Goldwater Enjoyed Favorable Press Prior to Presidential Run, New Book Shows

Prior to becoming a serious presidential candidate in the run up to the 1964 election Barry Goldwater was on the receiving of favorable press coverage and even led a “charmed life” that he was reticent to give up, according to a new book that explores the origins of the modern conservative movement.

In the spring and summer months of 1961 Time, Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report all ran positive and often highly complimentary stories on the Republican senator from Arizona. His popularity among college students and his growing influence within the party were widely acknowledged. 

“Goldwater has more than his share of political sex appeal,” a Time Magazine piece observed.

But these same outlets assumed Goldwater would not become the nominee and did not anticipate him becoming a genuine threat to the Eastern Liberal Republican Establishment Alfred Regnery explains in his new book “Upstream: The Ascendance of American Conservatism.”

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Regnery is now the publisher of The American Spectator.

He was previously president and publisher of Regnery publishing. 

The media’s tone and attitude toward Goldwater changed once he was positioned at the head of the ticket. “Overnight, he became a warmonger, an extremist and psychologically unfit to be president among other accusations, although he had not changed his message in the slightest,” Regnery writes.

The same dynamic appears to be at work now with another Arizona Republican senator. Just a few weeks after endorsing Sen. John McCain for president the New York Times ran a piece that claimed the presumptive nominee had a close relationship with a female lobbyist. McCain has denied these assertions. Unlike McCain, it is evident from Regnery’s book that Goldwater did not exactly relish the idea of becoming the nominee and enjoyed his position in the U.S. Senate.  Moreover, Goldwater had certain personality traits and characteristics that made him vulnerable in the general election, Regnery points out in his book.“Goldwater’s bluntness lacked grace, and came with a fierceness that enabled [President] Lyndon Johnson to paint him as an unstable fanatic” Regnery wrote. 

Nevertheless, Goldwater’s campaign opened a lot of doors despite the loss in 1964, the book explains. The “Time for Choosing” speech Ronald Reagan delivered on behalf of the candidate opened the door to a political career that would culminate in later victories for the conservative movement.

Reagan’s congenial personality and communication skills played a large part in his ability to secure political victories and to advance policy goals, Regnery said in an interview. Moreover, he added, Reagan always had a clear sense of what he wanted to accomplish.  

This was certainly true in the realm of economic policy where Reagan functioned as “economic lonely warrior” pitted against “pragmatists” who accepted Keynesian thinking, Regnery argues in his book.

“Unless a president really has his sights set on what he wants to accomplish, as Reagan did on economic policy, he’s going to get pushed around,” Regnery said. “There are not many people who get elected to the presidency who had the state of mind Reagan did.”  

In many respects the conservative movement is much better today that it was in 1980, Regnery said. He points to the institutions and the fundraising apparatus that have sprung up in recent years. Moreover, the advent of the Internet and bloggers have translated into a less hostile press in his estimation.


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