Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater had a way with words, sometimes the wrong way. “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue”, he stated in his 1964 Republican convention acceptance speech. The crowd roared, but across America, the response was more muted while viewers wondered, “Huh? Extremism’s ok? Is that what he said?”
Then came the “Daisy Girl” presidential campaign ad that unfairly painted Goldwater as a war monger.
If that’s all you know about Barry Goldwater, there’s more.
Illinois Republican Senator Everett Dirksen led a Republican caucus that included Goldwater and N.Y. Democratic Senator Jacob Javits while Democratic Senator and majority leader Mike Mansfield led a Democratic caucus with liberal Hubert Humphrey and conservative Strom Thurmond. Yes, THAT Strom Thurmond.
Despite their disagreements, they got things done through compromise and a communication technique you may have heard of: listening.
If you’re too young to remember what was possible, even in the turbulent 1960s, or would like to be reminded, look up the PBS Newshour Barry Goldwater and George McGovern 1988 conversation on divisive politics. It’ll warm your heart and break it at the same time.
Here’s why: We had leaders like Mansfield, Dirksen, and Goldwater. Today we have Greene, Boebert, and Gaetz.
Extremism? In 1964, we didn’t know what that word meant. We do now.