“Mr. Conservative” Became a Liberal Compared to Today’s Conservatives

In several previous posts, including at the time of the release of the documentary Mr. Conservative, I’ve noted the irony that the modern conservative movement has moved so far to the right that Barry Goldwater ultimately considered himself a liberal. As Barry Goldwater was mentioned in a recent post, and the conversion of the conservative movement to an authoritarian mind set became a major topic in the comments, I noted with interest that another blogger was discussing Goldwater. Jim Lippard viewed Mr. Conservative and had some observations similar to those in my previous posts on Goldwater:

In his later life, he was outspoken in his support for a woman’s right to abortion, for gays to serve in the military, and for the religious right to stop pushing their religious views into politics. The film reveals that he supported his daughter obtaining an abortion before Roe v. Wade, and that he has a gay grandson. Several of the more liberal interviewees say that they thought Goldwater became liberal later in life (and some in the audience seemed to have a similar view), but Goldwater himself is shown making a statement that preempts this claim, back in 1963–that he is a conservative, but that at some time in the future people will call his views liberal.

He was a supporter of individual liberty who wanted the government’s role in private life minimized across the board, on both economic and social issues–it wasn’t he who changed, but the political environment that changed.

Unfortunately there are very few modern conservatives who defend liberty as Goldwater did but a handful remain. In April I quoted from Vic Gold, author of Invasion of the Party Snatchers: How the Holy-Rollers and the Neo-Cons Destroyed the GOP. John Dean has written extensively on how the actions of Bush are Worse Than Watergate. Bruce Fein has been discussing impeachment of George Bush. Bob Barr has left the Republican Party and has also discussed impeachment. Bruce Bartlett, author of Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy has supported putting pressure on both parties to move in a more libertarian direction. Unfortunately the Republican who has spoken out the strongest against the influence of religion in politics is a fictional character, as seen in this clip of Arnold Vinick from The West Wing.

Many of these conservatives might also be wind up considering themselves liberals in their later years as Goldwater did. There has been a considerable change in definition of liberal versus conservative in recent years. Social issues and views on Iraq have largely replaced economic issues in separating liberals versus conservatives. Goldwater would clearly be on the liberal side on social issues. Without having him around to ask directly we can only speculate where the old cold warrior would stand in Iraq. My bet is that his response to Bush for invading Iraq following 9/11 would be, “You idiot, you attacked the wrong country.”

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5 Comments

  1. 1
    Liberal Journal says:

    Well, the Republicans have tapped into the authoritarian impulse within their supporters. Part of the impulse, and I think Dean touches on this too, is that they support the leader and then whatever ideas he has rather than the ideas and whatever leaders they have. This is a lower level of thinking, because by its nature, it subverts the purpose of democracy. The 30% that fit this mold have little desire for consistency of thought, hence they don’t blink twice at their adaptation.

  2. 2
    absent observer says:

    The 30% that fit this mold have little desire for consistency of thought, hence they don’t blink twice at their adaptation.

    So what are you saying; Do you support the Troops, or not?

    (just kidding)

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    Liberal Journal,

    Following the leader as opposed to principles is definately a major part of the problem. Check out the discussion on the Chavez post, as well as the conservatives who wound up adding comments elsewhere.

    It really hit a nerve to expose their hypocrisy for correctly criticizing Chavez for undemocratic actions while defending Bush’s undemocratic actions. (If Chavez was a right wing dictator who was backing the US in the “war on terror” I bet most of the conservatives would be backing him.)

    The mind set there is really interesting as it fits so well into authoritarian modes. It is all us versus them. Rather than defending Bush they attack the Democrats. Even if their attacks on Democrats were valid such arguments say nothing to defend Bush. On top of it, their attacks on Democrats are based on standard right wing talking points as opposed to the real beliefs of Democrats. Of course developing such enemies is another standard authoritarian tactic.

    Absent Observer,

    Support the troops? For the conservatives it goes beyond that. Why do you hate America? 🙂

    (Standard disclaimer: When referring to conservatives in this context I am referring to the current ideas of the conservative movement, which does not apply to all conservatives, and definately not to conservatives in the past. Disclaimer added in light of the false claims from consrevatives in other posts that I was falsely lumping all conservatives together even though I have frequently made this distinction.)

  4. 4
    Liberal Journal says:

    We “should just leave” if we don’t like America.

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    Liberal Journal,

    You must be a Communist.

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