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The Fieldston School

Department of History____________________________________________________________

The United States Since 1940- The Rise and Fall of New Deal Liberalism

Barry Goldwater, “Opening Campaign Speech” (September 1964)

Many cite Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee for president in 1964, as the father of the New Right – a new  resurgent conservatism which would become increasingly popular in the United States with the election of Richard Nixon in 1968 and which would reach new heights with the Republican domination of American political discourse during the Reagan-Bush-Gingrich 1980s and 90s.  Goldwater was no moderate and his ardent conservatism was too extreme for most in 1964; he ended up losing the election to Lyndon Johnson by a landslide.  But many of his ideas would become part of (and, at times, come to dominate) American political discourse during the 1970s-90s.

As you read notice how Goldwater depicts government and Johnson’s Great Society.  How does Goldwater depicts the relationship between government and liberty?  How does Goldwater define liberty?  How is this different than the way President Johnson would define it?

Today [this] free and orderly community faces the grave danger of becoming merely another possession of the White House, and we who live here face the grave danger of becoming servants of some Big Brother who lives there.

We all sense this danger, not only those of us gathered in this square, but all of us across this land.  There is a stir in the land.  There is a mood of uneasiness.  We feel adrift in an uncharted and stormy sea.  We feel that we have lost our way....

Today, therefore... we also begin a great campaign to return the government of this nation to the people of this nation.  Today we take a first step toward ending in our time the erosion of individual worth by a growing Federal bureaucracy.

This time, in this election, we have a choice.  It is between far more than political personalities, far more than political promises, far more than political programs.  It is a choice of what sort of people we want to be.  It is the choice of what sort of world we want to live in and want to pass on to our children.

Choose the way of this present Administration and you will have chosen the way of the regimented society, with a number for every man, woman, and child, a pigeonhole for every problem, and a bureaucrat for every decision.  Choose the way of this present Administration and you have the way of mobs in the street, restrained only by the plea that they wait until after election time to ignite violence once again....

Instead, I ask that you join with me in providing that every American can stand on his own, make up his own mind, chart his own future, keep and control his own family, asking for help and getting help only when truly overwhelming problems, beyond his control, beset him.  I ask you to join with me in finding [new] answers for... [new] problems rather than relying on the old, disproved doctrine of turning our problems, our lives, and our liberties over to a supposed elite in an all-powerful central government....

This country has grown great and strong and prosperous by placing major reliance on a free [unregulated] economy.  What we have we owe to the ceaseless strivings of tens of millions of free men to better their own condition and to provide a better future for their children and their children’s children.  Private property, free competition, hard work – these have been our greatest tools.  Let us not discard them now!

This system has preserved and protected our freedom, our right to disagree, our diversity, our independence from arbitrary interference in our affairs.  This system is the mighty engine of progress which enabled this country to develop from a small but independent citizenry to become a multitude spanning the Continent and living on a level that is the envy of the world. 

Government-to-government aid from other countries did not do it for us.  Hard work and freedom did it! Progress through freedom has been our heritage and must continue to be our goal. 

Increasingly, however, government has been absorbing or controlling more and more of our resources, our energy, and our ambition.  Today you work from January through April just to provide government with the money it spends.  Until early February you are working to pay the expenses of local and state government.  For twice as long thereafter you are working to pay the expenses of the Federal Government.  Only then do you work for money that you yourself can use for what you yourself choose.

This cancerous growth of the Federal Government must and shall be stopped.