Summary: Americans know so little of our own history, our own politics. So it’s fun and educational to play Name That Liberal. In round 3 we see how the meaning of “conservative” in America has evolved during the past few generations.
This man was one of the men who shaped American political doctrine during the latter half of the 20th century’s. A conservative in his time, but today probably unelectable as a Republican in many areas.
What did he do?
- His first elective office: “City Council, as part of a group of candidates aimed at cleaning up widespread prostitution and gambling. (source).
- He sponsored the Alaska Mental Health Enabling Act, despite strong opposition from conservatives who claimed that the Act was a plot to establish concentration camps in Alaska.
- He was a strong supporter of Sandra Day O’Connor’s nomination to the Supreme Court, the first women Justice.
- During his last term in the Senate he consistently voted in support of legalized abortion.
- He was honorary co-chairman of Americans Against Discrimination, working to end discrimination against homosexuals.
What did he say?
Quotations are from Wikiquote.
“I think every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.”
— Quote from Time magazine. Jerry Falwell was founder of Moral Majority
“I told Johnson and old colleagues on Capitol Hill that we had two clear choices. Either win the [Vietnam] war in a relatively short time, say within a year, or pull out all our troops and come home.”
— From his autobiography
“The big thing is to make this country, along with every other country in the world with a few exceptions, quit discriminating against people just because they’re gay. 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. … Having spent 37 years of my life in the military as a reservist, and never having met a gay in all of that time, and never having even talked about it in all those years, I just thought, why the hell shouldn’t they serve? They’re American citizens. As long as they’re not doing things that are harmful to anyone else. … So I came out for it.”
— Interview in the Washington Post
My faith in the future rests squarely on the belief that man, if he doesn’t first destroy himself, will find new answers in the universe, new technologies, new disciplines, which will contribute to a vastly different and better world in the twenty-first century. Recalling what has happened in my short lifetime in the fields of communication and transportation and the life sciences, I marvel at the pessimists who tell us that we have reached the end of our productive capacity, who project a future of primarily dividing up what we now have and making do with less. To my mind the single essential element on which all discoveries will be dependent is human freedom.
— from his book With No Apologies (1979)
“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.”
On religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly.
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.”
— Speech before the Senate
Who is this liberal?
Barry Goldwater. Republican Presidential candidate in 1964.
Update: comment from a reader
“Goldwater was a libertarian, not a conservative.”
Perhaps Goldwater best understood his own political beliefs. His book was Conscience of a Conservative, and it does not even contain the word “libertarian.”
Other chapters in the “Name that Liberal” series
Posts about conservatives in American politics
- The USA *after* this financial crisis – part I, about politics, 13 October 2008
- Migration from the south into America: new people, new foods, new political systems, 4 November 2008
- America’s elites reluctantly impose a client-patron system, 5 November 2008
- Immigration as a reverse election: our leaders get a new people, 6 November 2008
- America gets ready for new leadership (or is it back to the future?), 14 November 2008
- Lilliput or America – who has a better way to choose its leaders?, 19 November 2008
- About campaigns for high office in America – we always expect a better result from the same process, 17 June 2009
- More about the tottering structure of the American political regime, 17 August 2009
- Please put on every milk carton: America’s political class is MIA, 17 November 2009
- Campaign finance reform = incumbent protection, 20 December 2009
- The breakdown of the American political system, pointing to a new and better future, 2 February 2010
- More people participating in politics: is this good for America?, 20 June 2010
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