This is interview #12 in JohnsonForAmerica.com’s “Important Voices” series, where we talk with key figures, such as elected officials, candidates, authors, commentators, and policy experts, about the issues of the day. A new interview is released every Monday and every Thursday, so check back often!
Our guest for today’s Important Voices interview is Barry Goldwater, Jr. He is the son of the late Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee who ran against Lyndon B. Johnson for President of the United States during the 1964 Presidential election. Barry Goldwater, Jr. graduated from Staunton Military Academy in 1957 and Arizona State University in 1962. He has worked as a stockbroker, public relations executive, and an entrepreneur. Barry was elected to US Congress in California’s 27th district in 1969 and left office in 1983.
Josiah Schmidt: To start out, would you mind telling our readers what you’ve been up to over the past couple of years?
Barry Goldwater, Jr.: Well, every day I get out of bed, and I try to figure out how to make a buck. And I do that in a variety of ways: I do a little consulting on finance and business, to other businesses; I do a little lobbying back in Washington for companies that have problems with government regulations; I’m on the board of directors of several companies, and I own a company that I’m growing and trying to make successful. So that’s about what I do every day.
Josiah Schmidt: Great! How did you come to hold such a liberty oriented philosophy?
Barry Goldwater, Jr.: There’s nothing like getting out of school with your idealistic attitude, and then getting a job and all of the sudden, the first paycheck you get, half of it’s gone in the form of a variety of taxes, to make you a libertarian. That was a rude awakening to me. All of the sudden, a certain percentage of my freedoms were taken away from me and put in the hands of somebody else who thought they knew better how to spend my money. And that right away gave me an idea that perhaps we have more government than we need, and maybe more government that we can afford. Of course, I’ve grown up in a political family. So that kind of translated itself into following a philosophy of general libertarian leanings.
Josiah Schmidt: What is one of your greatest memories from your father’s presidential campaign?
Barry Goldwater, Jr.: Well, there were so many! I sure met a lot of nice people along the way. Probably the most exciting memory was the 1964 Republican Convention in San Francisco at the Cow Palace. I celebrated my–I can’t even remember what birthday it was–perhaps my 21st birthday, on the steps of a hotel with about 500 people, who are just milling around, singing Happy Birthday to me. But, I remember the Convention, I remember the fun, the camaraderie, the excitement, and the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that was going on with my father’s campaign workers to secure that nomination. They were running around, strategizing with the different delegations with walkie talkies, reporting in to headquarters. It was a lot of intrigue. It was a lot of excitement.
Josiah Schmidt: What was it, do you think, about your father that made him such a great communicator and leader for the cause of freedom?
Barry Goldwater, Jr.: Well, I think several things. One, he’s always had compassion for other people. So he was comfortable–comfortable being around people. Second of all, I think his upbringing, from primarily his mother, in a very Western atmosphere which is fiercely independent and patriotic instilled in him a sense of right and wrong. And having served four years in the military during the Second World War, and coming home to work in his family business, all helped to mold the man who eventually became the Republican candidate and one of the many spokesmen for the conservative cause.
Josiah Schmidt: Right. What was your experience in Congress like?
Barry Goldwater, Jr.: That was like being back in school. It certainly underscored the fact that we are a government of the people, because most of the Congress were like me. Each one of them had only a small area of expertise, and the rest of it they had to learn. That was exciting and fun and challenging, of course. The most I enjoyed was learning. We would sit there in those committee rooms, and we’d have some of the best minds on different issues come and talk to us. I remember I was assigned to the science and technology committee, and the subcommittee on energy–research, development, and administration. I didn’t know a light bulb from a nuclear particle! Yet, I was given the responsibility to generate research programs in the area of renewable energies. This was back in the 1970’s. The goal then, was–maybe most will not remember–we had an embargo in 1974 from Saudi Arabia, and everyone was standing in line to get gas in their car. That was under Jimmy Carter. He declared that this country “will become energy independent”. That was 35 or 36 years ago, and every President since then has made the same declaration, and I would suggest that we’re probably no closer to energy independence today than we’ve ever been. But sitting on those committees was really educational, to learn about wind power, solar power, portable tanks, electric automobiles, coal gasification, magnetohydrodynamics, and all about peaceful use of nuclear energy. It was a real education, and a lot of fun.
Josiah Schmidt: What’s the most important lesson that you’ve learned in your experience with politics?
