The HBO documentary on Barry Goldwater which I previously noted airs tomorrow evening. His granddaughter, C.C. Goldwater, who made the documentary, has an article in Newsweek. It is always interesting to compare the views of Barry Goldwater, who considered himself a liberal in his later years, to those of current conservatives to see how far conservatives have gone wrong. C.C. Goldwater writes:
. . .while my grandfather didn’t leave his party, his party has left him. Though he’s often depicted as the father of conservatism, Barry Goldwater would be considered a moderate today. He was firmly pro-choice, a supporter of gay rights and, in his later years, said that he thought it was okay for gays to serve in the military.
Fundamentally, it’s clear that Barry would not have been comfortable with the increasing influence of the Christian right over the GOP. My grandfather would have been appalled by the whole political grandstanding of the Terri Schiavo mess.
The Constitution was Barry’s bible. He felt strongly about what it represented and the guidance it gave to establishing our government. And he thought that most U.S. citizens took it for granted. “Most Americans have never even read it and that’s a shame,” he once said. “Kids are not learning about it because it’s not honored the way it used to be.”
We need to remember the true values and freedoms the Constitution guarantees us. The main lesson I learned from my grandfather: “Government needs to stay out of personal lives, and do the job that we entrusted them with–to run and govern our country efficiently and truthfully, according to the laws our forefathers crafted.” That’s a message worth remembering today.
Barry Goldwater was not the right man to be President in 1964, but in retrospect things didn’t turn out that great with LBJ either. Liberty and Justice and The Moderate Voice question whether Goldwater would really be a moderate today. Moderate would not be the right label for the man who is famous for saying, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice…Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Goldwater always had strong views and was no moderate, but his views no longer fit either the definition of conservative in the 1960′s or the stereotype of liberals as supporters of big government and higher taxes which conservatives have so successfully campaigned against. He was far closer to Arnold Vinick, Republican candidate for President on The West Wing, than any Republican leaders who actually exist.
Today the best way to predict how someone will vote is whether they go to church multiple times a week, or go once a week or less. The religious right turned the Republicans into something Goldwater would barely recognize. In the era where the greatest growth in government has occurred under Republicans, conservatives have abandoned the free market for corporate welfare, and social issues rather than economics more meaningfully differentiate liberals from conservatives, Barry Goldwater was neither a conservative or a moderate in his later years. He would much better fit into the big tent of modern liberalism or “small l” libertarianism.