Goldwater Liberals, unite!

In addition to the fear of being called right wing (discussed infra), there's also a form of intimidation which can only be called the fear of being called left wing or liberal. Or at least, of being insufficiently right wing.

Yet it must be remembered that in logic, to refuse to succumb to the fear of being labeled (by acquiescing to the label) does not make the label correct! I get called right wing by leftists and left wing by rightists. Surely I cannot be both. (And surely I still have the right to think what I think.)

The terms "conservative" and "liberal" are more in use now as insults than accurate descriptors.

Ditto the catchall phrase -- RINO:

RINO stands for Republican In Name Only, a disparaging term for a member of the United States Republican Party whose words and actions are thought to be too fiscally or socially moderate or liberal. It has replaced the older term Rockefeller Republican.
(Here's another traditional definition of RINO -- notable for its failure to mention libertarians.)

I hear the term "RINO" being hurled around a lot these days. But a lot of the time, it isn't being used to describe Rockefeller Republicans (or even Big Government Republicans like Kristol and Bush). More and more it's being used to characterize disagreement with the social conservative view on certain hot button issues -- particularly abortion and gay rights.

In other words, libertarian (and I mean that with a small "l") Republicans are now finding themselves called RINOs. (With Big Government Republicans in the party ascendancy, I wonder whether we'll see the term being used to describe Republicans who dislike runaway government spending.)

At the risk of being divisive of party unity (but can dividing an oxymoron be divisive?) I have a simple question:

Is Barry Goldwater a RINO?

If so, I think I should head them off at the pass and take this one step further.

I hereby declare myself proud to be a "Goldwater liberal."

While I've mentioned Goldwater fondly before, I never seriously thought of him as a liberal. There's a supreme irony in referring to the grand old man of American conservatism as a liberal.

Here's his fellow liberal and protege, Sandra Day O'Connor

And while Goldwater was a minority in his own party -- and in limbo for years after his unsuccessful 1964 presidential campaign -- O'Connor said, ''He managed to articulate conservative views in a way that changed the debate for the nation.''

Without Goldwater, O'Connor said, there might not have been a President Reagan, whose 1980 election ''certainly had a beginning with the Goldwater campaign in 1964.''

Well, she's considered a dangerous liberal by the folks who did things like pray for her to die. And when Ronald Reagan nominated her for the Supreme Court, Barry Goldwater fought to get her confirmed. He also committed what would be political treason today:
[Goldwater]. . .led the 1981 Senate fight for confirmation of a fellow Arizonan, Sandra Day O'Connor, as the first woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court. When Jerry Falwell, head of the Moral Majority, was quoted (inaccurately) as saying that every good Christian should be concerned about her because of abortion, he responded "Every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass."
McCain was pilloried as a borderline Commie for saying something much milder than that.

I like what Goldwater said about conservatism:

The conservative movement is founded on the simple tenet that people have the right to live life as they please as long as they don't hurt anyone else in the process.
That sounds pretty liberal to me. Traditional, classical liberalism. Just drop the "conservative" label, and it's fine. So what if it's ironic?

Hell, even Goldwater himself commented on the irony in 1996:

In 1996, Barry Goldwater sat in his Paradise Valley home with Bob Dole and joked about his strange new standing as a GOP outsider.

''We're the new liberals of the Republican Party,'' Goldwater told Dole, who was then facing criticisms from hard-line conservatives in the presidential campaign.

''Can you imagine that?''

Of course, whether Goldwater became liberal or was liberal all along is an unsettled question.

But one thing is becoming clear to me. Goldwater has been dead for nearly a decade, but he keeps getting more and more liberal. And I find myself liking him -- and missing him -- more and more. Does that mean I am getting more liberal too? Or does liberalism automatically result from the passage of time?

I'm wondering what questions this old picture might raise about the passage of time:


I can remember when the above would have been considered by nearly everyone to be a picture of two famous American conservatives.

No more.

The guy on the left is now a liberal.

Please, dear God, don't let that happen to the guy on the right!

posted by Eric on 03.18.06 at 07:20 PM


revolutions always end up eating their own.

in many ways it is poetic justice.

walter   ·  March 19, 2006 2:45 AM

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