Barry Goldwater Was Right

I recall my dad’s quips about Barry Goldwater – laced with profanity and superlative, he had some pretty harsh things to say about a man he though betrayed the country. My dad wasn’t what you’d call a hardcore Republican, but he definitely sympathized with “the cause.” Which is weird because my dad was also an atheist. But I digress. Imagine my surprise as I grew into adulthood to find that although Barry wasn’t the more statesmanlike of statesmen, he had some pretty insightful things to say about the Radical Right.

A set of them comes from a speech he gave in 1981, summarized in the New York Times, September 16, 1981. In this first clip, he despairs over the Radical Right’s unwillingness to compromise. Tell me if you think this sounds familiar:

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.

In the same speech, he goes on to decry how they control the political dialog:

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?

This is 1981, mind you; the very apex of the movement that Jerry Falwell dubbed the “Moral Majority” and that Pat Robertson tried to appropriate for his own presidential bid in 1988. Although Falwell and Robertson did not have compatible views on Christianity, they were in lock step where governance was concerned. They envisioned a CHRISTIAN United States of America. That’s probably why Goldwater rankled at the pressure he and other “old school” Republicans had to endure for political and financial support.

I’m sure that as he saw the closing years approach, Goldwater became somewhat bitter about how he was thrown aside by the Radical Right. That bitterness comes out in this well-trod, oft-cited Goldwater gem from John Dean’s book Conservatives Without Conscience (2006):

Mark my word, 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.

Yet, there’s a better, more prophetic view from an interview published in the Washington Post, July 29, 1994.

When you say “radical right” today, 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.

Given all of the evidence – the vitriol that has surrounded Obama since Day One of his administration, the hateful things that the Radical Right has committed against Hillary Clinton and other Democrats (and even several Republicans) that the soul of the Republican Party is no longer has the best interest of America and for Americans?

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