by Thomas Riggins
Princeton University has reissued, as a "classic" Barry Goldwater's 1960 book "The Conscience of a Conservative." This book was BG's ideological basis for his 1964 run for president-- one of the biggest crushes ever for the Republican Party. But it laid the basis for the new ultra-right Republican Party that gave us Bush in 2000 (without the benefit of actually having to win an election.)
Here are a few quotes from the book. "Conservatism, we are told, is out of date. The charge is preposterous and we ought boldly to say so. The laws of God, and of nature, have no dateline." Not only is God a conservative, but nature herself has a soft spot for the Republicans.
BG, basing himself on God and nature, was able to conclude that not only did the Almighty dislike welfare, he was also opposed to racial integration. "Every man, for his individual good and for the good of his society, is responsible for his OWN development." Welfare "transforms the individual from a dignified, industrious, self-reliant SPIRITUAL being into a dependent animal creature without his knowing it." The bulk of welfare was going to poor children (little animals) it should be noted.
Interestingly, BG also maintained that "Throughout history, government has proved to be the chief instrument for thwarting man's liberty." These quotes, and what follows, come from, or is based upon, Thomas Sugrue's review in The London Review of Books for 3 January 2008. Not all of the views expressed are his.
What is of note about this bluster on welfare and the government, is the fact BG's backward and underdeveloped little Sun State was built up and developed by Federal subsidies, tax rebates and all other forms of corporate welfare and government assistance.
Sugrue points out that dams and power plants, housing developments, highways, defense plants were all built with Federal aid and grants: "a redistribution of national wealth from the tax-rich, populous states of the North-East and Midwest to the tax-poor, underdeveloped Sun Belt." The God whose laws BG extolled was Mammon.
The hypocrisy and phoniness of the man and his followers is beyond belief. While giving lip service to equal rights, BG and his followers were active opponents of BROWN v. BOARD OF EDUCATION and attacked it on the basis, not of racism which was the real reason, but on the grounds of "states' rights."
It was this issue that cracked the Solid South which had hitherto voted Democratic and held the party of Lincoln in contempt. In 1964 BG carried Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. Southern Racism, no longer happy with the Democrat's embrace of the Civil Rights Movement, was about to find a new home in the Republican Party where it thrives to this day. This is not to imply that the Democrats are free of Racism, but the epicenter is in the Republican dispensation.
The right-wing Xtian fundamentalists took over the Republicans in the 1980s, and this unholy alliance of Racism and Fanaticism is what runs the party to this day. The defeat of BG in 1964 was thus only temporary. While the man himself was sidelined, his noxious ideas still festered in the American political system and right-wing racist zealots slowly rebuilt the party in their own image after the '64 defeat.
The poison of Goldwaterism has now mutated into the more virulent form of Bushism-- called by Sugrue "Goldwaterism on steroids." BG may be the spiritual Godfather of Bushism, but in comparison to Bush he appears as a conservative moderate. The outer most extreme of one era is the moderate of the next. A chilling thought when we contemplate what a Republican victory might bring to the world in another ten or twenty years. The Progressive movement has its work cut out for it.