Last Updated 27 Jan 2021

Conservative vs Liberal

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The 1964 Presidential election was an election that changed American history. For the first time since the 1932 Presidential election between Hoover and Roosevelt, the American population was able to choose a president from two candidates with opposing views and ideological mindsets. The United States was going through a time of change with protests, assassinations, and war, which caused social and political discomfort. After the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, the country went into shock.

Supporters of the charismatic Kennedy were deeply saddened feeling left without a leader with the same outlook and liberal mindset. Lyndon B. Johnson then took over the reign as President for the remaining year, hoping to carry out Kennedy’s ideologies and legislations. The following year during the 1964 Presidential race, he became the Democratic candidate, hoping to become re-elected as President. On the Republican side, Barry Goldwater was a renowned conservative, and after beating Governor Nelson Rockefeller, became the hope for all conservatives across the nation.

In 1960, Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater established his conservative principles through The Conscience of a Conservative. Written at a time of great change in America with experiments in big government, the New Deal, and the climax of the Cold War, the views of Goldwater in the Conscience of a Conservative were looked at as revolutionary, yet controversial in the Republican eye. He believed and argued that freedom was the highest value in American society while also stating that compromising for something one does not believe in is unjust.

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In his book, Goldwater stated that he felt as though putting the power in the hands of a big government was not ideal. He believed that local small governments fit the best interest of the people. Goldwater said that we the people “can be conquered by bombs or by subversion; but we can also be conquered by neglect -- by ignoring the Constitution and disregarding the principles of limited government” (Goldwater 14). He made it known that the power of the federal government in the hands of only a few could be seriously dangerous.

He wrote in his book that American people “console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in lead-strings, because he sees that it is not a person nor a class of persons, but the people at large that hold the end of his chain” (Goldwater 25). Barry Goldwater made it clear through his book that freedom was vital in American society along with small state governments to support each individual person more directly.

Lee Edwards states in the article HBO Hijacks Barry Goldwater’s Ideology that Goldwater “opposed the Bigs of America -- Big Government, Big Business, Big Labor, and Big Media” (Edwards). While conservative Barry Goldwater stressed “in-state” ideologies and small governments, young adults and college students expressed their dire need for a leader. “The Port Huron Statement” was written at a Student for a Democratic Society (SDS) meeting in Port Huron, Michigan. Tom Hayden, a student at the University of Michigan, was the main leader and voice in the passionate proposal.

He was a man who came from a working-class family in which honesty and justice were two main components in the way he lived his life. “The Port Huron Statement” was a manifestation of what the youth of America was feeling at the time. Most were dissatisfied with the way college administrators were trying to control their lives while others were frustrated that typical liberals were not supporting their freedom and civil rights movement efforts. They, unlike Goldwater, felt as though the federal government needed to play a much larger role in American society to dig them out of the nation’s widespread injustice.

They expressed their frustration with a country that was once looked at as a nation of wealth, prosperity, and unlimited potential to now a nation with problems of degradation and war. In their statement they claimed, ‘“human degradation, symbolized by the Southern struggle against racial bigotry, compelled most of us from silence to activism. ’ ‘…Cold War, symbolized by the presence of the Bomb, brought awareness that we ourselves, and our friends, and millions of abstract "others" we knew more directly because of our common peril, might die at any time”’ (Levy 43).

The SDS felt as though they could not let these two issues go unnoticed and made it clear in their statement when they said, “We might deliberately ignore, or avoid, or fail to feel all other human problems, but not these two, for these were too immediate and crushing in their impact, too challenging in the demand that we as individuals take the responsibility for encounter and resolution” (Levy 44). They showed other frustrations in such things like social classes and technology when they professed, “Although our own technology is destroying old and creating new forms of social organization, men still tolerate meaningless work and idleness.

While two-thirds of mankind suffers under nourishment, our own upper classes revel amidst superfluous abundance” (Hayden). The SDS felt as though America as a whole was in a concrete hold with no direction on where to go. Throughout their statement they cried for leadership and reform and solid federal government to fix their needs. The SDS showed fear that such issues of overpopulation, degradation and racism, the need for advanced technology, economic and human spending in war, and fortification of totalitarian states would turn the land of opportunity into the regression of an era.

