Like my dad, Barry Goldwater had an independent spirit. He was a natural leader and natural politician. And even though he ran for president and lost, the principles that he stood for endured and inspired a generation of conservatives who followed him. He believed passionately in freedom and protecting the rights of the individual -- ideas that later became fundamental to Ronald Reagan twenty years later, and would lead to his success. Goldwater's lifelong crusade against groupthink and the expansion of federal government continue to be relevant today, as we wonder where the Obama bailouts and big programs will take us and our country.
I love the ideas of Barry Goldwater, and what he left behind. Yes, his vision was anti-big government, but even more than that, it was pro-people and pro-freedom. He believed in making room and space for individuals to live their own lives, and create relationships and families and businesses with as little interference from others as possible.
It was about removing fences, not building them. It was about tolerance. It was about appreciating differences and new ideas. He was called, "Mr. Conservative," and in Goldwater's dream for America, and the one he fought for his entire life, there was room for everybody to flourish.
These days, the name Ronald Reagan – as well as his legacy – has become oversaturated, just white noise. Conservatives love to evoke him, using him as an example of whatever brand of politics they happen to be selling. But what they seem to have forgotten is that moderates and Democrats elected Ronald Reagan, not the far right. The ideas that he stood for -- freedom, the individual, and self-reliance – appealed to a broad political spectrum. He believed that it was our independent spirit and our differences that made this country great.
I have to wonder, if he and Goldwater were alive today and could see where their party has gone in the last decade, what they would think. Somehow the walls closed in. The conservative movement seems hell-bent on constricting our freedoms rather than expanding them. The base has moved to the Far Right and sadly, it seems to be dying there.
Rather than the party of openness and individual freedom, it is now the party of limited message and less freedom. Along with an ideological narrowness, an important PR battle is being lost. Rather than leading us into the exhilarating fresh air of liberty, a chorus of voices on the radical right is taking us to a place of intolerance and anger. We hear them on the radio and TV. They love to spread fear because it keeps the money rolling in. You know who I'm talking about. The more afraid we are, the richer they get.
If they have their way, we will be scared all the time, particularly of ideas that seem new, or foreign, or different, even if they are great ideas, even if they are in support of freedom.
Rather than being the party of limitless freedom and rejection of groupthink, they want the Republican Party to become a private club. Not everybody is allowed in, or invited. If you don't hold the accepted attitudes, you don't fit in. You are called a RINO, or "Republican in Name Only."
That's what they call me, in fact -- as if I haven't earned the right to be included in the party.
If not me, who?
Would Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan be RINOs too?