While they are no longer racist in the same sense now, the Democratic party was at its conception and for most of its history, completely and utterly racist. Yet anytime Democrats are almost forced to look back at some of the most immoral parts of their party’s history, they give the same excuses. Democrats claim the parties flipped in the 1960s, and it is now the Republicans who are the racists. If pressed on that claim they go even further, stating that President Lincoln, the first Republican President and the man who signed the Emancipation Proclamation and was heavily involved passing the 13th amendment, would be a Democrat today. However, when looking back at the history of the parties, it is clear that no switch ever happened, and the Republicans are as much in support of civil rights today as they were back then.
The liberty movement today does not have many elected officials to look up to. Considering that a large percentage of it doesn’t believe in electing officials at all, this is not surprising. Two main theories exist in regards to why those in power often are corrupt. As philosopher John Acton puts it, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The American presidency, of course, is nearly absolute power, and thus, lends itself to a whole lot of corruption.
Scientist David Brin, on the other hand, offers a much different theory. He says, “It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.” This idea, of course, recognizes that power does not change people much, but rather, only corrupt people seek it.
Both of these quotes, though, share a very similar critical concept. Regardless of the nature of power, and whether it is the cause of corruption, there is a strong correlation between power and corruption. Even though those in power may not have started corrupt, they quickly become that way when the opportunity presents itself.
The Actor-Turned-Corrupted Official
One of the greatest examples of this quick change is Ronald Reagan. The former actor served as both California’s governor and POTUS, in the 1960s and 1980s, respectively. Both times, he campaigned on promises of limited government leading to a thriving economy. But both times, he failed to live up to this promise.
As the governor of California, Reagan actually signed off on the largest tax increase in the state’s history. This, of course, is highly antithetical to everything that he ran on. Despite this, Americans still elected him president in 1980 with a huge margin of victory.
However, Reagan, as president, once more abandoned his alleged virtues of limited government. Though he did cut the income tax considerably, he was, in other ways, not true to his word. Admittedly, some of this was due to resistance in a Democratic Congress. But still, much of the blame falls solely on the former president. From 1981 to 1989, the national debt increased by 186%. Deficit spending increased, and the budget increased. In fact, he even raised military spending by an alarming 35% in only eight years.
For these reasons, it is impossible to view Reagan as a supporter of small government without some pretty strong rose colored glasses. Upon entering positions of power, both times, he betrayed his alleged principles. This trait is not unique to Reagan though. In fact, due to the similarity of his campaign to Barry Goldwater, it is highly likely that Goldwater would have done the same, if elected.
Barry Goldwater: The Unproven Failure
In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson handed Barry Goldwater one of the most crippling defeats in political history. After Kennedy’s assassination, there was little to no chance that the man would have been able to win. But what if he did?
Much like Reagan, Goldwater campaigned on promises of limited government intervention in the economy. He opposed FDR’s New Deal as a form of strong government overreach into the private sector, and is famous for also opposing a government strong enough to supply the citizens’ every need. Despite this strong personal position, his message would simply not have survived well in the tense political climate.
Differing from Reagan a bit, Barry Goldwater did have a track record of living up to his ideals. In his two terms as an Arizona senator, he retained most of his principles. But this is much more difficult to do as a president, especially when your ideas do not have a lot of support in the legislative body.
In 1965, Congress was heavily Democratic, with a majority in both the House and the Senate. These legislators overwhelmingly supported LBJ’s Great Society, and thus, would have fervently opposed the deregulation that Goldwater promised. So, even if he did adhere to his economic principles, it is highly unlikely that very many of them would have passed. Of course, Goldwater could have always passed some via executive order. But in doing so, he would have immediately violated his firmly held belief that a government should have very limited executive power. Thus, none of his economic ideas would come to fruition without abandoning the underlying principle behind them.
A Hypocritical Foreign Policy
Throughout the 1964 campaign, Barry Goldwater attacked LBJ relentlessly for his actions in Vietnam. Of course, it is true that Johnson lied to the American people about Vietnam, as well as needlessly brought the United States into the war. Goldwater was quick to point both of these things out, as well as call the war itself “Johnson’s war”. This all came after Johnson promised that he sought “no wider war” in Vietnam. Of course, this was not to be the case, as Johnson escalated the war and caused countless losses of American and foreign lives.
Conversely, Goldwater himself also had a very firm stance on opposing communism. Though Johnson’s allegations in the popular campaign ad “Daisy”, among others, that Goldwater would drop nuclear bombs on the North Vietnamese people were untrue, it is true that the conservative senator strongly supported action against communist regimes.