The great change however in what the Student of a Democratic Society brought about was the thought of social issues. For once, citizens of America began thinking for themselves as opposed to relying on who was in charge. They had similarities with Goldwater in that they were extremists. They were the “New Left” and unlike American citizens before them, other than in the Civil Rights Movement, they felt as though head officials, including their college administrators, were out of line. Goldwater, although having completely different ideologies, was also considered an extremist in the Republican Party.

He was looked at as being “The Far Right”. The SDS felt as though whoever was in charge of America needed to make a stand and fight for what they believed in, but unlike Goldwater, they did want a strong central government that could lead them out of their sorrows. Lyndon B. Johnson, the President at the time, felt it was his duty to fulfill the needs of America’s future. Like his fellow predecessor, President Kennedy had wanted to do during his Presidency, Johnson wanted to pass legislation to fill the needs of America. In May of 1964, President Johnson addressed the issues brought before him through a speech at the University of Michigan.

President Johnson addressed the main issues of America and gave the students a direction in which the nation was now headed. He stated, “The challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the quality of our American civilization” (Levy 106). Johnson had a vision to build a society without poverty, racial discrimination and injustice, as well as a land of opportunity that was sought out by each individual to reach their own personal goals in life.

It was portrayed in Peter Levy’s book, America in the Sixties-Right, Left, and Center, that the goals of Johnson were to not settle for a society that was just rich or powerful, but to develop a society that was “Great”. He wanted to have a society with unlimited growth and potential in which every citizen has the right to equality and a satisfying life. He shows this in his speech when he says, “build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth.

For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society” (Levy 106). He felt as though the past should be no more, and that the future should hold a society in which all questions of race, prosperity, equality, and potential would not be left unanswered. The development of a Great Society was unlike anything Barry Goldwater supported. The foundation of this new society would put the power into the hands of the federal government, and although democratic, did its job in satisfying the needs of the people but under the supervision of a select few.

The Great Society set off a chain reaction of revolutionary and fulfilling acts and reforms in the mid-1960s. While the main goals were to eliminate all racial inequalities and poverty in the country, other issues in health care, education, and living conditions suburbs and urban areas. President Johnson first started with fixing issues America by cutting taxes. In doing so, the Gross Nation Product rose ten percent and a full economic growth by almost five percent within only a few years. During this time of economic reform and growth, the Civil Rights Movement was taking full strides and segregation was growing as well (1960s).

In 1964, shortly after Johnsons Presidential campaign took ride, he began passing legislation that Kennedy could not. Not until the death of President Kennedy and sorrow that came with it, was Johnson able to manipulate and convince members of the House to pass such revolutionary and controversial pieces of legislation that would shape America forever. Kennedy, being a youthful and confident president with liberal ideas had trouble getting the House to pass legislation that he was initiating. Another issue was that President Kennedy was the first Catholic president elected which brought some distilled proars among the House.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the first main pieces of legislation to be passed. This act disallowed segregation and racial discrimination in all public institutions and the workforce. Equality reforms in voting took place the following year. The Voters Rights Act of 1965 allowed all minorities to have an equal say in voting and registration. Meeting financial and health needs began progressing with the passing of the Social Security Act of 1965. This act introduced Medicare to the public and provided the elderly with more funding from the government.

Lastly, education began receiving needed benefits when the Higher Education Act of 1965 amplified federal money given to universities. This helped enable low-interest loans and scholarships, which gave hope for higher education to all students of America. At the same time, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 provided significant federal aid to public schools. The legislation passed because of the cry by the youth of America and vision of Lyndon B. Johnson paved the way for the future of the nation. Without the determination of President Johnson, the entire nation might not have received the remuneration it needed.

