and the campaign might leave Romney afraid to come out of the room, assuming he survived.

For better or worse, Barry Goldwater wasn’t afraid of much of anything. And when it came to the measure of truly believing and backing up what he believed, Goldwater was just the right height.