We Need Straight Talkers

The one thing that struck me with the debate the other night is that neither candidate was willing to just speak the plain truth.

Once upon a time in America, there were public figures like Barry Goldwater. He was a rock-ribbed conservative Republican. I disagreed with almost all of his political positions and could never have voted for him.

Above all his other qualities, I miss Goldwater’s extraordinary penchant for straight talk. He was one of those old-fashioned Americans who absolutely believed that our freedoms of speech were there to be used. He understood that clear, declarative sentences, unencumbered by evasive qualifiers and legalese, were the sinewy muscles of our democracy, and like muscles, they grew flabby and weak if they were not used. In his long career (five terms in the U.S. Senate), Goldwater always said what he believed. He didn’t submit to the slippery guidance of media consultants, who have turned so many of today’s politicians into ciphers. He went forth and spoke his mind, even when his blunt opposition to the prevailing New Deal orthodoxies brought forth mockery.

That is why we must cherish those people who have the guts to speak the truth: mavericks, whistle-blowers, disturbers of the public peace. And it’s why, in spite of my own continuing (though chastened) liberal faith, I miss Barry Goldwater. More than ever.

I’d vote for any candidate that avoided equivocations with every phrase uttered. Where are they?