Andrew Sullivan on Mr. Conservative

I’ve posted a couple of times (here and here) on CC Goldwater’s documentary, Mr. Conservative, but will have to postpone actually watching. My high definition recorder (required for pay cable) only handles two shows at a time and the documentary was on at the same time as both Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip and Weeds, and therefore I only watched part of the documentary and am recording it during a later showing this week. The part I did watch reminded me of an aspect of Goldwater I previously knew but totally forgot about while thinking of the political issues. Goldwater was an avid shortwave radio hobbyist. (For those of you too young to know what this means, think of instant messaging over radio with spoken words or Morse code rather than a keyboard.) Goldwater would sit on the shortwave radio talking to people all over the world. If he was around today, there’s no doubt he’d be active in the blogosphere.

Unitl I can view the entire documentary, I found Andrew Sullivan’s comments interesting:

Goldwater was an adamant defender of states’ rights, a principle he stuck with even though it meant being smeared as a bigot and a racist. Bush’s GOP has no principled interest in federalism, from its education policies to its attacks on states that violate religious doctrines on such issues as marriage, end-of-life matters and even medical marijuana. From the 1970s, Goldwater recognized Falwell and the religious right for what they are: charlatans who have as much concern for traditional conservatism as big government liberals do. What Goldwater would have said about the Schiavo case would not be broadcastable on network television. He also adhered to the old conservative notion of live-and-let-live. He never had a problem with gays, and although he clearly found abortion an awful thing, he wasn’t about to remove a female citizen’s right in the early stages of pregnancy to control her own body. He was, in other words, a conservative. Or as his great book put it: a conservative with a conscience. And if he was a conservative, then the current Republican party and the current president simply aren’t.

Goldwater’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act is often mistaken for racism, but more likely it was an expression of his opposition to the federal government intervening in activities of the states. In his later, more liberal years, Goldwater did admit he was wrong on this. Sullivan finds another significance in Goldwater’s vote:

The irony of Goldwater’s career is that this decision, made on a principled stance of federalism and limited government, became something else on the ground. It shifted the Republican Party base away from California and the sun-belt into the Deep South. Goldwater was a Western conservative, not a Southern one. And whichever party the South controls will have a hard time reflecting the kind of skeptical, libertarian, tolerant principles Goldwater believed in. So he both created American conservatism and laid the grounds for its eventual implosion.

While far too many Republicans defend George Bush regardless of his acts, Sullivan doesn’t hesitate to differentiate between Bush and the Goldwater-style conservatives:

All these years later, the end-result is a Texan president who hasn’t seen a civil liberty he wouldn’t junk at a second’s notice, who bases campaigns on subtle appeals to prejudice and fear of minorities, who has doubled the debt of the next generation, expanded government at a pace not seen since FDR, engaged in two reckless wars without the preparation or manpower to succeed, presided over a government riddled with incompetence and cronyism, and who has nominated candidates to the Supreme Court using their religious faith as a criterion. Whatever else Bush is, he is not merely not Goldwater. He is, in many ways, his nemesis. Which is why conservatism as we have known it has been strangled – by the Republicans.

Be Sociable, Share!

No Comments

1 Trackbacks

Leave a comment