The Goldwater Century

When Barry Goldwater and Frank Sinatra both passed away in 1998, it felt to me like the 20th century was truly coming to an end. Wish we had them around now.

Yesterday, Fidel and Raul Castro marked half a century in power — so two generations of Cuban adults on the island have known no government but dictatorship at the hands of one Castro or the other.

This is naturally offensive to anyone who values freedom and democracy in any meaningful sense, so, a good antidote to the Castro brothers’ celebration of tyranny is the centennial of Barry Goldwater’s birth. Blogger  Todd Seavey notes on Goldwater’s 1964 presidential run:

That year the Republican platform was so explicitly pro-free enterprise and anti-big government you’d think Ayn Rand wrote most of it. Goldwater lost bigtime to the architect of much of our subsequent big-government despair — Lyndon Johnson — but inspired a generation of later activists, to whom much of the credit goes for whatever success America’s had in avoiding European-style social democracy, at least until roughly now.

The story of Goldwater’s trailblazing candidacy making Reagan’s election in 1980 and the Republican takeover on Congress in 1994 possible has been told many times, but no matter. His influence on the politics of the century his life spanned — like that of Sinatra on its culture — will always be worth celebrating.