Friday, November 9, 2007

Barry Goldwater's Advocacy for Gay Rights

I was looking for information about Hillary Clinton as a Goldwater Conservative and came across this article from the Washington Post - "Barry Goldwater's Left Turn" from July 1994. It provides interesting insight into the life of Goldwater, who was 85 at the time the article was written. The article includes Goldwater’s insight on various political figures, including Nixon, Bob Dole, and Bill and Hillary Clinton, often told with amusing personal anecdotes. Also discussed is Goldwater’s relationship with his second wife, thirty years his junior, and her supposed influence on his liberal actions.

"Barry Goldwater's Left Turn" focuses on Goldwater's initiatives in support of gay rights. Goldwater's strict interpretation of the Constitution led to his advocacy of gay rights, including the inclusion of gays in the military. He said, "You don't have to agree with it, but they have a constitutional right to be gay. And that's what brings me into it." In The Conscience of a Conservative, Goldwater defines a civil right as “a right that is asserted and is therefore protected by some valid law” (26). Thus, gay rights are civil rights under the Constitution, which prevents both the federal government and the state from denying the rights of individuals.

I think it's fascinating to think about the way that America’s definition of a Conservative has changed over time. Even in his advocacy for gay rights, Barry Goldwater’s strict interpretation of the Constitution showed that he was still very much a Conservative, yet this very interpretation led him to support the most liberal of causes. For Goldwater, it is not about whether a law is morally right or wrong, but about whether or not it is explicitly permitted in the Constitution. I am curious to hear other people's views on Goldwater's "turn to the left" and on his Conservatism.

You can find the article here:

Rebecca Weiss

1 comment:

Jules said...

I also found this fact very interesting. After Bob Dole (whom you mentioned) received very lukewarm response from "conservative" Republicans after his bid for presidency, Goldwater told him, “We're the new liberals of the Republican Party. Can you imagine that?”
I want to add that Goldwater also supported social rights like abortion, saying "The rights that we have under the Constitution covers anything we want to do, as long as its not harmful." I would say that the term "Conservative" has changed from meaning a strict interpretation of the Constitution to the social sort of Conservatism that most people are more familiar with (such as gay rights and abortion).
Julie Zhao