In July of 1964, Goldwater gave a speech in which he called for increased action to oppose communism. In fact, he called it “the principal disturber of peace in the world today”. He even went so far as to say that communist regimes were “enemies of every man on earth who is or wants to be free”, before referencing that America should become a beacon of freedom.
Without a doubt, these anti-communist sentiments imply a desire to spend considerable money opposing communist countries. Though Barry Goldwater may not have furthered the war as much as LBJ, his hawkish rhetoric suggests that any notion of small government would be crippled by increased military spending and presence throughout the world.
A Popular Loser
So, whether indirectly or directly, it appears Barry Goldwater would not have entirely lived up to his principles as president. Much like Reagan, corruption and bureaucracy would have crippled his ability to carry out limited government principles. American government, in a position of ultimate power, does not generally limit itself, hence the near-perpetual growth since its dawn.
Goldwater, a reasonably consistent voice for smaller government, would not have been an exception. His lack of success in 1964 ensured he could never go back on his own word, though, preserving his integrity and allowing him to become a role model for limited government advocates of today.
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Francis Folz | United States
For the first time in the last three election cycles, Ron Paul was not the old, white man who had the arcane ability to attract the diverse youth vote. In 2016, the role of Ron Paul was played by Bernie Sanders, and boy did Bernie play Ron Paul’s role well. However, once Mr. Sanders was defeated by Ms. Clinton, former Governor Gary Johnson doubled down on his support from millennial voters, stating that he and Mr. Sanders share similar positions close to 70 percent of the time.
I found it quite intriguing that two competing ideologies that, on the surface, couldn’t seem farther apart from each other actually share a plethora of dogmas in common. History is repeating itself, yet very few identify how civil libertarians and these modern-day progressive socialists have been on the same side of history as one another in the past.
In the 1960 presidential election, Americans elected John F. Kennedy by a narrow margin to be the next commander-in-chief. Kennedy, who had many libertarian inklings such as fiscal conservatism, the desire to abolish the Federal Reserve and the CIA, and his opposition to military conflicts. Unfortunately, JFK served only three years as president before he was assassinated and war hawk Lyndon B. Johnson took his place.
Barry Goldwater is often recognized as a man ahead of his time. In 1964, Mr. Goldwater, or should I say Mr. Conservative, defeated the Rockefeller establishment wing of the Republican Party and was nominated to be the next president of the United States. It’s important to note Mr. Goldwater wasn’t a conservative by present day standards, as his positions would be considered libertarian today.
The former senator from Arizona favored personal responsibility, proposed the idea that one must only be able to shoot straight to be in our armed forces, believed foreign entanglements are unnecessary and detrimental to our nation, and that American prosperity starts with laissez-faire approaches to economics. Regrettably, the War Party successfully convinced Americans that a Goldwater presidency would result in nuclear warfare, and as consequence, the Ron Paul of the ’60’s received only 52 electoral votes.
As Lyndon Johnson kicked the Vietnam War into high gear, the youth of the 1960’s became increasingly wary of America’s hunger for military conflict. Countless students defied their military conscription or celebrated Uncle Lyndon’s call to arms by burning their draft cards. Lamentably, the young minds involved in the anti-war movement were led by American communists like Students for a Democratic Society.
What many fail to consider is that libertarians found themselves on the same sides as the hippies, advocating for the end of the disastrous and unconstitutional Vietnam War. In 1969, libertarians were expelled from the conservative Young Americans for Freedom convention after a libertarian member burned his draft card. Although libertarians were not involved with organizations like SDS, their sentiment towards peace was just as strong.
Libertarians and the New Left most likely found themselves sympathizing or supporting the Free Speech movement of the early 1960’s. According to UC Berkeley campus rules at the time, certain political activity was prohibited or restricted to the Democratic and Republican campus clubs.
Students who desired to solicit money for Civil Rights campaigns or to speak out against the Vietnam War were either disbanded or arrested for violating campus laws. Although the Left is predominately considered the champions of the Free Speech movement, 60’s libertarians assumably supported the precepts of free speech, civil rights, and non-aggression.
In addition, the counterculture movement and libertarians shared a relaxed approach to social issues. Both libertarians and the left-leaning youth of the 60’s favored personal responsibility and decriminalization of non-violent offenses. Lastly, hippies and libertarians shared anti-authoritarian attitudes, which is ironic considering communism requires a large, centralized political authority.
Despite the hippies of the anti-war movement and the libertarians of the 60’s belonging to immensely different ideologies and organizations, both espoused similar positions regarding the most critical issues of their time. The similar views both sides formerly held have once again manifested itself in today’s politics, underscored by akin perspectives and, at times, differing solutions from the Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders coalitions.
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