A Look At Your Basic Barry
By Gregory McNamee
NEAR-LEGENDARY ARIZONA politician Barry Goldwater has been the subject of several recent biographies, most concentrating on his influence on national conservative politics and military affairs. In both areas Goldwater was a major force indeed. Yet Peter Iverson, a professor of history at Arizona State University, is more concerned with Goldwater's origins as a native Arizonan and the long shadow he casts on local politics even today.
Iverson traces Goldwater's several careers as a department-store operator (the family business being a legacy from Goldwater's grandfather Morris, a Jewish pioneer who came to Arizona in the 1850s); as an airplane pilot; a soldier; and as a politician, first as a member of the Phoenix city council and then as a national figure. In all these endeavors Goldwater labored to see Arizona develop as an economic power, and he was successful: in tourism and natural-resources extraction, and as an outpost of the military-industrial complex, the state leads the Southwest, largely because of Goldwater's lobbying all those years ago.
As he worked to gain favors for Arizona, Goldwater preached a message of antifederalism and states' rights, decrying such things as "the aping of socialism and the appeasing of the Communists of Russia" and galvanizing the then-disorganized right wing in the process. Iverson analyzes local aspects of Goldwater's 1964 run for the presidency, and he attributes Goldwater's resounding loss (he barely carried even Arizona) in part to the ineptitude of his homegrown campaign team at the national level. Despite the loss, Iverson writes, Goldwater paved the way for the triumph of conservatism that would manifest itself with Ronald Reagan's election 16 years later.
Whether you agree or disagree with his ideology--which has lately taken some surprisingly liberal turns--you have to concede that Goldwater is one of the most interesting politicians this state has ever produced. Iverson's highly readable study makes it plain just why that is so.
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