A previous post regarding my admiration for Barry Goldwater generated this comment from Doug.

Original Comment: “But many of these positions were embraced by the GOP when Barry ran for President.”

Doug’s Response:  Actually, they weren’t. There was a huge amount of blowback from the Rockefeller-Scranton wing of the party. I recommend reading Rick Perlstein’s book on Goldwater’s 1964 campaign. Perlstein is left-of-center but he played it straight and he did his research. It’s an excellent read. But the reason LBJ trounced Goldwater so badly was because a lot of the GOP moderates voted for the President.

As for the GOP, I suppose it’s changed to a more socially conservative party then it was, say, 30 years ago. But I think that’s true precisely because the Democratic party has changed to a more socially liberal party. Both parties are less ideologically diverse than they used to be, and that’s mainly because the South aligned itself with the GOP.

But I do agree that Goldwater was upset, not so much at social conservativism per se, but the type of social conservatism that wants to impose its views at the national level. Goldwater was a federalist. He believed in states’ rights; after all, he opposed the Civil Rights Acts on state sovereignty grounds even though he was personally about as progressive on race issues as anyone in the U.S. Senate.

So when the Falwells and Robertsons gained prominence, he didn’t like their brand of social conservatism because they were all about using the federal government to implement their preferred policy prescriptions.