This year marks the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s victory in the 1964 presidential election. Our school’s namesake won 44 states, leaving Republican challenger Barry Goldwater with only six. LBJ’s victory was one of our country’s most lopsided presidential elections—but many believe Goldwater’s defeat was also the most consequential loss in American history.
The 1964 Republican primary was a battle for the soul of the GOP. New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and the “Rockefeller Republicans” wanted the Party to become moderate or liberal. Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater saw a different future. Known as “Mr. Conservative,” Goldwater believed that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” and that “moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” The Party nominated Barry Goldwater and in doing so launched the modern conservative movement.
Though it fell short of electoral success, the Goldwater campaign did succeed in building a national political infrastructure for conservatism. Goldwater inspired a generation of conservative activists and paved the way for conservative candidates to come. Indeed, without Barry Goldwater, there may have been no President Reagan.
Goldwater’s legacy lives on in today’s Republican Party. And, as much as Johnson may hate to know this, the spirit of Barry Goldwater lives on at the LBJ School. Goldwater believed in limited government, individual freedom, and a strong national defense—ideals shared by many students here at LBJ.
Ideological diversity is an important aspect of our school’s quest to become more diverse. Having students with different beliefs and opinions is critical to any quality education, particularly at a policy school. As we hone our ideas and worldviews, we will all become better if we do so in an environment with a diversity of thought. We will refine our arguments and sharpen our reasoning skills as we respectfully discuss a wide array of policy solutions.
That is why we recently launched the Barry Goldwater Society. LBJ’s newest student organization is here to serve our school’s conservatives by providing networking and training opportunities. We invite you to join us for our first two events, which will be taking place in the next two weeks: a brown bag discussion on conservatism on Wednesday, January 22nd and a State of the Union watch party on Tuesday, January 28th. For more details on these events, visit our group’s Facebook page. If you would like to know more about the Barry Goldwater Society or are interested in becoming a member, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
Rachel Hoff is a second year MGPS student at the LBJ School and president of the Barry Goldwater Society. She can be reached at rachel.hoff@utexas.