Goldwater’s Most Famous Speech: A Time For Twaddle


I’ve heard good things over the years about the stump-speech Barry Goldwater made during the 1964 Presidential campaign.  This speech, entitled, “A Time For Choosing,” has been cited as the clarion call for a generation of conservatives.  Finally getting around to reading it, I was completely under-whelmed.  There is little substance here, and there are certainly no sound arguments made or even attempted.

One thing I found off-putting in the speech, was the use of a lot of hysterical language.  Governmental activities in the arena of “public power” are called an “invasion” (I have no idea what he means by “public power,” but it sure sounds like an area that government might legitimately occupy).  Business regulation is “an assault” upon enterprise. The tax burden upon Americans is not just onerous, it is the reason why “Freedom has never been so fragile.”  The upcoming presidential election is not just important, but “a rendezvous with destiny” (not his original line by the way).   The wrong election result (that is, Goldwater, himself, not being elected) will not only result in misguided Federal policy for the next four years, but in “a thousand years of darkness.”

Goldwater also ladens his speech with moral trigger-phrases.  A public benefit is “a government handout.”  To turn down a government grant is to “resist the temptation” to benefit your community.  The progressive income tax is not just bad policy, but an “immorality and discrimination.”  Humanitarian motivations are labeled “the schemes of the do-gooders.

And the speech reeks with an under-siege mentality.  Goldwater even chastises those who don’t have the “courage” to take a stand alongside him, accusing such folk of being… “afraid of reprisals from customers, clients, or even government.”   The man seems to feel he is trying to hold back the tide of history, and only martyrs need apply to join his team.

Goldwater all but admits his speech is little more than froth when he extols the excellence of “simple answers.”   He does not attempt a single, reasoned proof in his speech, but instead implies that his beliefs are just plain morally right.   He speaks of “duty” without explaining even in broad terms what he believes that duty is– unless he is implying that a citizen’s “duty” is simply to follow him.

Goldwater may elsewhere lay-out beautiful arguments supporting his political beliefs. But A Time For Choosing is certainly devoid of any such thing.


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