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Trump-Era GOP: Too Far Right for Barry Goldwater

You are extremists, and you've hurt the Republican party much more than the Democrats have.

Bill Holdship

I remember how my dad and uncles all hated Bary Goldwater (1909-1998) so much at the time of the 1964 US Presidential election. I'm glad none of those guys are around to see President Trump, the Orange man. Michigan’s Governor George Romney, President Dwight David (Ike) Eisenhower and Senator Barry M. Goldwater would all be moderate Democrats in 2017.

Friends ask how I can include Goldwater. Maybe the 1964 Republican Presidential candidate Goldwater would remain Republican. But the post-Presidential candidate Goldwater would be someone that the modern Republican Party would not want in its ranks.

I never figured this, based on my family's disdain for him. My uncle, Dad's oldest brother, lived in and worked for the Democratic Party in Arizona. But that great HBO documentary “Mr. Conservative” (2006) made me realize that he was a little more complicated than I'd been led to believe.

During his latter years, he supported abortion right-to-choice and gay rights, as well as gays being allowed to serve in the military.

"Everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar. You don't need to be 'straight' to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight."

He also supported an early 1996 Arizona bill to legalize marijuana.

He was a strong supporter of environmental protections: "I feel very definitely that it is absolutely correct to crack down on companies and corporations and municipalities that continue to pollute the nation's air and water. While I am a great believer in the free competitive enterprise system and all that it entails, I am an even stronger believer in the right of our people to live in a clean and pollution-free environment. To this end, it is my belief that when pollution is found, it should be halted at the source, even if this requires stringent government action against important segments of our national economy."

He urged the Republicans to back off the Clintons regarding Whitewater!

And he campaigned vigorously and regularly spoke out against the Moral Majority and the religious right's influence on the GOP.

"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" said Goldwater in 1994.

When Jerry Falwell opposed the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court, saying, "Every good Christian should be concerned,", Goldwater retorted: "Every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass." According to John Dean, Goldwater actually said good Christians ought to kick Falwell in the "nuts," but the news media "changed the anatomical reference."

"We're the new liberals of the Republican Party. Can you imagine that?"
—Barry Goldwater to Bob Dole, 1996.

"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."
—Goldwater to the Republican party a year before his death.

If Goldwater were around today and held onto those viewpoints, I imagine he’d be an independent.

Bill Holdship is a writer and editor (CREEM The Rock n' Roll Magazine) in Michigan's Thumb.

Copyright © Bill Holdship. All rights reserved.