One of the telling examples how the Republican Party has moved to the extreme Right is to see how Barry Goldwater’s status within the Republican Party changed from the 1960s to the 1990s. During the 1960s, Barry Goldwater was viewed as the extreme Right of the Republican Party. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Christian Right began to assert its influence within both the conservative movement and the Republican Party.
Goldwater found himself increasingly at odds with the Christian Right. Goldwater criticized Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority after they had campaigned against the Supreme Court nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor. Goldwater increasingly saw Falwell and the Moral Majority as a threat to the separation of Church and State. He criticized fellow Republican Senators Jesse Helms, John East, and Jeremiah Denton for kowtowing to the Religious Right.
By the late 1980s, many Republicans began to see Barry Goldwater as one of the more moderate members of the Republican Party as Goldwater continued to clash with the Christian Right and voice his support of gay rights.
I don’t agree with Barry Goldwater’s politics. But I like him for his respect of differing views. Goldwater became close friends with liberal Democrat George McGovern during their time in the Senate.
In a Senate speech on September 16, 1981, Goldwater said:
“The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism.'”
In a November 1994 interview, Goldwater said:
“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”