Herb Paine: What would Barry do?

February 27, 2012

On Feb. 28, Arizona Republicans will weigh in on the Presidential sweepstakes.

It is fitting that the Grand Canyon State is a battleground for the conservative soul of the Republican Party. It is here that Barry Goldwater defined modern conservatism, and it is against his standard that Romney, Santorum, Paul, and Gingrich should be measured.

Herb Paine Herb Paine (Courtesy photo)

And, oh, do they fall short. They declare themselves to be Barry’s apostles and Reagan’s heirs. One suggests that he is severely conservative, which I must say sounds more like an ailment than a position on the spectrum of political thought.

In this state of Arizona that spawned the iconic conscience of conservatism, you just can’t help but wonder, what would Barry do?

I think Barry Goldwater would look at the current cast of characters and deem that they have gone far astray from the principles in which he so deeply believed – that they are not authentic conservatives at all.

Certainly, today’s candidates share his opposition to the expansion of the so-called welfare state, but he would not have abided their overt hostility to the poor nor countenanced the bigotry against the masses yearning to breathe free nor been so willing to throw the middle class under the recessionary bus. A native of this desert landscape, he understood both rugged individualism and social responsibility.

His prescriptions for defending the nation against foreign enemies, while controversial, were based on a clearly defined set of principles regarding national defense and international order. I have yet to find a cogent foreign policy doctrine among the candidates, save for Ron Paul, who at this point, on matters of international affairs, sounds more like the Democrats’ Dennis Kucinich.

Perhaps most significantly, he would decry, as he did before he died, the toxic influence of the religious right on political discourse. For as fearful as he was that New Deal government would undermine the cornerstones of liberty, he was equally appalled by the intrusion of religious dogmatism in political discourse. It is here that, ironically, Ron Paul’s libertarianism is more akin to Goldwater’s ethic. Otherwise, the other candidates gutlessly pander to a religious right that knows no bounds to government intrusion in our personal choices and civil liberties. Goldwater would not have looked kindly on the hypocrisy of it all.

As they go to the polls on the 28th, the challenge for Republicans voters is to determine who among their choices is true to the conscience of the true conservative. Think about it: What would Barry do?

 Herb Paine is a business strategy consultant, former candidate for Congress, and social critic.

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