The rise of the right, or more accurately, the rise of a political voice of the right started with Mr Goldwater and his run for the Presidency in 1964.
That may seem unlikely when he was on the receiving end of the worse Presidential drubbing before or since but his influence on the Republican party, in terms of it re-directing itself to echo the voice of the majority of American people, cannot be underestimated. It was he that marked the shift to anti-government and a party shaped by the West rather than East coast of America. Goldwater also won what many Republican Presidential candidates now take for the granted, the votes of the disenfranchised Southern whites, once a Democrat gimmie, it was Goldwater who began to take this naturally conservative territory off of the Democrats (as well as votes in the Mid-West) and lay the building blocks for Republican domination of America.
Let’s not forget though that Goldwater held some rather extreme beliefs, his stump speech in 64 featured the classic: “Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice” (no doubt inspiring words to a young Pat Buchanan), he voted against the Civil Rights Act (one of only 8 senators to do so), believed nuclear attack upon Vietnam was a legitimate option, aroused massive concern in the GOP that he was dragging the party away from the middle ground and his list of international backers included apartheid ridden South Africa, Spanish monarchists and German neo-fascists.
If Barry Goldwater put the wheels in motion, then George W.Bush took the conservative movement to its current apex, which, when looking at his privileged family background, seems unlikely. Bush comes from a family entrenched in East coast, patriarchal, progressive Republicanism. Grandfather Prescott Bush was a key player in the United States’s leading pro-contraception group, he believed in higher taxes for better services and looked down upon base partisanship. His son, George H.W. had many of the traits of his father but importantly made roots in Texas (the spiritual home of brave new conservatism) and made great efforts to lose his preppy edge and build a power base in the West. The lineage was completed by George W. who took all the down home, folksy mannerisms and re-invented himself as a born-again Texan and with it the everyman persona that was needed to guide the Republicans back into power and consign the Democrats to the political scrapheap…