I recently watched CC Goldwater’s documentary on her grandfather, Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), titled “Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater”. It was a fascinating look into the life and career of the man who ultimately was the birth of the modern conservative movement. It did not talk much about the mechanics of his failed Presidential campaign, or how that campaign eventually ended in the election of Ronald Reagan to the office in 1980, other than to mention the fact that Goldwater – despite being anti-segregation – felt that desegregation was not the province of government, and that Reagan gave speeches promoting Goldwater for President, thus positioning himself as a potential heir to the grassroots “Draft Goldwater” movement.
The documentary did, however, mention that the real change – the thing that pushed conservatives over the top – was the adoption of an active role in legislating the social conservative agenda. Goldwater was in opposition to most social conservative positions, and in fact fought them often later in his career, including during the confirmation battle for Sandra Day O’Connor’s nomination to the Supreme Court. One of Goldwater’s daughters had an abortion, which he supported, and one of his grandchildren was gay, which he supported. In fact, he felt that gays should be allowed in the military, which might even be said to be to the left of Bill Clinton.
Goldwater once said that in the future, he might well be considered a liberal. And compared to the crazy far right-wing government we are currently under, he’d be right. Unlike the guys in power now, Goldwater was a guy who held principle above politics. I don’t agree with all of his positions, but I do agree with some. He’s certainly a conservative I could respect. We’d be much better off if the movement had grown more conservatives like Goldwater, and less like Reagan/Dubya.