A Democratic campaign advertisement known as Daisy showed a young girl counting daisy petals, from one to ten. Immediately following this scene, a voiceover counted down from ten to one. The child's face was shown as a still photograph followed by images of nuclear explosions and mushroom clouds. The campaign advertisement ended with a plea to vote for Johnson, implying that Goldwater (though not mentioned by name) would provoke a nuclear war if elected. The advertisement, which featured only a few spoken words and relied on imagery for its emotional impact, was one of the most provocative in American political campaign history, and many analysts credit it as being the birth of the modern style of "negative political ads" on television. The ad aired only once and was immediately pulled, but it was then shown many times by local television stations covering the controversy.
Goldwater did not have ties to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), but he was publicly endorsed by members of the organization. Lyndon B. Johnson exploited this association during the elections, but Goldwater barred the KKK from supporting him and denounced them.
Past comments came back to haunt Goldwater throughout the campaign. He had once called the Eisenhower administration "a dime-store New Deal" and the former President never fully forgave him. However, Eisenhower did film a television commercial with Goldwater. Eisenhower qualified his voting for Goldwater in November by remarking that he had voted not specifically for Goldwater, but for the Republican Party. In December 1961, Goldwater had told a news conference that "sometimes I think this country would be better off if we could just saw off the Eastern Seaboard and let it float out to sea." That comment boomeranged on him during the campaign in the form of a Johnson television commercial, as did remarks about making Social Security voluntary, and statements in Tennessee about selling the Tennessee Valley Authority, a large local New Deal employer.
The Goldwater campaign spotlighted Ronald Reagan, who appeared in a campaign ad. In turn, Reagan gave a stirring, nationally televised speech, "A Time for Choosing", in support of Goldwater. The speech prompted Reagan to seek the California Governorship in 1966 and jump-started his political career. Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, later well known for her fight against the Equal Rights Amendment, first became known for writing a pro-Goldwater book, A Choice, Not an Echo, attacking the moderate Republican establishment.
Goldwater lost to President Lyndon Johnson by a landslide, pulling down the Republican Party which lost many seats in both houses of Congress.
Goldwater only won his home state of Arizona and five states in the Deep South. The Southern states, traditionally Democratic up to that time, voted Republican primarily as a statement of opposition to the Civil Rights Act, which had been signed into law by Johnson earlier that year. Outside of the South the law was extremely popular. Despite Johnson support for the Civil Rights Act, the bill received split support from Congressional Democrats due to southernern opposition. In contrast, Congressional Republicans overwhelmingly supported the bill, with Goldwater being joined by only 5 other Republican senators in voting against it. Outside of the South, the Civil Rights Act was extremely popular and Goldwater's opposition to it hurt him significantly with voters across the country, including from his own party.
In the end, Goldwater received 38% of the popular vote, and carried just six states: Arizona (with 51% of the popular vote) and the core states of the Deep South: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. In carrying Georgia by a margin of 54–45%, Goldwater became the first Republican nominee to win the state. However, the overall result was the worst showing in terms of popular vote and electoral college vote for any post-World War II Republican. Indeed, he wouldn't have even carried his own state if not for a 20,000-vote margin in Maricopa County.
Johnson won an overwhelming 486 electoral votes, to Goldwater's 52. Goldwater, with his customary bluntness, remarked, "We would have lost even if Abraham Lincoln had come back and campaigned with us." He maintained later in life that he would have won the election if the country had not been in a state of extended grief following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and that it was simply not ready for a third president in just 14 months.
Goldwater's poor showing pulled down many supporters. Of the 57 Republican Congressmen who endorsed Goldwater before the convention, 20 were defeated for reelection, along with many promising young Republicans. In contrast, Republican Congressman John Lindsay (NY-17), who refused to endorse Goldwater was handily re-elected in a district where Democrats held a 10% overall advantage. On the other hand, the defeat of so many older politicians created openings for young conservatives to move up the ladder. While the loss of moderate Republicans was temporary—they were back by 1966—Goldwater also permanently pulled many conservative Southerners and white ethnics out of the New Deal Coalition.
According to Steve Kornacki of Salon, "Goldwater broke through and won five [Southern] states—the best showing in the region for a GOP candidate since Reconstruction. In Mississippi—where Franklin D. Roosevelt had won nearly 100 percent of the vote 28 years earlier—Goldwater claimed a staggering 87 percent." It has frequently been argued that Goldwater's strong performance in Southern states previously regarded as Democratic strongholds foreshadowed a larger shift in electoral trends in the coming decades that would make the South a Republican bastion (an end to the "Solid South")—first in presidential politics and eventually at the congressional and state levels, as well. Also, Goldwater's uncompromising promotion of freedom was the start of a continuing shift in American politics from liberalism to a conservative economic philosophy.
