“We need to return to pure Barry Goldwater conservatism.” That is what one radio talk-show host had to say this week. To most of the listeners that probably sounded pretty innocuous. However, it speaks volumes to the struggle that has taken place in the Republican primary this election cycle.
Since the Reagan Revolution the Republican party’s strength has been the coalition between economic conservatives, national security conservatives, and social conservatives. Would a “return to pure Barry Goldwater conservatism” maintain this coalition? You decide after reading the following quote of Barry Goldwater.
“And 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.”
The Roman Empire could not tolerate Christianity because it had an absolute standard by which it could judge Roman culture. The Republican Empire has grown weary of Evangelicals because they have an absolute standard by which they can judge Republican culture.
The stability of Reagan’s three-legged stool has been tested this election cycle. However, it has not been, as some suggested, the Evangelicals who have tried to reduce it to a two-legged stool. Most Evangelicals are not only social conservatives, but economic and national security conservatives, as well. However, Evangelicals have an absolute standard by which to judge economic conservatism when it becomes little more than greed, and Evangelicals have an absolute standard by which to judge national security conservatism when it becomes little more than hatred. Economic and national security conservatives, like Barry Goldwater, have grown weary with social conservatives who “presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs,” and this election cycle economic and national security conservatives have used their control of print media like National Review magazine, radio media like Clear Channel, and television media like Fox News to fight back the tide of social conservatives who have mistakenly believed that they had a chair at the Republican table.
As one radio talk-show host put it, they think “We need to return to pure Barry Goldwater conservatism” — a conservatism that does not include Evangelicals. If they get their wish, it will be a long time before there is a Republican in the White House or before Republicans gain control of either house of Congress.