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HBO DOCUMENTARY: MR CONSERVATIVE,
GOLDWATER ON GOLDWATER

Reviewed by Cartoonist Jeff Swenson

I just finished watching the new documentary on Barry Goldwater and was stunned at how far the Republican Party has come from true conservatism as defined by this amazing individual who lost the election for presidency in 1964

Goldwater on Goldwater is a sentimental trip down memory lane for a granddaughter looking to discover who her grandfather really was. But I didn't care about the sentiments, I was really quite stunned by what Goldwater espoused and kept wondering where his kind of thinking disappeared to?
The conservatives in office right now are fakes. If you call yourself a conservative and think Bush represents you then I'm sorry, you don't know what a conservative is. If you think religion should play a role in government as well as determining laws that govern our bodies and our sexuality then you are not a conservative. If you think government should take our taxes and use it for faith-based initiatives and foreign wars that do not defend our country then you are not a conservative.

I don't claim to be a historical expert on politics, however, just from this documentary alone I can see how far America has strayed from conservative ideals. Ideals that can be summed up with one phrase: get government off our backs. The conservative clowns that are in office now are expanding government and wasting money as if it wasn't their own--because it isn't, it's our money.

In my personal life I have gone from being religiously conservative (or a fake conservative) because I was against gay rights, to being liberally minded because I was against sweatshops and for minimum wage hikes, to being a traditional conservative or as we now identify true conservatives--a Libertarian! I am a moderate, pragmatic Libertarian at this point in my life so please don't think that I've gone off the radical deep-end. I have nothing against the radical fringe because they are probably justified in their thinking, however, from experience I know that you can't thrust foreign ideas upon an unready population and expect results. I prefer to support change where change can realistically happen and then eventually we will get to the utopia, until someone gets scared and it's all torn down again in the perceived need that government must provide for each individual.

In the documentary liberals like Helen Thomas and TV news godfather Walter Cronkite say that Barry Goldwater became a liberal over time. But they don't get it. Goldwater didn't change his values, it was the Republicans that redefined conservatism. Goldwater was primarily a libertarian and on social issues most libertarians are liberal. This is because the premise of Libertarianism is to get government out of our personal lives and for everyone to benefit from constitutional rights. So naturally Barry Goldwater was for a woman's right to choose and though he may have been hesitant at first he even came around to the notion of allowing gays in the military. And of course Barry Goldwater didn't care much for Jerry Falwell and the dangerous combination of religion mixed with politics--something that Liberal Democrats are more actively engaging in starting with Bill Clinton. Yes, you may win more votes appealing to religion on both sides of the two party system and I think you should go to hell for doing so.

Libertarianism takes the best of both parties, ideas that have been tossed aside usually to appeal to the masses, and includes them in an ideology that our founding fathers would have approved of. Less government intrusion and minimal taxes. It's not hard to see when you realize that even when you're close to the poverty line you're still giving 20% of your income in taxes (maybe more?). It has been both the current Democratic Party and the current Republican Party that has contributed to the divide between rich and poor by closing down opportunities and increasing bureaucracy to the point of nausea. Not to mention the trampling of free speech--I mean what the fuck is a "free speech zone" at a party convention?

HBO and for that matter Showtime are the salvation of those of us who like to entertain ourselves with thinking material and this is a nice documentary that unlike me isn't attempting to politicize Barry Goldwater. It is simply telling us who the man was, what he thought and what he said. How refreshing is that? Just as refreshing as the man himself who spoke his mind without fear of reproach or caring that the poll numbers might not be as high if he treaded more lightly.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

1. One of the things that angered me most when watching this film was the down and dirty campaign ads by Lyndon Johnson including the absolute fear mongering ad that ran only once and featured an innocent young girl picking flowers with a quick cut to a nuclear bomb going off. This was in reference to Goldwater's ideas of what to do to win the war in Vietnam which might include defoliating with nukes. You can talk about Republican campaign nastiness when it comes to Karl Rove but I couldn't believe this ad and some of the others. One of them also associated Barry Goldwater with the Ku Klux Klan because he didn't support the 1964 Civil Rights Act. If the Right learned dirty ad campaigns from anywhere it must have been Lyndon B. Johnson.

2. During his campaign for the presidency, Barry Goldwater was labeled a racist because he didn't support the 1964 Civil Rights act. And unfortunately it is hard for people to understand the Libertarian position on this. That position would be, under the constitution, you cannot force integration especially when it comes to private property rights. A bigot is allowed to be an asshole with his private business and even state's rights might allow for certain governing bodies to be assholes when it comes to public schooling and public facilities. Though with any tax funded facilities I would argue that their can be no segregation by the fact that all citizens, black or otherwise, are paying out of their pocket. The argument on integration concerning publicly funded works (like a water fountain in a park that is split into two fountains, one for blacks and one for whites) would probably veer off into the direction of should the government be taxing us for those things anyhow and couldn't they be accomplished more efficiently through private enterprise.

Instead of legally forcing everyone to get along (which always works, right?) Goldwater wanted to allow for time to heal the wounds and quite honestly for activism to do what free speech and free expression are intended to do in such situations: apply pressure to the social conscience to change. Martin Luther King was essential to this concept, even as he leaned towards socialism.

We currently see this happening with Gay Activism as laws that may or may not work are proposed but the consensus that "gays" aren't all perverts and bad people has grown at an incredible rate. I give full credit for this to hardworking activists and not so much the government.

And ultimately what really nails the coffin on racism/homophobia is that bigotry is bad for business. Businesses that don't want to allow certain people into their establishment or don't want to sell to a certain person based on race, sex, or creed may do so but they are going to get their financial asses kicked in the long run by entrepreneurs that see the void and fill it. That's what business does. It is not concerned with the color of your skin, only the color of your money. Greed tends to eliminate bigotry.

A modern example of this is if we tried to force certain repressed Muslim populations to give women equal rights. Most likely a backlash would ensue and everyone would start handing out flags and matches. What seems to work is when there is a financial incentive to give women more freedom, such as a second income to a struggling household. This is not to say we shouldn't actively apply pressure on backwards Muslim societies to get rid of what can be truly defined as "sexism", but it is to say we can't force our reasoned morality at the point of a gun. The major roadblock here of course is religion which often demands financial sacrifice among other sacrifices and may not allow the free market to flourish like it should.

I would suggest that even with the passing of the Civil Rights Act that economics played a strong role in ending racism and that speech was essential for tugging at the national heartstrings that it was time to put away our prejudices. Admittedly racism isn't completely gone, nor will it ever be but it certainly isn't rampant in America (as some liberals would like you to believe). I do not want to criticize the Civil Rights Act too heavily because personally I require more reflection and study on the matter and even though it may have been messier more expedient route it did result in necessary change. Barry Goldwater wanted to see that change happen without government intervention. The question we will never know is if it would have or would not have happened without government intervention and how long would it have taken. But Barry Goldwater was not a racist for believing in a different approach to the problem. If anything he was wrong about the approach.

Read more on Barry Goldwater at Wikipedia



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