Goldwater remained popular in Arizona, and in the 1968 Senate election he was elected to the seat of retiring Senator Carl Hayden. He was subsequently reelected in 1974 and 1980.
Throughout the late 1970s, as the conservative wing under Ronald Reagan gained control of the Republican Party, Goldwater concentrated on his Senate duties, especially in military affairs. Goldwater purportedly did not like Richard Nixon on either a political or personal level, later calling the California Republican "the most dishonest individual I have ever met in my life"). Accordingly, he played little part in Nixon's election or administration, but he helped force Nixon's resignation in 1974. At the height of the Watergate scandal, Goldwater met with Nixon at the White House and urged him to resign. At the time, Nixon’s impeachment by the House of Representatives was imminent and Goldwater warned him that fewer than 10 Republican senators would vote against conviction. After Goldwater helped convince Nixon to resign, the term "Goldwater moment" has been used to describe situations when influential members of Congress disagree so strongly with a president from their own party that they openly oppose him.
Despite being a difficult year for Republicans candidates, the 1974 election saw Goldwater easily reelected over his Democratic opponent, Jonathan Marshall, the publisher of The Scottsdale Progress.
At the 1976 Republican National Convention, Goldwater help block Rockefeller’s renominated as Vice President. When Reagan challenged Ford for the presidential nomination in 1976, Goldwater endorsed the incumbent Ford, looking for consensus rather than conservative idealism. As one historian notes, "The Arizonan had lost much of his zest for battle."
In 1979, when President Carter normalized relations with Communist China, Goldwater and some other Senators sued him in the Supreme Court, arguing that the President could not terminate the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty with Republic of China (Taiwan) without the approval of Congress. The case, Goldwater v. Carter 444 U.S. 996, was dismissed by the court as a political question.
With his fourth Senate term due to end in January 1981, Goldwater seriously considered retiring from the Senate in 1980 before deciding to run for one final term. It was a surprisingly tough battle for re-election. Goldwater was viewed by some as out of touch and vulnerable for several reasons, chiefly because he had planned to retire in 1981, he had not visited many areas of Arizona outside of Phoenix and Tucson. Additionally, his Democrat challenger, Bill Schulz, proved to be a formidable opponent. A former Republican and a wealthy real estate developer, Schultz’s campaign slogan was "Energy for the Eighties." Arizona's changing population also hurt Goldwater. The state's population had soared and a huge portion of the electorate had not lived in the state when Goldwater was previously elected; meaning unlike most incumbents, many voters were less familiar with Goldwater‘s actual beliefs. Goldwater would go on to spend most of the campaign on the defensive. Although he went on to win the general election by a very narrow margin, receiving 49.5% of the vote to Schulz's 48.4%, early returns on election night indicated that Schulz would win. The counting of votes continued through the night and into the next morning. At around daybreak, Goldwater learned that he had been reelected thanks to absentee ballots, which were among the last to be counted.
Goldwater's surprisingly close victory in 1980 came despite Reagan's 61% landslide over Jimmy Carter in Arizona. Despite Goldwater’s struggles, in 1980 Republicans were able to pick up 12 senate seats, regaining control of the chamber for the first time since 1955, when Goldwater was in his first term. Goldwater was now in the most powerful position he had ever been in the Senate. In October 1983, Goldwater voted against the legislation establishing Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday.
After the new senate convened in January 1981, Goldwater became chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. In this role he had a notable clash with the Reagan administration in April 1984 when he discovered that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had been mining the waters of Nicaragua since February, something that he had first denied when the matter was raised. In a note to the CIA director William Casey, Goldwater denounced what he called an "act of war", saying that "this is no way to run a railroad" as he stated crossly that only Congress had the power to declare war and accused the CIA of illegally mining Nicaraguan waters without the permission of Congress. Goldwater concluded: "The President has asked us to back his foreign policy. Bill, how can we back his foreign policy when we don't know what the hell he is doing? Lebanon, yes, we all knew that he sent troops over there. But mine the harbors in Nicaragua? This is an act violating international law. It is an act of war. For the life of me, I don't see how we are going to explain it." Goldwater felt compelled to issue an apology on the floor of the Senate because the Senate Intelligence Committee had failed in its duties to oversee the CIA as he stated: "I am forced to apologize for the members of my committee because I did not know the facts on this case. And I apologize to all the members of the Senate for the same reason". Goldwater subsequently voted for a Congressional resolution condemning the mining.
