Goldwater a cautionary tale for Second Amendment Supporters

Barry Goldwater with Lyndon Baines Johnson. Second Amendment supporters must learn from Goldwater's mistakes in the 1964 election. (White House photo)
Barry Goldwater with Lyndon Baines Johnson. Second Amendment supporters must learn from Goldwater’s mistakes in the 1964 election. (White House photo)

Arizona/United States – -( In 1968, Second Amendment supporters nearly found themselves in a deep hole. By a slim margin, they were able to keep a licensing and registration scheme that Johnson wanted out of the Gun Control Act of 1968. This greatly angered Lyndon Johnson, who denounced the “gun lobby” for the omission of the means of eventual gun confiscation from that bill. But why did we have to come that close to seeing the tools of eventual confiscation happen? Well, for that, we must go to the 1964 presidential election, and the cautionary tale of Barry Goldwater.

To be fair to then-Senator Goldwater, he started with an uphill battle. Johnson had succeeded the relatively popular and beloved John F. Kennedy, who had been gunned down in Texas the previous year. That would have been difficult enough. However, Goldwater managed to let himself be portrayed as an extremist by the media, and he also showed a very poor grasp of not just strategy and tactics, but the very basics of the political landscape.

He compounded that by needlessly feuding with other elements in the Republican party. As a result, some sat on their hands. Others actually crossed over. As a result, Goldwater ended up on the wrong end of one of the biggest electoral blowouts in the last 60 years.

How bad? He got only 38 percent of the popular vote. He carried only six states. What was just as bad was the effect on the down-ticket races. The Democrats picked up 37 seats in the House of Representatives, for a total of 295. They got up to 68 Senators. Let’s put the disaster into some perspective. To propose a constitutional amendment, you need 67 Senators and 290 House members to vote for it. It takes 60 Senators to end a filibuster on legislation (at least for now).

Imagine a Congress with 68 anti-Second Amendment Senators and 295 Representatives who also seek to neuter – or repeal – our freedoms. Put it this way, they would arrange for the Supreme Court to be packed (you could kiss the Heller and McDonald decisions good-bye as a result). They would ram through Australia-style gun laws, like those Jerrold Nadler wants. Or, they could listen to the demands of some anti-Second Amendment extremists, and propose an outright repeal of the Second Amendment.

That would be the second item on their agenda, right after they ram through legislation to make the grassroots efforts of Second Amendment supporters much more dangerous (from a legal standpoint). Imagine HR 1 on steroids, only with the empowerment of an army of Lois Lerners. The resulting combination would be a death blow to our freedoms.

So, how do we prevent it? First of all, Second Amendment supporters must resolve to ensure a “No More Goldwaters” standard. As emotionally appealing as it might be to support a candidate who runs on principled opposition to any new gun control laws, we need to think strategically and tactically – not to mention in terms of how they come across to our fellow citizens – in every election cycle. Depending on how things are going, we must be willing to make hard choices in the political and legislative arenas should they be necessary, given the hostile media climate and the fact that these days, Silicon Valley is also taking sides against our rights.

As was pointed out in January by Duane Liptak, virtually all Second Amendment supporters have the same goals. The problem is that there is all too much infighting. If we don’t want to end up like Barry Goldwater, we need to get our act together quickly.  We have no more time for infighting over tactics and strategy. Attack the anti-Second Amendment extremists, not fellow Second Amendment supporters.

Harold Hu, chison

About Harold Hutchison

Writer Harold Hutchison has more than 15 years of experience covering military affairs, international events, U.S. politics and Second Amendment issues. Harold was consulting senior editor at Soldier of Fortune magazine and is the author of the novel Strike Group Reagan. He has also written for the Daily Caller, National Review, Patriot Post,, and other national websites.