July 16, 1964: Extremism and Moderation


The Republican candidate was frequently called a Nazi and his supporters extremist nuts.  Sound familiar?  For many American liberals Barry Goldwater was the new Hitler and his followers brownshirts.  This seems humorous now, especially as Goldwater, in his later years turning on social conservatives, became the favorite conservative of liberals.  It was all deadly serious in 1964.  Goldwater had worked a revolution in his party, making the conservative wing dominant.  This had led to an acrimonious convention which was televised to the nation.  In most ways it was a mirror image to the McGovern Democratic Convention of 1972.  In each case the candidate went down to landslide defeat, but won a long term victory for his ideology within his party.

Goldwater’s speech was a cut above intellectually from most political speeches.  It was written by historian Harry Jaffa, who died at 96 in 2015.  The most quoted line from the speech is, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is not a virtue”.  When the line was criticized Goldwater would claim that it was from Cicero.  He probably thought this because novelist Taylor Caldwell gave Goldwater a note which contained a quote from A Pillar of Iron, her historical fiction novel on Cicero which would be published in 1965.  Caldwell had Cicero say in defense of his execution of Senators involved in the Conspiracy of Catiline:

“I must remind you, Lords, Senators, that extreme patriotism in the defense of freedom is no crime, and let me respectfully remind you that pusillanimity in the pursuit of justice is no virtue in a Roman.”


Here is the text of Goldwater’s speech:

To my good friend and great Republican, Dick Nixon, and your charming wife, Pat; my running mate and that wonderful Republican who has served us well for so long, Bill Miller and his wife, Stephanie; to Thurston Morton who has done such a commendable job in chairmaning this Convention; to Mr. Herbert Hoover, who I hope is watching; and to that great American and his wife, General and Mrs. Eisenhower; to my own wife, my family, and to all of my fellow Republicans here assembled, and Americans across this great Nation.

From this moment, united and determined, we will go forward together, dedicated to the ultimate and undeniable greatness of the whole man. Together we will win. (more…)

Published in: on July 16, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on July 16, 1964: Extremism and Moderation  
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