There were many reasons why Goldwater lost the presidential election in 1964, some of which were out of his control. The death of Kennedy provided sympathy to the democratic side and with the economy being stable at the time, the incumbent candidate, Johnson, received great press from the media. This then allowed his face to be that of America at the time and what the future could hold. Goldwater had issues to begin with while trying to revolutionize his extreme right mindset, which alienated the moderate wing of the party.

This then split up the party, which made it almost impossible for Goldwater to receive the support he needed from the Republican Party. Goldwater was unlike most conservatives in American society at the time. His ideas in his book The Conscience of a Conservative brought forth alternative ideas to the liberal mindset that was being brought forth through such a time of change and democratic reform. In his book, Goldwater made it clear that the difference between Conservatives and Liberals was that Liberals tended to be more materialistic while Conservatives looked at the entirety of a man.

He also felt as though all Liberals needed was economic and social satisfaction while Conservatives believed that along with economic stability, one’s spiritual stability was only secured by oneself, not from outside sources (Goldwater 4). Although Goldwater was unsuccessful in creating a more conservative America, he did create a foundation as to what America could have been if he had been elected president. For one, Goldwater believed that if a state felt it were fit, that separate but equal was suitable. He also felt strongly in the role of local and state governments as opposed to big governments.

So, looking at this, and although it does seem like a plausible ideology that could possibly work to get the freedoms of each individual, each state would almost be as if it were its own country. There were could be roughly fifty small nations inside of one giant nation that all followed different rules. This would lead to a completely divided country where there could be complete anarchy in each state, if wanted. With one central government, Americans are allowed to share what they feel are the most important issues, like the SDS did, and have the leaders in which were elected by the people, do their best to fix them.

Goldwater also believed that consumer prices and huge tax bills kept hindered the work of farmers. He felt as though big taxes and consumer prices in business kept less productive farmers in the business, thus taking some finances from more productive farmers. His thoughts were that there should be no regulations at all and that all farmers should be in a free open market fighting against them. In addition to taxes, Goldwater felt strongly about a man’s right to property. Goldwater felt that what a man earned was what one puts on their property.

And, a tax on property, was therefore a tax on their wages, and in Goldwater’s eyes, a tax on wages was a tax on freedom. The tax on man’s property was parallel to his thought that one should have privacy to their should be dictated by the “…individuals and families, by churches, private hospitals, religious service organizations, community charities and other institutions that have been established for this purpose” (Goldwater 68). His views related to the freedom of the spirit and material of a man and that in a capitalistic society, taking away the responsibility of a man’s materials means taking away the entire freedom of a man.

Goldwater felt strongly about the power of state and local governments over big governments. He felt as though each state should hold its laws against tax, segregation, and education as opposed to one government holding it for the entire nation. He felt as though this was the only way in which each individual man could be responsible for his own property and individual rights. If one was unsatisfied with the right held in a state, they then could move to a body of people that held their same views. Goldwater’s ideologies and philosophies were ideas of what would later be viewed as revolutionary in the common conservative.

Barry Golderwater’s book, The Conscience of a Conservative, his extremist ideologies, along with feelings set forth by the SDS, and the legislations put through under President Johnson were all huge impacts on America. Goldwater, although lost in a landslide, built the foundation for the modern era Republican. Without his thoughts and ideals about local and state governments over big governments, small businesses getting the same share as big businesses, and freedom is most important value in American society, the thoughts of Republicans could be left completely one-sided and concrete.

The “Port Huron Statement” brought about the idea for American citizens to have a voice, and for the youth of America to stand up and think for them. No longer will people rely on others to make all decisions for them. Tom Hayden was revolutionary in free speech and standing up for what he believed in. He felt as though there were issues in America and unjust laws that needed to be re-established. Without his and the SDS, students of America might be completely different rules.

Lastly, Lyndon B. Johnson and the reform of the Great Society was the stepping-stone to true freedom in America. First, without Hayden and SDS, Johnson might not have responded with such an enlightening reform. Passing acts that allowed all races to have the same equalities, educational funding which enabled all students the right to a better education, and elderly money to live and be healthy all paved the way for America in the future. Without all three, America might have been a completely different nation.

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