In his 1980 Senate reelection campaign, Goldwater won support from religious conservatives but in his final term voted consistently to uphold legalized abortion and in 1981 gave a speech on how he was angry about the bullying of American politicians by religious organizations, and would "fight them every step of the way". Goldwater also disagreed with the Reagan administration on certain aspects of foreign policy (for example, he opposed the decision to mine Nicaraguan harbors). Notwithstanding his prior differences with Dwight D. Eisenhower, Goldwater in a 1986 interview rated him the best of the seven presidents with whom he had worked.
He introduced the 1984 Cable Franchise Policy and Communications Act, which allowed local governments to require the transmission of public, educational, and government access (PEG) channels, barred cable operators from exercising editorial control over content of programs carried on PEG channels, and absolved them from liability for their content.
On May 12, 1986, Goldwater was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan.
Goldwater visited the small town of Bowen, Illinois, in 1989 to see where his mother was raised.
In response to Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell's opposition to the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court, of which Falwell had said, "Every good Christian should be concerned", Goldwater retorted: "Every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass." According to John Dean, Goldwater actually suggested that good Christians ought to kick Falwell in the "nuts", but the news media "changed the anatomical reference".[page needed] Goldwater also had harsh words for his one-time political protegé, President Reagan, particularly after the Iran–Contra Affair became public in 1986. Journalist Robert MacNeil, a friend of Goldwater's from the 1964 presidential campaign, recalled interviewing him in his office shortly afterward. "He was sitting in his office with his hands on his cane... and he said to me, 'Well, aren't you going to ask me about the Iran arms sales?' It had just been announced that the Reagan administration had sold arms to Iran. And I said, 'Well, if I asked you, what would you say?' He said, 'I'd say it's the god-damned stupidest foreign policy blunder this country's ever made!'", although aside from the Iran–Contra scandal, Goldwater thought nonetheless that Reagan was a good president.
Goldwater said later that the close result in 1980 convinced him not to run again. He retired in 1987, serving as chair of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees in his final term. Despite his reputation as a firebrand in the 1960s, by the end of his career he was considered a stabilizing influence in the Senate, one of the most respected members of either major party. Although Goldwater remained staunchly anti-communist and "hawkish" on military issues, he was a key supporter of the fight for ratification of the Panama Canal Treaty in the 1970s, which would give control of the canal zone to the Republic of Panama. His most important legislative achievement may have been the Goldwater–Nichols Act, which reorganized the U.S. military's senior-command structure.
Goldwater became most associated with labor-union reform and anti-communism; he was a supporter of the conservative coalition in Congress. His work on labor issues led to Congress passing major anti-corruption reforms in 1957, and an all-out campaign by the AFL-CIO to defeat his 1958 reelection bid. He voted against the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954, but he never actually charged any individual with being a communist/Soviet agent. Goldwater emphasized his strong opposition to the worldwide spread of communism in his 1960 book The Conscience of a Conservative. The book became an important reference text in conservative political circles.
In 1964, Goldwater ran a conservative campaign that emphasized states' rights. Goldwater's 1964 campaign was a magnet for conservatives since he opposed interference by the federal government in state affairs. Goldwater voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but did not vote on the Civil Rights Act of 1960. Though Goldwater had supported the original Senate version of the bill, Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His stance was based on his view that Article II and Article VII of the Act interfered with the rights of private persons to do or not to do business with whomever they chose, and believed that the private employment provisions of the Act would lead to racial quotas. In the segregated city of Phoenix in the 1950s, he had quietly supported civil rights for blacks, but would not let his name be used.
All this appealed to white Southern Democrats, and Goldwater was the first Republican to win the electoral votes of all of the Deep South states (South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana) since Reconstruction. However, Goldwater's vote on the Civil Rights Act proved devastating to his campaign everywhere outside the South (besides Dixie, Goldwater won only in Arizona, his home state), contributing to his landslide defeat in 1964.
While Goldwater had been depicted by his opponents in the Republican primaries as a representative of a conservative philosophy that was extreme and alien, his voting records show that his positions were in harmony with those of his fellow Republicans in the Congress. According to Hans J. Morgenthau, what distinguished him from his predecessors was his firmness of principle and determination, which did not allow him to be content with mere rhetoric.
Goldwater fought in 1971 to stop U.S. funding of the United Nations after the People's Republic of China was admitted to the organization. He said:
Although Goldwater was not as important in the American conservative movement as Ronald Reagan after 1965, he shaped and redefined the movement from the late 1950s to 1964. Arizona Senator John McCain, who had succeeded Goldwater in the Senate in 1987, summed up Goldwater's legacy, "He transformed the Republican Party from an Eastern elitist organization to the breeding ground for the election of Ronald Reagan." Columnist George Will remarked after the 1980 presidential election that it took 16 years to count the votes from 1964 and Goldwater won.
