Wednesday, May 28, 2008

John McCain and the Goldwater legacy

If Barry Goldwater were alive today what would he think of the current Republican Party, the current Republican president and the current Republican candidate for president John McCain who likes to call himself a “Goldwater Republican”? According to his family, he would probably take a dim view of all three.

Goldwater is credited with the beginning of the takeover of the Republican Party by conservative ideologues. His brand of conservatism had a very libertarian bent to it. (For example, on the issue of gays in the military he once said, “You don’t have to be straight to be in the military. You just have to shoot straight.”) However, there were competing conversatisms more interested in power than principled stands that eventually carried the day.

John McCain succeeded Goldwater in the United State Senate representing Arizona. While the Goldwater reputation for independence has had its political uses for McCain to embrace it’s clear McCain has gone off on a different path from “Mr. Conservative.”

According to Sam Stein at The Huffington Post:
John McCain is prone to tout himself as a "Goldwater Republican," the inheritor of a party and ideology that his Senate predecessor from Arizona, Barry Goldwater, helped shape decades ago.

But Goldwater's own family members say that, if the family patriarch were alive today, he would be sour on McCain and shudder at the kind of conservatism that the current GOP nominee is proposing.

"I don't know if he would recognize the Republican Party today," Alison Goldwater Ross, a registered Democrat and granddaughter of the 1964 GOP presidential candidate, told The Huffington Post. "I'm sure if we were to raise his ashes from the Colorado River... he would be going, 'What? This is not my vision. This is not my party.'"

Such bewilderment, Ross offered, would extend to McCain, the man who took over Goldwater's seat in the Senate in 1987 and currently is the GOP standard-bearer. The two Arizonans clashed on several occasions during their political careers. Goldwater, as documented in "Pure Goldwater," a book by the Senator's son Barry Jr., was depressed and angered by McCain's involvement in the Keating Five scandal. Later in his career, a rift developed between the two after McCain used Goldwater's name -- without his permission -- for fundraising purposes.

"My grandfather felt that he was deceived by McCain," she said. "Because he looked at McCain and said, here was this young guy who has a lot of potential in the Republican Party, who is coming through the ranks, and then he pulled something like this. My grandfather had to ask, 'Is this something I want to be close to?'"

That Goldwater's grandchild says McCain doesn't represent her grandfather's political tradition is not an insignificant revelation. McCain has, in the past, acknowledged a deep desire to impress the elder Goldwater and continue his conservative legacy. In his memoir, "Worth the Fighting For," McCain said of his predecessor: "I admired him to the point of reverence, and I wanted him to like me.... He was usually cordial, just never as affectionate as I would have liked."

And on several occasions, McCain has deliberately taken steps to position himself as the inheritor of the Goldwater revolution. In the final speech of his "biography tour," McCain traveled to the historic Yavapai County Courthouse, a location where Goldwater started all his bids for office.

The reality, some observers claim, is that McCain and Goldwater are two contrasting breeds of Republicans. Ideologically, Matt Welch writes in "McCain: The Myth of a Maverick," the two have a fundamentally different idea about the role and scope of the federal government. But, on a broader level, the Republican Party as a whole has shifter drastically away from Goldwater's vision.

"I think, at the end of my grandfather's career, first of all he would be looking at what state we are in today with what Bush has done, and I think he would be just incredibly appalled," said Ross. "I think his head would be spinning. How in the world did we get ourselves in this state? How did this happen? What went wrong? Where did this Republican Party go?"

On the issues of Iraq, women's rights, and the separation of church in state, Goldwater's granddaughter says the gulf between Barry and McCain is vast.

"I don't think my grandfather would ever pander to the religious right like McCain did. That would get him angrier than anything. He believed in the division between church and state, he fought that constantly. And these guys are getting in there... religion is a wonderful thing but it does not have any place or purpose in politics," she said. "My grandfather was for women's rights. The idea that my body is mine, and what I want to do with it, I will do with it... McCain isn't of that mindset."

2 comments:

J. Tyler Ballance said...

Goldwater was my first campaign. I was just a kid, but I had the responsibility of doing lit-drops in my Norfolk neighborhood from the back of my wagon.

The Goldwater of 1964 was different from the Goldwater of his later years. This is probably true with all of us to some extent, based on the lessons of life and the wisdom that we gather over time.

It is a moot point that some relatives of Goldwater opine what Barry would think, were he here. He is not here.

However, we are here and it is we who face an international banking cartel that is extorting governments all around the world to bend to their will. It is we who face a crisis of spiraling energy costs and a need for a national level project to achieve energy independence by 2020. It is we, those who are alive today who need the sure handed leadership of a man such as John McCain.

He alone cannot face down these international cartels and the multinational bankers. We, the People, must unite behind our next President and take immediate steps to restore our industrial base, secure our borders and provide energy independence and a brighter economic future for ALL of our citizens.

J. Tyler Ballance said...

Goldwater was my first campaign. I was just a kid, but I had the responsibility of doing lit-drops in my Norfolk neighborhood from the back of my wagon.

The Goldwater of 1964 was different from the Goldwater of his later years. This is probably true with all of us to some extent, based on the lessons of life and the wisdom that we gather over time.

It is a moot point that some relatives of Goldwater opine what Barry would think, were he here. He is not here.

However, we are here and it is we who face an international banking cartel that is extorting governments all around the world to bend to their will. It is we who face a crisis of spiraling energy costs and a need for a national level project to achieve energy independence by 2020. It is we, those who are alive today who need the sure handed leadership of a man such as John McCain.

He alone cannot face down these international cartels and the multinational bankers. We, the People, must unite behind our next President and take immediate steps to restore our industrial base, secure our borders and provide energy independence and a brighter economic future for ALL of our citizens.