Reflections of a Barry Goldwater baby
by BARRY PHELPS
The 1960s was a decade when young parents still
named their kids after politicians they admired. But
growing up as the only "Barry" among my post-baby
boom classmates. I always wondered why my yellow-
dog Democratic mom had named me after Senator
and Republican presidential candidate Barry
Goldwater. Even though my home state of Alabama
was one of the six he carried in 1964. hadn't he lost
to LBJ in one of the biggest defeats in American electoral history?
.As I grew older. I began to understand that this old
politician who I knew very little about and who had
been rejected so resoundingly by the electorate —
my namesake — was the Republican heir to my
mom's favorite President, Harry S. Truman. The
simple, plain-talking, brutally honest, sometimes
profane, always frank man from Missouri had just
taken office when she was born at the end of World
War II. t\s she saw more and more of Goldwater on
the flickering black and white TV screen in the early
1960s, she came to appreciate Truman's legendary
honesty and candid language more.
By the lime 1 was a young adult. I had also come
to appreciate and admire Goldwater as a plainspo-
ken, Trumanesque" champion of individual liberty
and personal freedom. During the height of
Reaganism, when I wasn't all lhat sure about my
own political stripes, it was fairly easy to be proud
that 1 shared the same name as Barry Goldwater,
who. in many ways, had spawned the Gipper's rise
to power in the late 1970s.
Ultimately. I became an ardent "national"
Democrat rather than a yellow-dog. but that never
stopped me from being an admirer of Barry
Goldwater. Especially after he left the Senate in
1987. it seemed he and I agreed on a great deal more
than we disagreed. On the greal social issues of the
day. he saw things much as we Democrats did —
and of course wasn't shy about saying so.
A couple of years ago. my Delaware beach housemates learned aboul my namesake and christened
me "Goldie." It was a nickname I wore wilh pride the
rest of the summer. On the morning of May 29, when
I first heard lhat Goldwater had died at the age of
89, 1 suddenly experienced the kind of empty sadness and sense of loss that comes when an old friend
or relative who you haven't seen or spoken to in
awhile passes away, /uid yet. I was fascinated by the
old news clips and tributes lhat began poring in
from conservative Republicans, liberal Democrats,
and everywhere in between.
When I firs! spoke to my mother about his death
that weekend. I learned that she, like future First Lady
Hillary Rodham, had been a "Goldwater Girl" in 1964.
She said most of the Goldwaler Girls she knew weren't
even old enough to vote at the time, but they could
make phone calls, stuff envelopes, and get the word
out about how he would make a good president.
1 remembered an old campaign pin she had given me
with a pair of thick bifocals and the message "Ask me
why I'm for Barry" stamped on its face. She still sounded proud of her role in the Goldwater "landslide" in
Alabama that year, mentioning the well-known
bumper sticker with the chemical symbol for
"Goldwater": "AuH20 for President." She said it wasn't
so much his politics that attracted her. /--Jthough, like
most southern Democrats, she was somewhat of a
hawk on Vietnam, it was the Arizona senator's personality, his way of saying what he meant, his
Truman-like ordinariness that attracted her.
Much has been said and written since his death
about how Goldwater could never have been elected
president in 1964. There's not much dispute aboul
his Lineleclability at that time, /uid, as much as I
came to admire him, it is no doubt a good thing for
the country that he did not become president. His
opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act alone was
disqualification enough to keep him out of the Oval
Office. He never was a segregationist; he ended segregation in his family's business and was a leader in
ending it in Phoenix's schools and restaurants and
in the Arizona National Guard. He claimed to oppose
national civil rights legislation because it was
But a presidential candidate who saw what was
going on in Alabama and other parts of the south in
the early and mid-1960s, and yet who still did not
believe the federal government had an obligation to
act. could not and should not have been our president.
Yet there is strong evidence that later in life.
Goldwater came to understand that sometimes a
strong national government might be needed to protect the cherished individual liberties that defined his
conservatism. Most notably, on the gays in the military
issue early in President Clinton's first term, he said:
"Under our Constitution, everyone is guaranteed the
right to do as he pleases as long as it does not harm
someone else. You don't need to be "straight" to fight
and die for your country. You just need to shoot
straight." He said. "If I were in the Senate today, I
would rise on the Senate floor in support of our commander in chief. He may be a Democrat, but he happens to be right on this question."
One would love to have seen how Goldwater could
have altered the entire debate on gays in the miliary
had he been in the Senate in 1993. Flying was one
of his great passions and he served as a major general in the Air Force Reserves while a senator. He
was the key Senate architect of today's military command structure as author of the Goldwater.-Nichols
Defense Reorganization Act. How satisfying it would
have been to witness someone of his unparalleled
stature, uncommon resolve, and unquestioned
knowledge on military issues stand up to the likes of
Senate Armed Services chairman Sam Nunn.
