THE BLOG
05/05/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Bailing Out the Neo-Cons

We're now witnessing the neo-carnage that has resulted from neo-cons Newt Gingrich and his "Contract on America," and Ronald Reagan's buyout by Barry Goldwater conservative Republicans.

It would be wise not to forget the Goldwater factor which, since the presidential race in 1964 in which the former Arizona senator suffered seismic defeat to LBJ, has been among the greatest disparities not merely in ideology, but in socioeconomic disenfranchisement.

Forty-five years ago, when Goldwater lost handily to LBJ, a president whose social programs were not unlike those of our current president, Goldwater supporters then rallied behind Ronald Reagan in his presidential bid in 1981.

Though Reagan was a liberal Democrat in his youth, he took the Goldwater bait because he needed not just the numbers, but the demographics, to get reelected. While it may have appeared that Ronald Reagan went to the same country club as Goldwater, Reagan was not a Goldwater Republican. He was just doing what he had to do to keep his power base.

And, ultimately, it was Reagan who kept the neo-conservative movement in America alive and kicking such that a Texan oil baron, George H.W. Bush, was able to become president in 1989 and the neo-conservatives were able to accomplish a bloodless coup of Congress in 1994.

Ironically, it was his appointment of Dan Quayle and pandering to the radical right, more than the faltering economy, that lost Bush the presidency, and -- surprise, surprise -- who his son, heir-apparent to the throne, claimed as his mentor -- Barry Goldwater.

Importantly, too, while Goldwater himself sought to distance himself from the radical right, calling himself a social "libertarian," the Frankenstein he created -- the neo-con monster -- was already out of the bag.

You'll recall, too, that Barry Goldwater was a staunch supporter of Richard Nixon in his bid for the White House against John F. Kennedy in 1960.

As a vocal opponent of civil rights legislation, he was a strong opponent of the policies of Lyndon B. Johnson and his "Great Society." Goldwater was a hawk, and favored a strong build-up in Vietnam.

A devout and virulent anti-Communist, Goldwalter once said that he would be willing to use nuclear weapons to combat communist insurgency in Vietnam.

But what does the Goldwater factor have to do with Barack Obama? Well, let's not forget that Obama's nemesis in the 2008 presidential race was Arizona senator John McCain, who succeeded Barry Goldwater in the Arizona senate. As a big supporter of the surge in Iraq, it's not hard to see how McCain's militarism descends from his predecessor.

And, more to the point, as 2012 quickly approaches, the platform on which Sarah Palin ran, as well as other up and coming Republicans, is one that would make Barry Goldwater lick his proverbial chops.

So, while searching for the center, President Obama might take heed of what was George H.W. Bush's Waterloo -- an attempt to please Goldwater conservatives. Much of the carnage and misdirected anger we're witnessing now, both here and abroad, arises from the recognition that the American dream has been driven to the brink of bankruptcy not just by the bankers, but by those who would have us believe that they are doing the Lord's work.

Priority number one for our new president: distance yourself from the Goldwater Republicans.