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Textual Analysis of LBJ and Barry Goldwater's Convention Speeches

Textual Analysis of LBJ and Barry Goldwater's Convention Speeches

            I chose to analyze Barry Goldwater and President Lyndon Johnson’s convention speeches using Voyant’s text analysis tools. This election has fascinated me because it portrays two radically different visions of American politics but whose candidates are remembered for different reasons. Comparing these two speeches makes these differences all the more evident. On one side, Barry Goldwater is a small government idealist, putting forth a vision based in natural right, liberty, diversity and freedom from government. He gives a speech of ideology. On the other hand, LBJ is a pragmatist driven who is driven by problems, not ideology. His speech reflects since, focusing on specific issues and programs as the impetus for government action. One is offering a vision for an enhanced welfare state, the other was providing the last chance to roll back the New Deal. In the words of Ronald Reagan, “It was a Time for Choosing” and probably the most pivotal election of the second half of the 20th century.

            When comparing the speech in the Cirrus and Trends windows, it is fascinating how frequently both candidates use ‘world’ and ‘great.’ The focus, style, and grounds for each speech were very different, but they both shared a sense of destiny and this being a pivotal moment for the direction of this country and the world. For both candidates there was a clash of civilizations. The contexts feature makes this clear, showing how they would talk about the West, Europe, freedom and the fight against communism.

            An interesting difference between the two speeches is Barry Goldwater’s emphasis on freedom. He uses it three times as often as LBJ as well as other words of defiance from both government and foreign powers like defense, firmness, courage, cause…. Goldwater’s speech is individualistic, and defiant. He praises independence as a value in its own rate. LBJ offers a message of unity. His language more communitarian and nationalistic with words like ‘American’, ‘people’, and ‘join.’ Quite literally, LBJ is speaking of a ‘nation’, using it far more frequently than Senator Goldwater.  

            A great example of LBJ’s use of language and the word nation is the line “our party and our Nation will continue to extend the hand of compassion and the hand of affection…” It exemplifies whose communitarian and nationalistic rhetoric and policies, as well as showing his issue focus in the name of compassion. The hand of compassion is a call for collective action.

            Barry Goldwater’s use of nation cannot be more different. He uses it infrequently and only in the context of the individual. He argues that “this party, with its every action, every word, every breath, and every heartbeat, has but a single resolve, and that is freedom - freedom made orderly for this nation.“ Their use of nation could not be more different. For LBJ it was a call of duty for collective action and duty. For Goldwater it was project to insure individual liberty. I could not find a shared word or phrase that better clarifies the difference between the two candidates.  

 

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3 comments

Hi Jamie,

Interesting post! I'm looking at your analysis of Goldwater's use of "nation" and you argue that he uses it in the context of the individual. But the quote you select for evidence starts with "this party" and talks about the party's united resolve (or platform?) to support "freedom made orderly for this nation." I guess I don't understand where the individual is in here? Can you help me understand? I still see "nation" as representing a collective. I do see a difference in these two passages, though, concerning where "the nation" rests -- either on the receiving or the active end. What do you think?

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Sorry for the late response, but this could be an entire essay. The passage below is a really good example of what Goldwater is talking about. LBJ sees the collective as a tool to solve collective and individual problems. Goldwater doesn't want to solve problems with government action. Rather it has a limited role to prevent violations of people's "God given" liberties. Essentially it is the project of the nation to protect individual rights. 

"And this party, with its every action, every word, every breath, and every heartbeat, has but a single resolve, and that is freedom - freedom made orderly for this nation by our constitutional government; freedom under a government limited by laws of nature and of nature's God; freedom - balanced so that liberty lacking order will not become the slavery of the prison cell; balanced so that liberty lacking order will not become the license of the mob and of the jungle."

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Hi Jamie,

Thanks for your response. I understand Goldwater's vision, as you articulate it, to advocate for individual liberties. However, I still don't see the term "nation" in this context representing individuals either grammatically or metaphorically. He speaks of "this party" having "a single resolve". That resolve is "freedom for ... this  nation", where various forces and institutions try to limit freedom and promote freedom. Is it possible that though you understand his platform to be about individual rights, in this particular speech he uses "nation" in a way that undermines an emphasis he wants to have on individual freedoms? Or show me how the text supports your claim! :) Let the debate continue ... 

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