Steve Ralls

Goldwater, Gays & The GOP

Filed By Steve Ralls | July 30, 2007 12:46 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Barry Goldwater, GOP, military, republican, sldn, steve ralls

In an exclusive post on Servicemembers Legal Defense Network's blog, The Frontlines, CC Goldwater writes movingly about her grandfather, former Senator and presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Her words remind us just how far the Republican party has strayed from true conservative principles, and just how much we can learn from the late Senator Goldwater, who once, after all, inspired a young Hillary Rodham to sign up as a 'Goldwater girl.'

CC, whose film Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater, is being released today on DVD, writes that "Politicians have put themselves above the principles upon which this country was founded. Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are considered philosophical documents, not political ones. Yet that hasn’t stopped political parties from claiming these principles as if they were the only ones who practice them."

"The Constitution," she says, "was Barry’s Bible. He felt strongly about what it represented and the guidance it gave to establishing our government."

Today, of course, the actual Bible is often a politician's Bible. And that's why our country is far worse off without public servants like Goldwater, who constantly challenged the perception that 'conservative' meant 'close-minded.' The late Senator once famously opined, on the subject of gays in the military, that you don't have to "be straight to shoot straight," and CC is carrying the legacy forward. "As my grandfather would say, the government has no right in our personal lives," she says, "and I will stand by that till the day I die."

There are many lessons the current crop of Republican politicians could learn from Senator Goldwater, but most are too busy rushing to the far right to pay attention. Here's hoping, though, that at least a few of them will take 90 minutes to watch Mr. Conservative and ask themselves how 'conservative' they really are, after all.

CC is hopeful.

"We have an opportunity to re-gain confidence in our nation," she writes today. "It’s just going to take some straight talk and honesty."

Perhaps a new generation of Goldwater activism will help bring those common-sense principles back to our elections. After all, Senator Goldwater was running a real 'Straight-Talk Express' long before another politican from Arizona tried to falsely claim the mantra. (Goldwater, for example, was far ahead of Senator John McCain, who now occupies his former seat in the United States Senate, on the question of open service.)

In the America of today, Barry Goldwater would no doubt be labeled 'Mr. Left' by the likes of Karl Rove and others who have stolen the mantle of conservatism for the religious right. But as Mr. Conservative reminds us, the GOP - at least once in recent history - embraced the idea of a big tent that might have included us, too.

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As a bipartisan political consultant, I have to say that most of the moderate Republicans I work with hold Barry Goldwater in extremely high esteem as one of the last true Republican candidates instead of the "Hi! I'm in a not-so-secret alliance with the religious right!" variety.

I dunno. I think that it's crazy how all different types of Republicans are always trying to define some people as "real conservatives" and others as not, as if that's some sort of way to debate politics. Religious Right folks always say that someone like Rudy G. isn't a real conservative because he was pro-choice back in the day, libertarian style Republicans always say that the Religious folks aren't real conservatives because they support programs that cost money, and neocons are always willing to label anyone who strays at all from their message as a RINO.

Just seems to me like they're a party of temporary, mutually beneficial alliances that don't get along all too well all the time. Either that or they just have too many litmus tests. But saying that someone isn't a "real conservative" implies that being a perfect conservative is somehow a goal.