Goldwater and the revival of American conservatism
Arizona Senator John McCain summed up Goldwater’s legacy thus:
“He transformed the Republican Party from an Eastern elitist organization to the breeding ground for the election of Ronald Reagan.”
The 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, picking up 47 seats in the House of Representatives in the mid-term election of 1966.
Further Republican successes ensued, including Goldwater’s return to the Senate in 1968. 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.”
Throughout the 1970s, as the conservative wing under Reagan gained control of the party, Goldwater concentrated on his Senate duties, especially in military affairs.
He played little part in the election or administration of Richard Nixon, but he helped force Nixon’s resignation in 1974. In 1976 he helped block Rockefeller’s renomination as Vice President.
When Reagan challenged Ford for the presidential nomination in 1976, Goldwater endorsed 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 was known as Goldwater v. Carter, which was dismissed by the court as a political question.