Ironically, the very command structure which gave
Joint Chiefs chairman Colin Powell the authority to
defy his commander-in-chief on the issue was put in
place by the Goldwater-Nichols Act.
Later, he became honorary chairman of an effort
to pass federal job protections for gays and lesbians,
saying that he didn't see any way that being gay was
a harm to anyone else. On the issue of choice, he
told the Los Angeles Times, as only he could have.
"They think I've turned liberal because I believe a
woman has a right to an abortion. That's a decision
that's up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope
or some do-gooders or the religious right. It's not a
conservative issue at all."
He remained true to his philosophy, but may have
come to realize that oftentimes, what might be called
progressive or liberal policies are necessary to protect our freedoms, regardless of personal or political
Goldwater's most famous quote came during his
acceptance speech at the 1964 Reptiblican
Convention: "Extremism in the defense of liberty is
no vice." He was roundly criticized for that remark,
even among Republicans, and it only contributed to
his image that year of a right-winger who lacked the
temperament to be president.
But the second part of his quote is instructive:
"And ... moderation in the pursuit of justice is no
virtue." The candidate later said he was paraphrasing Cicero. But his actual quote echoes Thomas
Paine, who in The Rights of Man. Part 1. said, "A
thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to
be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but
moderation in principle is always a vice."
Barry Goldwater taught us above all else that there
is nothing more precious — even sacred — lhan our
personal liberties and freedoms. To this "Goldwater
Baby," who agreed so strongly with him on many
social issues, if not on the role of a strong national gov
ernment in our society, he was the very embodiment
of what it means to be a free and liberated American
— die quintessential "rugged individualist."
As such, he probably was not suited for the office
of president, a job that demands consensus btiilding
and compromise above all else, al leas! at the time
he ran. But my mom could not have done much better than looking to the sage from -Arizona as the
inspiration for my given name.
Barry Phelps, a graduate oj Georgetown Uniuersity
and the Uniuersity of Alabama, is minority communications director for the U.S. Senate Special Committee
Flying the Flag
Roberts' 37 rules to live under the rainbow
by SHELLY ROBERTS
1. Tlie only thing on the
gay agenda is that the meeting will start 20 minules lale.
2. No good deed ever
escapes offending someone
you didn't think of in time.
3. It is nearly impossible
for some comrminity members to take "yes" for an
4. Perversions are what
other people do. You're normal.
5. Every time you move, you will have to stuff new
envelopes. No exceptions.
6. The lesbians will accuse lhe gay men of being
power mad chauvinists.
7. The gay men will accuse the lesbians of being
drudges, and drones.
8. Both groups will add: "Present company except
ed, of course."
9. Both groups will believe lhat they mean it.
10. Most of the newsletter will be boring to everyone
but the newsletter editor and the board of directors.
11. Fortunately it will arrive too late for anybody to
bother reading it.
12. Everyone will wait for someone else to say "thank
you" first. Kind of like lesbians waiting for a dale.
13. There is no such thing as not-political.
14. There is, however, such a thing as not-voting.
I 5. The more you do. the more they will ask you to
do it again.
16. Though it will nol quite be done the way they
17. No one ever knows a much better printer till
after the bill for the flyers comes in.
18. There is no convert like a PFLAG parent. Thank
19. Only the activists can tell the difference
between a parade and a march.
20. Unless there's good music, only the activists
will show up.
21. Every meeting is an opportunity to take someone home. This is a foreign concept to mosi lesbians,
22. There are no actual numbers on the monthly
community calendar, First Tuesday. Fourth
Wednesday. Third Thursday. And. oops. Last Nighl.
23. No one will ever convince organizations that
none of your money is disposable.
24. Giving lo political candidates just encourages
25. Ifyou bough! tickets to every fund-raiser that
asks, pretty soon you'd need a fund-raiser for yourself.
26. It's easier to fly a rainbow (lag lhan a Nazi one.
And il goes better with French Provincial,
Southwestern, and Early American.
27. You can buy the book you're looking for someplace cheaper than your hometown rainbow bookstore.
28. You will notice that your bookstore's closed
only after it gone.
29. You will wonder where you can buy rainbow
30. And accuse the owners of knowing nothing
about books or business.
31. Lesbians believe lh.it nay men are gelling loo
32. Gay men believe ihat lesbians aren'l gelling
33. Both believe lhal more would gel done il the
other would just do something to change that,
3*1. Every group believes thai we'd win, if every
olher group would just listen to reason. Their reason.
35. Using balance, consensus, and political correctness to choose will result in a perfectly balanced
board thai can'i agree on anything,
36. Every mail delivery will contain al least one
windowed envelope with a rainbow sign or triangle
sign, and a dollar sign.
37. There arc no good old days.
Shelly Roberts is an internationally syndicated
columnist, journalist and author of the next set of
"Roberts' Rules; Lesbian Dating."