Barry Goldwater, Jr.: Wow. I mean, I think it’s important that a politician stand for something. His positions on issues are not as important as the philosophy that he follows in formulating his positions on issues. What is his basic belief about our country and about our freedoms? What does he think about liberty and the best way to achieve it. That’s the most important thing for a useful, contributing politician to have. Unfortunately, I think, on the left, you’ll find too few people that have basic fundamental issues on how to live their life, and how their country should live. Their philosophy tends to be one of putting your finger up in the air and testing to see how much of the people’s money you can give away on some foolish program. On the other hand, the libertarian or conservative believes in the tenets and the preaching of the Constitution: that we are endowed by our Creator and put on this earth as free individuals. And the more freedom we have, the more productive we are, the better we can take care of ourselves, our families, and our communities. So therefore, limited government, less taxes, and less regulation really sets us free. We need government, but we need effective government. But again, it’s all based on a philosophy of perpetuating and promoting freedom.
Josiah Schmidt: Exactly. What do you think is the future of the American liberty movement?
Barry Goldwater, Jr.: I think it’s bright, I think it’s terrific, and I think it has great potential. We live in a society where there’s constant conflict over ideas. And the politics of today is this debate over ideas. Liberty values and liberty ideas are very significant and as long as man has a taste of freedom, liberty will continue to thrive and be healthy. It will constantly be challenged by those who feel their compassion, which I never doubt, can only be achieved by taking something away from somebody else in order to help another person. Now, that should only be done on a voluntary basis–that shouldn’t be done by coercion. Of course, that isn’t what the liberals’ driving force is. They see somebody that works, and they tax them and take that money and put it to work for somebody else who’s not working.
Josiah Schmidt: What do you think the GOP needs to do to revitalize itself?
Barry Goldwater, Jr.: You know, I just wrote Senator McCain a letter about this. I can read it to you: “Back in those days, when I was in Congress with my father, everyone knew what a conservative was. There was no question. We were all on the same page. Today we seem to be without leaders, and have no clue as to our philosophy or our identification. Are we traditional conservatives? Neoconservatives? Compassionate conservatives? Social conservatives? Christian conservatives? And then there was President Bush that came along, and our heads are still shaking. We really don’t know who we are. Up until Brown and the victory in Massachusetts, and the victories in New Jersey and Virginia, there was a listless attitude–a defeated morale and a lack of leadership. We were sadly trounced in 2008. Christopher Buckley left his father’s National Review and endorsed Barack Obama, basically saying he had no clear idea of what the modern conservative movement stands for.” But there is discussion today about the future of the party. And I suggested to Senator McCain, that “Goldwater, Reagan, and Buckley would all urge us to use today to get back to our core values. Limited but effective government, federalism, hard work, strong family units, personal responsibility, a marketplace free from regulation and taxation, and decency. This is what we have always believed in, and what we represent. Who could argue against liberty?” Basically what I suggested to him is that the Republican Party, in the future, needs to get away from issues and get back to talking about philosophy. So many of us are divided by those who feel that abortion is the most important issue, or gay rights, or gun control, the definition of marriage, immigration, and the Bush legacy. All of these are divisive because they are issues. What we need to do if we’re going to win, is to unite under one tent and talk about a Republican philosophy for the future. It’s important that we talk about and emphasize what we stand for, not our positions on issues, if we’re going to succeed.
Josiah Schmidt: Now, you don’t have to give an endorsement here, but what are your impressions of Governor Gary Johnson, and what advice would you like to convey to him if he were to run for President?
Barry Goldwater, Jr.: I’m impressed with Gary Johnson because of his success in two terms as Governor of New Mexico. He demonstrated his ability to govern with extreme opposition. I definitely think he’s qualified, if for no other reason than that, to be President of the United States. He’s got more experience than Obama ever hoped to have in managing government and governmental affairs. My advice to him would be to stick to what he’s done well, and to talk about liberty and freedom and leadership. That’s what I would tell him. Just to keep doing what he’s doing. He’s got a successful track record, and he has the tools he needs to lead. Just stick to the libertarian philosophy. Libertarians are going to do well this year.
Josiah Schmidt: You’ve become something of a hero to libertarian Republicans since your involvement in the Ron Paul campaign. Are you aware of the movements to draft you to run for elected office once again? I think I’ve even seen a whole website dedicated to persuading you to run for Governor of Arizona. What are your thoughts on that?
Barry Goldwater, Jr.: Every once in a while, people ask me about that, and, boy, that’s very nice–I’m humbled by it. But to be honest with you, I spent 14 years in Congress, I’ve been in and around politics most of my life, I know what it takes–the dedication that it takes–to be elected and to go to work and work hard. I know what it takes to run a campaign. And you know something? I think it’s time for us to look to the next generation–the newer generations–for leadership. I’ll always be involved, but I think from an energy point of view, and a capability point of view, you’ve got to get some younger people in there.
Josiah Schmidt: Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
Barry Goldwater, Jr.: Well, golly, I think that we as concerned libertarians ought not to give up on America’s future, and we ought to live up to America’s greatness. As long as we continue to fight the good fight, we’ll do okay.
Josiah Schmidt: I want to thank you so much for talking with us today, Mr. Goldwater.
Barry Goldwater, Jr.: My pleasure.