Barry Goldwater Jr. On Comparisons Between His Father, Donald Trump

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Senator Barry Goldwater, surrounded by his supporters as he campaigns for the Republican candidacy, 1952. (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Senator Barry Goldwater, surrounded by his supporters as he campaigns for the Republican candidacy, 1952. (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Many analysts have compared Donald Trump's campaign with that of Barry Goldwater, the outspoken conservative Arizona senator who lost in a 1964 landslide to Lyndon Johnson.

On Saturday Trump invited the comparison, hosting a fundraiser in the late Arizona senator's former home. The Goldwater family no longer owns that property in Paradise Valley, Arizona, but the event has nonetheless fueled comparisons to the conservative icon.

Here & Now's Peter O'Dowd talks with Goldwater's son, former California Congressman Barry Goldwater Jr., and Elizabeth Shermer, an assistant professor of history at Loyola University Chicago.

Interview Highlights: Barry Goldwater Jr.

On what Barry Goldwater Sr. would make of Donald Trump

“You know, I don't know. I can't really interpret what his thoughts were. He was a party person. He believed in his party, in supporting his party. I remember him often times saying to those who didn't like the candidate is to get him in elected, and then try to change them. So he would be supportive of Donald Trump after he has won the Republican nomination, and he would say to everybody, ‘Come on, let's get on board. He's our candidate. Let's work for him and get him into office, and then if we want to, we can try to change him.’”

On parallels between Trump and Goldwater on race and civil rights

“My father was misinterpreted. And there's a lesson to be learned: don't let your opponents define who you are. My father was very much of an integrationist. He integrated the National Guard in Arizona, the bus stops, his own department store, the airports. He was one of the founding members of the NAACP. He got one of the highest rewards from the Urban League. He voted for every civil rights bill that came to the United States Senate, except the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And he did that because of constitutional grounds. So he was very much of an integrationist. He was well-liked by all the different nationalities here in Arizona. So Trump, on the other hand, he's made some statements that are not very attractive.”

On Goldwater and Trump as anti-establishment candidates

“Donald Trump is very unorthodox. Everything I knew about politics went out the window when Trump came on to the scene. He's not a polished politician. He speaks his mind. My father did the same thing, but my father, I think was a different kind of person who was thoughtful, who was serious, and was principled, was sensitive to other people. I think what we have with Donald Trump is somebody who speaks his mind and is appealing to the masses. The people are frustrated. They're angry. And they're looking for a leader, somebody who's going to start putting America first for a change. He may be unorthodox and somewhat glib in the way he says things. But that's Donald Trump, that's his personality.”

Interview Highlights: Elizabeth Shermer

On parallels between Goldwater and Trump

"On the surface it looks like it is, they both seem, based on recent things that we've learned, that Donald Trump is not quite the businessman that he's made himself out to be. Barry Goldwater was not the retailer. He really inherited his father's department store and turned it over. There's also a lot of excitement about these two candidates. There's also a distrust about who, either now or back then, was sort of the established figures in the GOP. And they really seemed to be defying the party, but also the potential of wooing away disaffected voters, particularly from the Democratic Party, in both cases. And also they both seemed, for their particular time, very coarse. There's a lot of concern right now about Trump meeting with evangelicals. Can he make them feel OK about his multiple divorces? Barry Goldwater styling himself as ‘I am not of that elite Nelson Rockefeller, Patrician world. Instead I'm a cowboy conservative. Ignore the pool in the background of me sort of behind the Arizona landscape.’ But it doesn't really work when you get past that, because Barry Goldwater by the time he's running for president, by the '60s, he's an established politician. That's really what he'd made his career of. Trump is not."

On what Goldwater stood for and his relationship with the party

“Well the way we have to think about Barry Goldwater and the early conservative movement coming around him, that would eventually make him its candidate because he's a part of a broad movement, is that they're standing for a repudiation of modern liberalism, New-Deal liberalism. And they hated Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller, called ‘me-too’ Republicans or liberal and moderate Republicans who seemed, and this is Goldwater's famous indictment of Eisenhower, that he was giving America a dime store New Deal.

So what you see is, this is how Goldwater moves from a career in retail to a career in politics, this idea that we will actually make - it's the story of the ‘64 campaign, the tagline of the ‘64 campaign - ‘A choice.’ A choice between the liberalism of the Democratic Party and something else with the Republican Party. And what Goldwater is actually a part of is a broad movement to find a place for a very decisively anti-liberal party platform, and also where would it be housed? Would it be housed in what Strom Thurmond thought would be the States’ Rights Democratic Party or would it be within the Republican Party itself. And the wars were actually within the Republican party in the '50s and into the '60s about what that party would stand for. But he is still a creature of the party. He was always a registered Republican, and that's so different from Trump.”

On Goldwater's rejection of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

“The interesting things about Barry Goldwater, and one of the things that people don't know about his early political career is that he was actually working a little bit with the NAACP. In fact, Phoenix school districts were desegregated a year before Brown. And what's interesting about that is for him, the way that Goldwater would talk about it, is that he found Jim Crow so repugnant, and he connected it to the fact that he was half-Jewish. His dad was Jewish, and until his star began to rise, he was excluded. He was restricted from where he could actually circulate.

However, as his African-American butler said, Goldwater had a blindness to understanding it. So it is true that Goldwater is wrapping this all up in the question of state's rights and local control. His main concern actually in '64 was the ‘64 Civil Rights Act would put an unprecedented amount of government power over hiring decisions. So it was really that background that he was a business conservative first and foremost. But speaks also to his way that he couldn't see the dynamics and perniciousness of race and racism and inequality.”


Barry Goldwater Jr., former California Congressman, serving from 1969 to 1983.

Elizabeth Shermer, assistant professor of history at Loyola University Chicago and editor of "Barry Goldwater and the Remaking of the American Political Landscape."

This segment aired on June 21, 2016.


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