Conservatives constantly quote Ronald Reagan, as though his soaring deficit and high unemployment numbers never existed, or Ayn Rand, as though she weren’t a pro-choice atheist. Interestingly, one rarely hears conservatives invoking the most interesting character of them all, the “father of conservatism,” Barry Goldwater.
Would Barry Goldwater vote for Romney today? Would Barry Goldwater, “Mr. Conservatism,” align himself with the Tea Party? Well, let me put it like this: Long ago, Goldwater predicted that the Christian right would attempt to take over the country, and, in particular, politics. He saw the ‘baggers coming.
Barry Goldwater’s acceptance speech in 1964 for the presidential nomination:
“Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed . . . Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences. Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.”
Goldwater’s crystal ball evidently spoke to him of today’s Tea Party, “demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth.” And as for “conformity” leading to “despotism,” Goldwater must have been a prophet. The Republican tent that Goldwater resided in during his political career has shrunk considerably. Among modern day “Republicans” and tea partiers, lockstep is law, there are few, if any, modern thinkers, science is discredited and reality is suspended.
“My faith in the future rests squarely on the belief that man, if he doesn’t first destroy himself, will find new answers in the universe, new technologies, new disciplines, which will contribute to a vastly different and better world in the twenty-first century. Recalling what has happened in my short lifetime in the fields of communication and transportation and the life sciences, I marvel at the pessimists who tell us that we have reached the end of our productive capacity, who project a future of primarily dividing up what we now have and making do with less.”
If Goldwater likes new technology and disciplines, or even good old science, the teabaggers would stop him at the door. Stem cell research? Out. Climate change as a result of man’s behavior? Out. “The science,” said Rick Perry, “Is not settled on this.” Evolution? Out. A woman’s body being able to “shut that whole thing [as in pregnancy] down . . . if it’s a legitimate rape?” Oh yeah. The teabaggers are so down with that.
In 1981, Goldwater backed the appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor to the United States Supreme Court, to the consternation of the “Moral Majority’s” Rev. Jerry Falwell, who said that every good Christian should be concerned. “I think every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass,” Goldwater responded. Decades ago Goldwater warned of our current circumstances – the religious extremists being allowed to run wild, make laws and policies based on ideology, trying to control morality, attempting to elect candidates whose extremism rivals their own. As Goldwater noted, religious extremists would have their way “unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy.” What Goldwater’s crystal ball didn’t tell him was that there are no longer any “decent people” with any sand in the conservative movement. They’ve all been swallowed whole by the religious fringe.
Again in 1981, Goldwater gave a speech in the U.S. Senate, where he foretold the path of destruction if the religious dogma were permitted to permeate our culture:
“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? . . . 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.”
As Romney toes the line of religious extremism, as he converts his fairly moderate past into a far right ideological present, he has veered so far afield of true “conservatism,” as the fathers of conservatism defined it, that he’s become unrecognizable.
“Mark my word,” Goldwater was quoted as saying in 1994, “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.”
Hundreds of anti-gay hate groups later, “conservatives” have attempted to define themselves by the absence of freedom – no freedom of choice, no freedom of sexual preference, no freedom of religion (it’s a given that they don’t recognize all religions, such as Islam, as “legitimate”). No freedom, period. But “Mr. Conservative,” Barry Goldwater, was pro gay rights.
In a Washington Post interview in 1994, Goldwater no doubt horrified the “moral” majority, caused apoplexy among christians, and gave the anti-gay faction the big middle finger:
“The big thing is to make this country, along with every other country in the world with a few exceptions, quit discriminating against people just because they’re gay. You don’t have to agree with it, but they have a constitutional right to be gay. And that’s what brings me into it . . . Having spent 37 years of my life in the military as a reservist, and never having met a gay in all of that time, and never having even talked about it in all those years, I just thought, why the hell shouldn’t they serve? They’re American citizens. As long as they’re not doing things that are harmful to anyone else… So I came out for it . . . Gays and lesbians are a part of every American family. They should not be shortchanged in their efforts to better their lives and serve their communities . . . .”
“When you say ‘radical right’ today,” Goldwater noted in 1994, “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.”
Here’s a big smooch goodbye.