The Republican Party recovered from the 1964 election debacle, acquiring 47 seats in the House of Representatives in the 1966 mid-term election. Further Republican successes ensued, including Goldwater's return to the Senate in 1969. In January of that year, Goldwater wrote an article in the National Review "affirming that he [was] not against liberals, that liberals are needed as a counterweight to conservatism, and that he had in mind a fine liberal like Max Lerner".
Goldwater was a strong supporter of environmental protection. He explained his position in 1969:
By the 1980s, with Ronald Reagan as president and the growing involvement of the religious right in conservative politics, Goldwater's libertarian views on personal issues were revealed; he believed that they were an integral part of true conservatism. Goldwater viewed abortion as a matter of personal choice and as such supported abortion rights.
As a passionate defender of personal liberty, he saw the religious right's views as an encroachment on personal privacy and individual liberties.
After his retirement in 1987, Goldwater described the Arizona Governor Evan Mecham as "hardheaded" and called on him to resign, and two years later stated that the Republican party had been taken over by a "bunch of kooks".
In 1987 he received the Langley Gold Medal from the Smithsonian Institution. In 1988, Princeton University's American Whig-Cliosophic Society awarded Goldwater the James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service in recognition of his career.
In a 1994 interview with The Washington Post, the retired senator said,
In 1988 during that year's presidential campaign, he pointedly told vice-presidential nominee Dan Quayle at a campaign event in Arizona "I want you to go back and tell George Bush to start talking about the issues."
Some of Goldwater's statements in the 1990s alienated many social conservatives. He endorsed Democrat Karan English in an Arizona congressional race, urged Republicans to lay off Bill Clinton over the Whitewater scandal, and criticized the military's ban on homosexuals: He said that "Everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar" and that "You don't need to be 'straight' to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight." A few years before his death, he addressed establishment Republicans by saying, "Do not associate my name with anything you do. You are extremists, and you've hurt the Republican party much more than the Democrats have."
In 1996, he told Bob Dole, whose own presidential campaign received lukewarm support from conservative Republicans: "We're the new liberals of the Republican party. Can you imagine that?" In that same year, with Senator Dennis DeConcini, Goldwater endorsed an Arizona initiative to legalize medical marijuana against the countervailing opinion of social conservatives.
In 1997, Goldwater revealed he was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and would be retiring from public life. On May 29, 1998, a year after his diagnosis, Barry Goldwater died in Paradise Valley, Arizona at the age of 89.
Goldwater was an avid amateur radio operator from the early 1920s onwards, with the call signs 6BPI, K3UIG and K7UGA. The last is now used by an Arizona club honoring him as a commemorative call. During the Vietnam War he was a Military Affiliate Radio System (MARS) operator.
Goldwater was a prominent spokesman for amateur radio and its enthusiasts. Beginning in 1969 up to his death he appeared in numerous educational and promotional films (and later videos) about the hobby that were produced for the American Radio Relay League (the United States national society representing the interests of radio amateurs) by such producers as Dave Bell (W6AQ), ARRL Southwest Director John R. Griggs (W6KW), Alan Kaul (W6RCL), Forrest Oden (N6ENV), and the late Roy Neal (K6DUE). His first appearance was in Dave Bell's The World of Amateur Radio where Goldwater discussed the history of the hobby and demonstrated a live contact with Antarctica. His last on-screen appearance dealing with "ham radio" was in 1994, explaining a then-upcoming, Earth-orbiting ham radio relay satellite.
Electronics was a hobby for Goldwater beyond amateur radio. He enjoyed assembling Heathkits, completing more than 100 and often visiting their maker in Benton Harbor, Michigan, to buy more, before the company exited the kit business in 1992.
In 1916 Goldwater visited the Hopi Reservation with Phoenix architect John Rinker Kibby, and obtained his first kachina doll. Eventually his doll collection included 437 items and was presented in 1969 to the Heard Museum in Phoenix.
Goldwater was an amateur photographer and in his estate left some 15,000 of his images to three Arizona institutions. He was very keen on candid photography. He got started in photography after receiving a camera as a gift from his wife on their first Christmas together. He was known to use a 4×5 Graflex, Rolleiflex, 16 mm Bell and Howell motion picture camera, and 35 mm Nikkormat FT. He was a member of the Royal Photographic Society from 1941 becoming a Life Member in 1948.
