Goldwater: The Record

Brase Tacks

Barry Goldwater is a man of integrity. That is, if integrity is defined as a reasonable correlation between rhetoric and action. One of the popular jokes about the man relates his "desire to repeal the twentieth century." Yet to read his speeches and peruse his voting record is to understand the more serious undertones of the humorous overstatement:

I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them.

These words appear in The Conscience of a Conservative, written in 1960, and since his election Barry Goldwater has generally backed them up with votes on the Senate floor. Now in 1963, when Goldwater must be rated the top threat to John F. Kennedy, a look at his public speeches and voting record in three key areas gives some concrete insight into a man who within thirteen months may be President of the United States.

CIVIL RIGHTS Goldwater's position on civil rights reflects two contrasting concerns. As a citizen, he has voiced strong personal objection to racial prejudice: "I am utterly opposed to discrimination in any form." But as a Senator, he holds an equally strong philosophical belief in "states' rights."

His voting record helps to clarify this ambivalence: his belief in states' rights is more compelling than his feeling for racial equality. Although supporting the continuance of the Civil Rights Commission, he has voted against by-passing the Senate Judiciary Committee to get a civil rights bill on the floor, opposed federal voting referees in areas where courts find patterns of discrimination, and voted against invoking cloture to cut off filibusters on civil rights bills.


Moreover, although he has approved of some sections of the civil rights bill now before Congress, he strongly opposes the public accomodations section considered so important by Negroes. Perhaps the philosophy and problem of Urban League member Goldwater are expressed best in this quotation from The Conscience of a Conservative:

I believe that it is both wise and just for Negro children to attend the same schools as whites, and to deny them this opportunity carries with it strong implications of inferiority. I am not prepared, however, to impose that judgement of mine on the people of South Carolina or Mississippi.

ROLE OF THE GOVERNMENT Invoking classical liberalism, Goldwater has said that he sees the Constitution as a "limiting" doctrine. And except for his votes on defense and labor reform, he has, as one might expect, a fairly solid record of opposition to any program involving greater governmental expenditure or planning.

Although he has never, as rumored, asked for complete repeal of Social Security, he has urged that participation in the system be made voluntary.

Of taxes he has said, "We can't repeal the income tax totally. It's an evil, but we obviously need major sources of revenue," and this discontent motivates his opposition to spending programs. "Spending cuts should come before tax cuts," he declared this year, while voting against the Youth Conservation Corps, federal participation in urban mass transportation, increases in the area redevelopment program, and legislation authorizing the training of the unemployed.

Finally, believing that the Constitution permits no federal "intervention" in education, Goldwater has consistently sought to maintain school control at the local level. His vote against the recent five billion dollar omnibus bill to aid higher education demonstrates his reluctance to mention federal assistance. Such views have their philosophical underpinnings in Goldwater's belief that.

The currently favored instrument of collectivism is the welfare state. The collectivists have not abandoned their ultimate goal--to subordinate the individual to the state--but their strategy has changed. They have learned that socialism can be achieved through welfarism quite as well as through nationalization.

FOREIGN POLICY Goldwater's foreign policy views, developed in his 1962 book, Why Nos Victory? follows from his goal of "total victory." Believing that negotiations with the Communists are useless and dangerous, he has endorsed severing diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and other Communist countries: 'Communists do not look upon negotiations as we do. For them, negotiations are simply an instrument of political warfare." He would bar Red China from the United Nations and consider ending United States membership in the organization: "The United Nations is in part a Communist organization ...we should therefore not be surprised that many of the policies that emerge from the deliberations...are not policies in the best interests of the United States."

Further, he favors the earliest possible "liberation" of the satellite countries and supports a tough policy aimed at ousting Castro from Cuba: To fear that U.S. interventionist policies would harm our international standing is "patently ridiculous...If this so-called world opinion were worth courting, it certainly would not countenance Communism with its history of violence, slavery, and oppression."

As a result of his recent refusal to ratify the test ban treaty, Goldwater's position on disarmament has become well known: he opposes either unilateral or negotiated action. "At this moment in history, the disarmament concept is an effective weapon in the hands of the Communists and a danger to the freedom of mankind," he commented in August. Foreign aid, too, would receive a stern rebuff, if Goldwater were President. During his ten years in the Senate he has never recorded a vote for a final foreign aid authorization or appropriations bill.

This examination of his policies, suggests why, to many Americans, Republican and Democrat alike, Goldwater seems as radical as Norman Thomas. His fundamental axiom comes straight from 18th and 19th century political lore. From his contention that the government serves only as a guardian of the natural laws of competition follow all his domestic positions. But in foreign policy the benign policeman becomes a strong-armed archangel, a Michael brandishing his flaming sword around the globe, turning deaf ears on the cries of the stricken. Goldwater himself admits that his is not the spirit of the times: "You are not going to reverse all these trends immediately. If you did it would be rather disastrous."

This summer Walter Lippman wrote that as a candidate Goldwater faced two alternatives. Either he would stick to his radical conservatism and be discredited as it received more publicity, or he would soften his point of view to become acceptable to a wider portion of the electorate. Goldwater's recent vote against the popular test ban treaty indicates, for the present at least, a decision to maintain the integrity of his previous beliefs. Whether this implies "political suicide," as Lippmann contends, remains, for the moment, academic.

It is often fruitless to predict what type of President a man will be from his past record. John F. Kennedy, for one, has hardly been a paragon of consistency. But Barry Goldwater seems a different sort of politician. There is no objection from his opponents that he does not say what he means. Rather they fear that he means what he says.