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Friday, May 29, 1998 Published at 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK


World: Americas

The father of modern American conservatism

Barry Goldwater accepts the Republican presidential nomination in San Francisco in 1964

Barry Goldwater will be remembered by many as the father of modern US conservatism.

"Ronald Reagan said many times he would not be president without Barry Goldwater," said Arizona Senator John McCain, remembering the man whose senate seat he now holds.

"In all the histories of American politics, Barry Goldwater will remain a chapter unto himself. The rest of us will have to make do as footnotes."

Goldwater, an economic libertarian, took the 1964 Republican presidential nomination, proclaiming: "Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice. ... Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

Lost the centre ground

Democrats seized on that comment, as well as Goldwater's hawkish views on Vietnam, where American military involvement was escalating by the month.

They portrayed him as a potential destroyer of the government's Social Security pension system and a nuclear warmonger.

The United States was not ready for Barry Goldwater's brand of Conservatism. His campaign slogan "In your heart you know he's right" was turned by his opponents into: "In your guts you know he's nuts."

He won only six states - five in the south and his native Arizona.

A changed party

Although conservative to the end, especially in opposition to government intervention in people's lives, some of his views might not find a home in today's Republican Party.

He supported abortion rights and the rights of homosexuals to serve in the military and criticised right-wing social causes like prayer in the schools and calls for bans on abortion.

"In 1964 he was regarded as the leader of the lunatic right but if he was nominated today as president there would be a right-wing walkout because of his views on abortion," said Lars-Erik Nelson, New York Daily News Washington columnist.

Military training

He was born in Phoenix, the grandson of an immigrant Polish peddler. He graduated from Staunton Military Academy in Virginia in 1928 and then attended the University of Arizona, but dropped out to work in the family department stores.

Despite poor eyesight, he talked himself into the Army Air Corps in World War II.

Barry Goldwater's political career began in 1949 when he helped form a group of Phoenix City Council candidates who aimed to clean up widespread prostitution and gambling.

He entered national politics in 1952, with a surprise 6,000-vote victory over Democratic Senator Ernest McFarland, then the Senate majority leader.

He gave up his Senate seat for the 1964 presidential campaign, but was re-elected to the Senate in 1968 and kept working hard to forge a new conservative coalition.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan, who had worked hard for Goldwater in 1964, was elected president.



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