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Goldwater Senate Portrait
Goldwater Senate portrait
Photo: Library of Congress

Barry Goldwater

1909 – 1998

After WWII, the Republican Party splits along conservative and liberal lines. The shift to conservative control is signaled by Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential candidate nomination over liberal competitor Nelson Rockefeller. By the end of the decade, conservatives establish the party firmly to the right of Democrats.

Ideologically difficult to pin down, five-term U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater is a fiscal conservative, a libertarian in defense of personal freedom, and a militarist opponent of Communism.

In your heart,
you know he's right.

Goldwater campaign slogan

In your guts,
you know he's nuts.

Johnson campaign barb

In 1960, Goldwater's book, The Conscience of a Conservative, publicizes his views—including strong opposition to creeping Communism. His message taps into post-war anxieties about the communist revolution in China, expansion of the Soviet Union, and a growing club of nations armed with nuclear bombs.

At the '64 Republican convention, Goldwater wins the presidential nomination over objections from centrists. Many are worried he could start a nuclear war-and worried with good reason, given Goldwater's record of comments such as, "Let's lob one into the men's room at the Kremlin." The Johnson campaign uses groundbreaking TV ads to zero-in on voter anxieties.

On election night, Johnson wins by a landslide. Goldwater picks up Arizona and five Southern states, where white Democrats like his opposition of the Civil Rights Act of '64 (a position consistent with Goldwater's view of states rights). The election is a political watershed. After '64, the South becomes a dependable Republican stronghold, contributing to the election of seven Republican Presidents during the next 10 elections.

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