"Mr. Not So Conservative"
This thesis seeks to assess Goldwater as a classical liberal in order to better explain some of his apparent inconsistencies, especially in light of later conservative viewpoints. Re-defining Goldwater as a classical liberal, I believe, will have strong implications for how historians and political scientists view Goldwater within the larger trajectory of American conservatism. To argue this position, I have formulated three key queries that need to be answered: Why did Goldwater run for President in 1964? Why did he continue running when he began to believe that his candidacy was destined for failure? Why did he vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act? I argue that these three questions all have the same answer—that Goldwater was a classical liberal and we should understand him in that vein and see his 1964 presidential campaign as an attempt by him to affix his belief system to modern American conservatism. This work is divided into five chapters. Chapter One provides a sweeping overview of the core tenets of classical liberalism. This is pursued through a chronological progression of the development of classical liberal thought beginning with Hobbes and Locke and the foundations of the social contract, passing to Mill and the concretization of the idea of rights as well as defining individual liberty in its negative sense (i.e. we should be free from government interference). The chapter ends by noting the contributions of Adam Smith (chronologically in between Locke and Mill) as pertains to his economic rationalizations of classical liberal values and the re-articulation of his arguments in the works of F. A. Hayek and Milton Friedman. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a reference point for Goldwater’s ideology and to situate him within the classical liberal tradition. Chapter two comprises the literature review. It begins with Goldwater’s two key biographers, Goldberg and Perlstein, laying out how he is treated by each as their works pertain to the three core questions outlined above (why he ran, why he stayed in the race, and why he voted against the 1964 CRA). Secondly, it covers how historians of conservatism have treated Goldwater and his 1964 candidacy. This focuses predominantly on the point of secondary importance as identified above – of how these authors situate Goldwater within the wider development of conservatism and his contributions to its definition. Chapter three focuses on the 1964 campaign including both Goldwater’s nomination for the Republican ticket and the actual electoral campaign itself. Across these two narratives it focuses predominantly on an analysis of how Goldwater himself tried to define conservatism. This chapter seeks to establish that Goldwater’s definition of conservatism differed in key manners from conservatism as defined by historians of the movement. Chapter four analyzes Goldwater’s decisive vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This chapter is divided into four parts. Firstly, a background to the act and what it included is provided. This is followed by Goldwater’s own account of why he rejected it. This will then be put into conversation with the views of his biographers as to why he voted against it. At this juncture I proffer my analysis of the discrepancies and similarities between Goldwater’s account and those of his biographers. The chapter ends noting the impact the vote had for the linkage of modern conservatism and white supremacy regardless of the meaning Goldwater sought to assign to it. Chapter five brings together the findings of chapters three and four into addressing the core thesis question – namely why we should understand Goldwater as a classical liberal and what that means for the definition and history of modern American conservatism.