As the 50th anniversary of the 1964 presidential election approaches, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby says the loser, Republican Barry Goldwater, should be remembered for how he changed U.S. politics.
In a Monday op-ed
, Jacoby called the longtime Arizona senator "the most influential loser in modern American politics" not only because of his ability to move the Republican Party to the right but also for his influence on modern-day liberals.
He notes that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote an essay praising Goldwater for his civility, decency, and integrity, adding that Goldwater was "neither mean-spirited nor racist" and challenged liberals through "sensible argument and honest conviction."
But even as Goldwater's record presidential loss hurt downticket GOP candidates across the country, "there were remarkable signs of grassroots enthusiasm for his conservative message," Jacoby writes.
It was the 1964 election that saw the GOP "center of gravity" move to the West and South, Jacoby notes, and of the 12 presidential elections since that historic loss, Republicans have won seven.
"Mr. Conservative," as Goldwater was called, has influenced the party to such a degree that today's Republican Party establishment even calls itself conservative – though some of its tea party members think it isn't nearly conservative enough.
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