I’ve been waiting with baited breath to see just how mondo-bizarro the Republican race for the presidential nomination could get. It started at the bottom and has been working its way down ever since.
It is so strange that it makes me long for a comeback by a “Mr. Conservative” in the mold of Barry Goldwater who was the undisputed champion of that moniker when I was young. Not that I’d have voted for him when he ran for president: I actually had a Johnson-Humphrey bumper sticker on my bicycle in 1964 riding to and from elementary school during that election.
However, history proved Barry Goldwater to have been one of the really decent and principled conservatives of our era. What would he have said about the current crop of candidates running for the Republican Presidential nomination?
As early as 1989 he described the Republican Party as having been taken over by a “bunch of kooks.”
As a staunch defender of civil liberties he came out for the right of LGBTI people to serve openly in the military, stating emphatically that “Everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar” and that “You don’t have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.”
Gay rights was not the only issue where he took on the religious right. When it came to abortion he was a staunch and unwavering supporter of a woman’s right to choose during his final term in the United States Senate. When Sandra Day O’Connor of his home state, Arizona, was nominated to the United States Supreme Court and opposed by Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell who said that “Every good Christian should be concerned,” Goldwater was quoted as saying “Every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.” John Dean (of later Watergate fame) claimed however that what Goldwater actually said was that Falwell should be kicked “in the nuts.”
In 1994 he told the Washington Post that “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 and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.” But perhaps his greatest condemnation of the transformation of the Republican Party into what it was becoming (maybe, degenerating into?) was when he warned his own party “Do not associate my name with anything you do. You are extremists, and you’ve hurt the Republican party much more than the Democrats have.”