Here is a debate between Democratic Socialist Norman Thomas and conservative Republican Barry Goldwater that took place on November 1961 at the University of Arizona. Though Thomas and Goldwater were at opposite ends of the political spectrum, they both believed in the democratic idea of a healthy debate of differing viewpoints. Both were opponents of the totalitarian communism of the Soviet Union and they both were deeply committed to our constitutional government.
Norman Thomas is not well known today. But in the mid twentieth century, he was the most influential Socialist in America until Bernie Sanders entered the political scene. Thomas was a Presbyterian minister, a Democratic Socialist and six-time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America. In 1932, Thomas received 800,000 votes as a presidential candidate. During the 1930s Thomas was an outspoken critic of Joseph Stalin, and he advocated that the United States open itself to Jewish refugees trying to escape Nazi Germany. During World War II, Thomas was one of the few public figures to oppose President Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He also campaigned against racial segregation, and anti-labor laws and practices. After World War II, Thomas worked with labor leaders like Walter Reuther to try to organize an anti-Stalin Left. During the 1960s, Thomas was an opponent of the Vietnam War.
Barry Goldwater was an Republican Senator from Arizona and one of the the most influential conservative voices in the GOP. Though Goldwater lost the presidential elections to Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Goldwater had a lasting influence in moving the Republican Party towards his conservative libertarian style politics. During the 1980s, Goldwater opposed the influence of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority in the Republican Party because he saw the Christian Right as a threat to the separation of Church and State. During his later years, Goldwater became a strong supporter of gay rights, pitting him against the social conservative segment of his own party.