On Valentine’s Day in 1912 Arizona became a state, and a 3-year-old boy dressed as Cupid was ringbearer at the state’s first Jewish wedding. The little boy’s name was Barry Goldwater. Yes, that Barry Goldwater.
Goldwater’s landslide loss to Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 presidential election supposedly heralded the doom of the hard right in our national politics. Goldwater carried only six states: Arizona and five states in the Deep South.
Lyndon Johnson beat him by 15.5 million popular votes, and tromped him in the Electoral College by 486 to 52. It was the biggest landslide since FDR carried 46 of 48 states against Alf Landon in 1936, winning the Electoral College by 523 to 8.
But reports of right-wing Republicans’ deaths were exaggerated. Through a long and tortuous, not to say tortious, process, the Hard Right was reincarnated in Nixon, Reagan, Bush Jr. and their acolytes, and now in Trump and his herd.
Borrowing a term from biology, this was a rapid evolutionary descent for the Republican Party, which today has returned to the ooze.
Consider Barry Goldwater, who, Bob Dylan confessed in his “Chronicles,” was his favorite politician in the 1960s. Then let us compare Goldwater with Trump.
Barry was a feisty old guy, as far right as a mainstream politician could go then. He voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He opposed the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, the Warren Court in general, legal abortion and gay rights.
Born to a Jewish father but raised Episcopalian, Barry was elected to the U.S. Senate five times in Arizona, a state notoriously hostile to “alien” folks and religions. When he decided not to run for a sixth term in 1986, he was succeeded by John McCain.
Barry was no pushover. During the Watergate scandal, he delivered the message to President Nixon that the jig was up, and he had to go. Nixon went.
A decade later, when Goldwater and the nation learned that President Reagan had authorized the mining of harbors in Nicaragua, against the expressed will of Congress, Barry told the president he was “mad as hell” about it. The ensuing Iran-Contra scandal crippled the Reagan administration in its final years.
Those were the days when so-called Republican “conservatives” were, just barely, conservative.
Now let’s look at today’s Republican right.
Down South in Arizona, disgraced ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate as a Republican.
In January, an anti-Semitic weekly that claims the Nazi Holocaust was “invented” by Elie Wiesel published a story about its fifth interview with Arpaio.
I won’t give those people any ink by publishing their names, but you can Google them.
Arpaio claimed he had no idea that those people were anti-Semitic Holocaust deniers, though Phoenix media had reported it in 2014 and the Southern Poverty Law Center lists the publication as a hate group.
What Would Barry Do?
In a single generation, the Republican Party has descended from — whatever it was — to a money-hungry mafia that not even Barry Goldwater would defend.
For two thousand years, The Powers That Be have derided, insulted, excluded, penned-in, tortured and executed Jews: for being who they are — for their religion.
Now President Trump has pardoned Arpaio for massive violations of civil rights.
Arpaio is running for Congress.
Have you heard a peep about this from Republicans?
No, you have not, because Republicans have become the Party of Cowards.
As I said in this space last week, for 30 years Democrats have been cowards and Republicans have been liars.
Today both parties are cowards.
And, hey, Sheriff Joe, hey, Mr. Trump, when do you think your mob will turn on you?
Not till you’re dead, I bet. So you guys are safe.
But what sort of world will you leave your children?