Some of us are old enough to remember Goldwater’s 1964 Nomination acceptance speech, but whether you were were alive and kicking, or first heard it on the innertubz, few would fail to recognize the speech as the dawning of the post-modern era of extremism. And the line from Goldwater, through Newt Gingrich and to Paul Ryan pegs Goldwater as a godfather of TeaBagger extremism.
Goldwater conservatism, therefore, is not old news, especially in as much as the First Lady of the United States in 1996, who was a Goldwater Girl in 1964, expressed her continuing admiration for Goldwater:
I feel like my political beliefs are rooted in the conservatism that I was raised with. I don’t recognize this new brand of Republicanism that is afoot now, which I consider to be very reactionary, not conservative in many respects. I am very proud that I was a Goldwater girl.
Now, I can forgive the indiscretions of a young college kid (heavens, I deal with many today who are attracted to the Goldwater analogs of today, but most eventually grow up, mellow out, and appreciate that extremism is unacceptable) though I am certainly put off by it, but the fact that she didn’t laugh at her foolishness 25 years later when she was the First Lady of a country wrestling with the Contract with America (Newt’s plan, and perhaps the first GOP effort to shut down the US Government) is something that should make you sit up and take note too.
But is the title of this essay over the top, a SPLC version of Godwin’s Law (aside from the double entendre on “conserve”, which you have to love, I don’t care who you are)? The John Lewis fiasco made it very clear that Establishment Blacks (what a curious way to refer to those who led the protests in the ’60s) are happy to whitewash (OK, maybe that wasn’t all that funny) Hillary’s lack of civil rights credibility, while others are more than happy to air the Clinton dirty racial laundry. Even Black intellectuals are criticizing Clinton, from Brother Cornell (who most recently called Clinton “the Milli Vanilli of politics” to Michelle Alexander (and the less than impressive Coates). At the same time we have Trump’s apparent acceptance of Duke’s endorsement, and certainly his racially charged rhetoric. These are the times in which we live.
If one proposes to support Hillary, the question on everyone’s lips today appears to be, “which Hillary” The only folk for which this does not create a pause, frankly, are the likes of Katha Pollitt and other women who will support HRC in the primaries only because she has a vagina. Now, I understand why they would do this, though I find such sexism unfortunate; what I can’t understand is why so many try (unlike Katha, who just up and cops to it) to gussy up their identity politics with arguments that HRC is the true progressive.
Consider Hillary’s history in the broader historical perspective. The 64 election was a watershed for American politics; it is the foundation upon which the most important legislation passed by the US Congress in the past 50 years was passed, from the Voting Rights Act to the first appropriations for the lunar landing program, not to mention the roll-out of enforcement of the 1964 civil rights act (the rage over which fueled Goldwater’s campaign). Goldwater was waging war against “The Great Society” and everyone clearly understood that (even Hillary, and do listen to Johnson’s speech). For HRC to suggest that she was proud of supporting Goldwater in 1964 is tantamount to her rejecting everything Democrats have to be proud of since Roosevelt left office.
While I am truly horrified by Johnson’s handling of ‘Nam, I am just as stunned by his commitment to redressing the domestic failures so evident but so ignored. For anyone to suggest that they are honoring Johnson’s commitment to social and economic justice in the United States by supporting for the highest office in this country a person who actually campaigned to sabotage the very accomplishments for which we honor Johnson and who 32 years later as First Lady, doubled down on her commitment to the leader of that band of extremists intent on dismantling Johnson’s legislative program, simply boggles my mind. I don’t often resort to emotive language, and I fear I have gotten a bit maudlin here (mea maxima culpa) but I truly can’t imagine how anyone could miss the fact that HRC is probably a bit to the right of Ike…
And, to be clear, Goldwater was adamant that the government had no business banning discrimination in public accommodation – he had a very Lincolnesque approach – A shonda, ober es iz nit dayn gesheftits (it’s a shame, but its none of our business…) The “right” in the US today is an unholy alliance of those who want to “take government back”, (that is to say they want government to do things, just not the things it has been doing) and those who want to nullify government (that is, they want the right to ignore anything that the government decides to do that they don’t personally agree with.) Unfortunately, the ability of most of those dancing on that side of the hall to discuss anything rationally is severely impaired (not to say that the people on the other side of the hall are all rocket scientists either). But they all agree, no matter their IQ or dogma, that government has no business helping the tired, the hungry or the poor.
If there is anyone in national politics today who wears the mantle MLK JR, seeking social and economic justice for all, it is certainly not the Goldwater Girl who believes its her turn. Hillary is still very much the fiscal conservative and military hawk she has always been, and it is high time that the United States turned that page over.