For decades, he contributed photographs of his home state to Arizona Highways and was best known for his Western landscapes and pictures of native Americans in the United States. Three books with his photographs are People and Places, from 1967; Barry Goldwater and the Southwest, from 1976; and Delightful Journey, first published in 1940 and reprinted in 1970. Ansel Adams wrote a foreword to the 1976 book.
Goldwater's photography interests occasionally crossed over with his political career. John F. Kennedy, as president, was known to invite former congressional colleagues to the White House for a drink. On one occasion, Goldwater brought his camera and photographed President Kennedy. When Kennedy received the photo, he returned it to Goldwater, with the inscription, "For Barry Goldwater—Whom I urge to follow the career for which he has shown such talent—photography!—from his friend—John Kennedy." This quip became a classic of American political humor after it was made famous by humorist Bennett Cerf. The photo itself was prized by Goldwater for the rest of his life, and recently sold for $17,925 in a Heritage auction.
Son Michael Prescott Goldwater formed the Goldwater Family Foundation with the goal of making his father's photography available via the internet. (Barry Goldwater Photographs) was launched in September 2006 to coincide with the HBO documentary Mr. Conservative, produced by granddaughter CC Goldwater.
On March 28, 1975, Goldwater wrote to Shlomo Arnon: "The subject of UFOs has interested me for some long time. About ten or twelve years ago I made an effort to find out what was in the building at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where the information has been stored that has been collected by the Air Force, and I was understandably denied this request. It is still classified above Top Secret." Goldwater further wrote that there were rumors the evidence would be released, and that he was "just as anxious to see this material as you are, and I hope we will not have to wait much longer".
The April 25, 1988 issue of The New Yorker carried an interview where Goldwater said he repeatedly asked his friend, General Curtis LeMay, if there was any truth to the rumors that UFO evidence was stored in a secret room at Wright-Patterson, and if he (Goldwater) might have access to the room. According to Goldwater, an angry LeMay gave him "holy hell" and said, "Not only can't you get into it but don't you ever mention it to me again."
In a 1988 interview on Larry King's radio show, Goldwater was asked if he thought the U.S. Government was withholding UFO evidence; he replied "Yes, I do." He added:
The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986. Its goal is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields.
The Scholarship is widely considered the most prestigious award in the U.S. conferred upon undergraduates studying the sciences. It is awarded to about 300 students (college sophomores and juniors) nationwide in the amount of $7,500 per academic year (for their senior year, or junior and senior years). It honors Goldwater's keen interest in science and technology.
Goldwater's public appearances ended in late 1996 after he suffered a massive stroke; family members then disclosed he was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. He died on May 29, 1998, at the age of 89 at his long-time home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, of complications from the stroke. His funeral was co-officiated by both a reverend and a rabbi. His ashes were buried at the Episcopal Christ Church of the Ascension in Paradise Valley, Arizona. A memorial statue set in a small park has been erected to honor the memory of Goldwater in that town, near his former home and current resting place.
Among the buildings and monuments named after Barry Goldwater are: the Barry M. Goldwater Terminal at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Goldwater Memorial Park in Paradise Valley, Arizona, the Barry Goldwater Air Force Academy Visitor Center at the United States Air Force Academy, and Barry Goldwater High School in northern Phoenix. In 2010, former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, himself a Goldwater scholar and supporter, founded the Goldwater Women's Tennis Classic Tournament to be held annually at the Phoenix Country Club in Phoenix. On February 11, 2015, a statue of Goldwater by Deborah Copenhaver Fellows was unveiled by U.S. House and Senate leaders at a dedication ceremony in National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Barry Goldwater Peak is the highest peak in the White Tank Mountains.
Goldwater's granddaughter, CC Goldwater, has co-produced with longtime friend and independent film producer Tani L. Cohen a documentary on Goldwater's life, Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater, first shown on HBO on September 18, 2006.
In his song "I Shall Be Free No. 10", Bob Dylan refers to Goldwater: "I'm liberal to a degree, I want everybody to be free. But if you think I'll let Barry Goldwater move in next door and marry my daughter, you must think I'm crazy." In the 1965 film The Bedford Incident, the actor Richard Widmark playing the film's antagonist, Captain Eric Finlander of the fictional destroyer USS Bedford, modelled his character's mannerisms and rhetorical style after Goldwater.
Goldwater's son Barry Goldwater Jr. served as a Congressman from California from 1969 to 1983. He was the first Congressman to serve while having a father in the Senate. Goldwater's uncle Morris Goldwater served in the Arizona territorial and state legislatures and as mayor of Prescott, Arizona. Goldwater's nephew Don Goldwater sought the Arizona Republican Party nomination for Governor of Arizona in 2006, but he was defeated by Len Munsil.