Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Conscience of a Conservative

I have changed the Pink Elephant's Book Club Selection today, and though usually I do so without much fanfare, I have found a book that I recommend to everyone. I recommend it to liberals, so they can better understand what I mean. I ESPECIALLY recommend it to conervatives so they can remember what it means to be a conservative.

Barry Goldwater is one of my great political heroes. I might even rank him above Ronnie--I haven't decided. He wrote The Conscience of a Conservative almost 50 years ago, and while the political context may have changed, I find much of what he says very relevant to today.

Goldwater bemoans a Republican Party that in practice is almost indistinguishable from the Party it opposes. The Gentleman from Arizona warns that the cavalier disregard of the Constitution replaces the rule of laws with the rule of men. He fears the expanse of government because the natural course of government is to oppress the governed.

An excerpt:

State power, considered in the abstract need not restrict freedom, but absolute state power always does. The legitimate functions of government are actually conducive to freedom. Maintaining internal order, keeping foreign foes at bay, administering justice, removing the obstacles to the free interchange of goods--the exercise of these powers makes it possible for men to follow their chosen pursuits with the maximum of freedom. But note that the instrument by which these desirable ends are achived can be the instrument for achieving undesirable ends--that government can, instead of extending freedom, restrict freedom. And note, secondly, that this "can" quickly becomes "will" the moment the holders of government power are left to their own devices. This is because of the corrupting influence of power, the natural tendency of men who possess some power to take unto themselves more power. The tednency leads eventually to the acqusition of all power--whether in the hands of one or many makes little difference to the freedom of those left on the outside.

Such then is history's lesson . . . : release the holders of state power from any restraints other than those they wish to impose upon themselves and you swinging down the well-travelled road to [government] absolutism. (Emphasis supplied)

Allow me to help establish some cred for Barry among my gay readership. In a 1994 op-ed entitled "The Politics of Gay Bashing" or "Protecting Gays from Job Discrimination" or some variant depending upon the newspaper in which it appeared, Sen. Goldwater wrote:

Gays and lesbians are a part of every American family. They should not be shortchanged in their efforts to better their lives and serve their communities. It's time America realized that there is no gay exemption in the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in the Declaration of Independence. Job discrimination against gays - or anybody else - is contrary to each of these founding principles.

Some will try to paint this as a liberal or religious issue. I am a conservative Republican, but I believe in democracy and the separation of church and state. The conservative movement is founded on the simple tenet that people have the right to live as they please, as long as they don't hurt anyone else in the process. No one has ever shown me how being gay or lesbian harms anyone else.

And in case you don't just love him yet, when Jerry Falwell charged that "every good Christian should be concerned" by the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court, Barry Goldwater responded:
"every good Christian should line up and kick Jerry Falwell's ass."

Read his book.


Tim in Italy said...

I think Goldwater is one of the great unsung heroes of the Republic. He dwarfs Ronnie in his respect for the Constitution, individual rights and in his warnings to the party about the Christianist. If all of our politicians were as forthright and honest as BG was throughout his public life, we would be in much better shape today.

I am both heartened and impressed that you have such respect for this great man. Will you marry me?

Anonymous said...

I wish our Arizona Senator, who is running for President, was a conservative like Goldwater or Reagan. Great comment about gays from this conservative. I have an old Goldwater bumper sticker from the 1964 election. The Republican party needs a strong conservative candidate for '08. PE, since you are out of school...would you please run?

Matt said...

That is one of the better posts I've seen online. It said what it had to say, it let BG speak for himself, it was funny, it was inspirational. Bravo!

Although I am basically inclined to agree with him anyway, it sorta concerns me that I like him more because of his "gay credibility." I can't figure out whether that's a legitimate reason to like a person. I know being anti-gay is plenty of reason for me NOT to like a person (ahem, Mitt Romney) but I can't tell if it's legitimate the other way around.

I guess it doesn't matter in Goldwater's case.

Maybe I'll read the book in Hawaii.

Andronicus said...


I wonder if Barry would be a member of today's GOP if he were still alive. He had such strong convictions and never minced words. It's fun to imagine what he would say if he were up there with Mitt and Rudy in a debate.

Anyhow, to add to what you said about Goldwater and gays, here is some more:

-In July, 1994 he signed on as honorary co-chair of proposed Federal law to prevent job discrimination against gays.

-In the early 1990's, he championed gays serving in the military.

-Great quote: "You don't have to agree with it, but they have a constitutional right to be gay." (Wonder what that neandrathal Scalia would say about that!)

-"When you say 'radical right' today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye." ....Washington Post, 1994

--Hillary was a Goldwater supporter in 1964. Go figure.

Thanks for this post...he makes everyone currently running for prez look like a complete midget.

Tim in Italy said...

You've fallen off the radar, Pink. Everything okay?

Pink Elephant said...

yep, just work.

Matt said...

I just bought the book. Finally. I'm going to try to take it to Europe with me if it comes in time.