The Once And Future Past

In some ways this was a weekend pining for the past: the libertarian Barry Goldwater past. And looking to him for inspiration for the future of the Republican Party.

The recipient of this year’s Log Cabin Media Visibility Award was Barry Goldwater’s granddaughter, CC Goldwater. The younger Goldwater’s documentary, “Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater” was shown in its entirety as the gay Republican group held its national convention in Denver.

There is an easy question that comes to mind, hearing the term “gay Republican.” How can, in the current environment of the Grand Old Party, gays be Republican?“We’re not Democrats,” is the simple answer from many of the 200 attendees at this year’s convention (last year’s, in Washington D.C., drew a bigger crowd – about 300).

Still, they find themselves repeatedly stung by their own Party – just as they launched their convention, Congress passed a hate crimes bill to offer protections to GLBT victims of crimes. Many Republican members stood in opposition and the Republican president is saying he will veto it.

But in a discussion about where they, and the Party are headed, Patrick Sammon, the group’s president, urged members to run for public office – starting with low-level offices, starting with the water board and the school board and the town council.

“That’s how the Christian Coalition did it,” noted Jimmy LaSalvia, the group’s national grassroots outreach director.

“We’ve got to work within the Party to change the Party, and make it more inclusive,” Sammon said. 

The party of Goldwater, a five-term senator from Arizona and the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 1964, was a far cry from the Party led today by George W. Bush. Back then, abortion and gay rights were not on the agenda – what was, was the notion of limited government and personal responsibility.

In clips from the HBO documentary, Goldwater is shown in retirement, talking about his progression, from initially believing that gays and lesbians should not serve in the armed forces. “I figured I was barking up the wrong tree,” he said.

And of religious conservatives’ entrance into public policy: “The Religious Right scares the hell out of me. They have no place in politics.”

As part of her HBO documentary CC Goldwater interviewed the venerable Helen Thomas, a veteran of the White House Press Corps.

“Compared to today, he looks liberal to me,” Thomas said.

Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential, and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at