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Arizona, the Republican Party, and Its Discontents

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

In the 2022 campaign for the Republican nomination for Governor in Arizona, I did not support Kari Lake; in fact, I may have been her most vocal Republican critic.  Once she won the nomination, however, I had no problem supporting her.  Today, Kari Lake is running for the US Senate and is being criticized for reaching out to various parts of the Republican Party who she criticized and who did not support her in the past.  But for all Republicans, it’s important Lake be given open and fair hearings.  Our own state’s Barry Goldwater taught us why. Twice.   And it is a lesson for Republicans of every stripe across the country.


In his 1964 campaign for president, a great many Republicans did not support Goldwater.  For just two of many examples, Republican Governor Nelson Rockefeller called Goldwater “extreme,” while Republican Governor William Scranton labeled him “dangerous.” 

Those sentiments persuaded too many Republicans, and Goldwater ended up receiving 7 million fewer votes than Richard Nixon did in 1960. Lyndon Johnson won, and ushered in the welfare state, the enlargement of the federal bureaucracy, and appointed nearly 200 liberal federal judges including two on the Supreme Court.  And, he expanded the war in Vietnam. 

We still carry the wounds from Vietnam, LBJ’s Great Society, and the jurisprudence implanted by his victory.   Johnson’s welfare and government expansion programs are responsible for the explosion of our national debt and most of our challenges controlling budget deficits, and the jurisprudence has entrenched laws that are as difficult to repeal or amend as ever.  All these results concern every Republican—liberal, moderate, and conservative.

Today, if Republicans could talk to those anti-Goldwater Republicans of 1964, we would ask: “How’d that work out for you?”  A lesson should have been learned.  But it was not.  Today, a great many Republicans continue to sit out certain races or are tempted by siren songs of so-called independents.


Barry Goldwater’s other candidacy for the presidency teaches another lesson, also forgotten in our party.   In 1960, after a brief convention effort to nominate Goldwater for the presidency, a lot of conservatives were upset that Richard Nixon (then seen as a moderate) prevailed.

Barry Goldwater spoke to those dispirited conservatives at the convention, telling them to “grow up” and put their shoulders to the wheel for Richard Nixon. “We have lost election after election in this country in the last several years because conservative Republicans get mad and stay home,” he said. “Now I implore you, forget it!…Let’s get to work.” Goldwater explained that not supporting Nixon was to support the Democrats’ “blueprint for socialism.” His words.  

And in almost every election since, when the more liberal Republican beat the more conservative Republican in a primary, the conservatives licked their wounds and went to work on behalf of the Republican who was nominated.

While one would hope our party would put principals over personalities, in too many cases, with too many voters, it does not.  Even where there are disagreements over some policies, one would have hoped Ronald Reagan’s principle would apply:  An 80 percent ally is not a 20 percent enemy.  But in too many cases, when the more conservative candidate has won a Republican primary, the more liberal Republicans have not played by the same rule or looked at the glass as 80-or-more percent full—they voted independent, they did not vote, and sometimes they would vote for the Democrat. The Reagan principle has not been abided by moderate Republicans, either—and more and more Democrats get elected, further implanting liberal-left policies in every area of life and policy from social to economic issues.


We are seeing this again today, with the temptation of the “Independent” Kyrsten Sinema, in Arizona.  Let us not be fooled.  With Sinema, no kind of Republican will get even 20 percent.  As the FiveThirtyEight website shows, Sinema votes 100 percent with Joe Biden—more than even Chuck Schumer.  Sinema has other 100 percent records, as well: with the NEA, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU. Further, a split among Republican voters (or staying home) could lead to the election of one of the most left-wing Democrats, Ruben Gallego. 

The Democratic Party today no longer represents a “blueprint” for socialism—a blueprint is a draft, a plan.  The Democratic Party today fully embraces socialism, in everything from support for self-declared socialists to policies affecting everything from our culture to the economy.

It’s time for all Republicans to “grow up.”  That is the definition of the mature way to think in our party and our politics. That is the only way we can begin to tackle the problems foisted upon us ever since the LBJ presidency, and the truancy from Barry Goldwater—a price all of us are still paying.


Seth Leibsohn is a radio host on 960 AM and a Senior Fellow at the Claremont Institute.

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