Scholars who scrutinize Goldwater’s nomination acceptance speech and the presidential campaign also stress his inability to adapt his message to moderate and middle-of-the-road voters. Whatsoever the explanation, his rhetorical failures appeared to be so huge and obvious that they required attention from those who reported on and decode American politics and public address. A tireless party stalwart, Goldwater had developed genuine grassroots fame. Moreover, his right-wing agenda and independent style appealed to a large number of conservative Democrats. During the days of turbulence of the Kennedy administration, the senator had become a genuine challenger to an increasingly susceptible incumbent.
Numerous commentators and scholars now view his campaign as one which succeeded both in moving the party rightward and paving the way for presidential victories by the fairly conservative Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972 and the staunchly conservative Ronald Reagan in the 1980s (Edwards, 127;). Some modern analysts even identify Goldwater as the initiator of an eventual triumphant conversion of the American public from liberal to conservative (Edwards, xvi). Kathryn M. Olson noted that Goldwater “moved the boundary or anchor point of present-day political rhetoric to the right” (311) and argued that Reagan, in his efforts to redo the collective memory of Goldwater’s 1964 campaign, productively adopted a modified version of Goldwater’s central rhetorical strategy of the jeremiad.
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