Nov 28, 2014

Goldwater vs. the religious right

Barry Goldwater did not much like religious conservatives.

Though he's often considered the first of the modern conservatives, playing John the Baptist to Ronald Reagan's Jesus Christ in the story of conservatism's electoral triumph, Goldwater was a libertarian with little interest in the social issues that would animate much of Reagan's base.

A 2006 documentary on Goldwater called Mr. Conservative looked at how Goldwater fought the religious right over the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner.

Religious right leaders such as Jerry Falwell sought to exercise their new-found power to keep O'Conner off the court. Goldwater said good Christians and good conservatives ought to repudiate the minister.

"This is not a conservative issue," he said. "Abortion is not a conservative issue."

As the 2016 election heats up, some of these same divisions can be seen in the Republican Party. It is hard to imagine any candidate, even the ones that don't particularly care about the religious right's social policy agenda, taking Goldwater's stance. How things change.