Barry Goldwater

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The fact that by living the "wrong" sort of economic life the United States had become an incredibly rich nation did not disturb him; as a status politician he spoke for virtue, and the millions that heeded him were willing to sacrifice their material prosperity in order to gain spiritual health by obeying the "natural law" of the marketplace.
Gore Vidal on Goldwater, New Statesman 1.13.67

Barry Goldwater (Ba AuH2O) is considered the founder of the "modern" conservative movement in the United States, as well as the primary influence of the American libertarian movement. In a failed presidential bid, his groundbreaking victories (in fact, only victories) in the Solid South served as the forerunner to the Southern Strategy by Richard Nixon and subsequent Republican Presidents.

In the sixties, McCarthyism was at a low ebb, stoked mostly by cranks and crypto-fascists like the John Birch Society. Conservatism was even more divided than it is now, split along the lines of Dixiecrats ("Don't tread on me, man") who ditched the party over desegregation, and the anti-Communists (what we now call neo-conservatives) who favored a strong government with a maximal leader.

Enter Goldwater, the first candidate to successfully bring both sides together. His hardline stances against the New Deal, the Soviet Union, the Great Society, labor unions, and the welfare state contributed to his landslide defeat by Lyndon Johnson, but his ideas eventually reached the White House when Ronald Reagan won the Presidency in 1980. Yeah, there's no sugarcoating anything – it's all this guy's fault. Hillary Rodham Clinton herself endorsed Goldwater around this time.

Ironically, due to his views on abortion[1] and gay rights,[2] he was actually more liberal than today's conservatives; his fierce opposition to the mutual exploitation pact between the GOP and the Christian Right, and his spoken reasons for it (see below), were highly prescient, as was his complete aversion to the idea of money in politics (see above).

Setting another bad precedent, the man they called "Mr. Conservative" died an outcast from the Republican Party...but gained kudos from a not-insignificant number of Democrats and Libertarians years later.[3]

Contents

[edit] Political career

He ran for president in 1960 and 1964. The 1960 race was mainly an abortive "draft Goldwater" effort by some conservatives in the Republican Party, and Goldwater himself didn't seem too interested in campaigning. In 1964, however, Goldwater actively sought and won the Republican nomination, only to lose badly to Lyndon Johnson in the general election.[4] Many of his statements scared voters off during the campaign, including expressing a desire to end Social Security and the TVA, and hinting he would be open to using tactical nuclear weapons in Vietnam. His campaign slogan, "in your heart you know he's right" was spoofed as "in your guts you know he's nuts" and "in your heart you know he's right... far-right," and the Johnson campaign ran an ad featuring a little girl pulling petals off a daisy while a nuclear countdown commenced.[5] The ad never mentioned Goldwater but the implication was clear that electing Goldwater would risk starting World War III. Other ads were even less flattering.[6] However, the 1964 race was the first time a Republican candidate managed to break through the solidly-Democratic Deep South (primarily because of the Democrats' emerging support for the Civil Rights movement), and he won five Southern states plus his home state of Arizona. Richard Nixon took note of this and was inspired to develop his Southern strategy for the 1968 and 1972 elections. And unsurprisingly, Goldwater would be one of the last steadfast supporters of Tricky Dick during Watergate until the very last moment.

Ironically, Goldwater showed little evidence of personal racism. Besides being half-Jewish, he had targeted whites-only businesses as Mayor of Phoenix, desegregated Arizona's National Guard and pushed for desegregation of the US military as a whole upon becoming Senator. However, Goldwater's goodwill on racial matters vanished when he voted against the Civil Rights Act based upon tortured states rights arguments. Goldwater's moral myopia further extended to embracing the extremists and segregationists who flocked to his presidential campaign; while finding them distasteful, he refused to repudiate such a large and enthusiastic base of supporters.

The current reactionary strain of American conservatism grew directly out of Goldwater's campaign, as did the early libertarian movement (the two were somewhat cross-pollinating during the 1960s, before openly splitting over the draft and the Vietnam War). Noted loon Phyllis Schlafly's 1964 book A Choice, Not An Echo was a best-seller during the Goldwater campaign and made her a well-known conservative activist, while Reagan emerged as a neoconservative icon during the campaign as well. There's no denying that Goldwater was far to the right of his party in the final session. He was a gadfly though, with a penchant for brinksmanship. (Even Buchanan deemed Barry a liability to the cause.[7]) In the end, Republicans merely took notes from the no-flash, unelectable Goldwater and repackaged them into Reagan to temper his radical platform.

[edit] The Crazy Never Die

Goldwater migrated to the social left towards the end of his life (he had always been magnanimous toward blacks, and hoped to entice the gays to join his party, as well). Many Republicans, especially in the south, were to the right of him on social issues. He was even willing to compromise with the left wing, which cannot be said for the current rash of winguts. And he was the only senior Republican figure to criticize the White House over Iran-Contra. He'd bolt from the party if he was still alive (either as an Independent or with the Libertarian Party, most likely). His son certainly thinks so, himself being one of the first boosters of the Paul campaign.

Both Reagan and Schlafly married religion to the Republican Party, and nowadays, church-funded lobbyists and PACs directly control Republican politicians. Today's conservatism has switched from Barry's limited constitutional interpretation to a pale theocracy with Anarcho-Capitalist tendancies.

[edit] Best of Barry

I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them.

[edit] Barry applying the brakes

Every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.[8]
On religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.

I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in "A," "B," "C" and "D." Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?

And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of "conservatism."
When you say ‘radical right’ today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.[9]
You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.[10]
Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them.[11]
It’s time America realized that there is no gay exemption in the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence.[12]
"Do not associate my name with anything you do. You are extremists, and you've hurt the Republican party much more than the Democrats have."
—To the Republican Establishment[13]
"We're the new liberals of the Republican party. Can you imagine that?"[14]

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Goldberg, Robert Alan (1995), Barry Goldwater, p. 331
  2. Grove, Lloyd Barry Goldwater's Left Turn, The Washington Post, July 28, 1994 (archived version from December 13, 2013)
  3. Bugliosi, Vincent (2001), The Betrayal of America,[wp] p. 19
  4. 1964 Presidential General Election Results
  5. 1964 Presidential campaign spots
  6. Like this one
  7. Hayward, Steven, "From Barry Goldwater To The Tea Party", The Federalist (9/23/24). Hayward: "It is not much of a stretch to see Goldwater as the first victim of what would later become known as “political correctness”...Without Goldwater, Reagan’s presidency might never have happened."
  8. The Brethren's First Sister: Sandra Day O'Connor, Time
  9. "Barry Goldwater's Left Turn," Washington Post
  10. Goldberg, Robert Alan (1995). Barry Goldwater. p. 332.
  11. Said in November 1994, as quoted in John Dean, Conservatives Without Conscience (2006)
  12. Foster, Stephen D., "Barry Goldwater's War Against the Religious Right," Addicting Info.
  13. Bugliosi, Vincent, The Betrayal of America, p. 19
  14. To Bob Dole. When you make Barry feel like a liberal you know you've gone off the deep end...
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