Today's Republican policies are antithetical to bedrock conservative fundamentals. There is nothing conservative about preemptive wars or disregarding international law by condoning torture. Abandoning fiscal responsibility is now standard operating procedure. Bible-thumping, finger-pointing, tongue-lashing attacks on homosexuals are not found in Russell Krik's classic conservative canons, nor in James Burham's guides to conservative governing. Conservatives in the tradition of former senator Barry Goldwater and President Ronald Reagan believed in "conserving" this planet, not relaxing environmental laws to make life easier for big business. And neither man would have considered employing Christian evangelical criteria in federal programs, ranging from restricting stem cell research to fighting AIDs through abstinence.
I started my inquiry in the mid-1990s, after a series of conversations with Goldwater, whom I had known for more than 40 years. Goldwater was also mystified (when not miffed) by the direction of today's professed conservatives their growing incivility, pugnacious attitudes, and arrogant and antagonistic style, along with a narrow outlook intolerant of those who challenge their thinking. He worried that the Republican Party had sold its soul to Christian fundamentalists, whose divisive social values would polarize the nation. From those conversations, Goldwater and I planned to study why these people behave as they do, and to author a book laying out what we found. Sadly, the senator's declining health soon precluded his continuing on the project, so I put it on the shelf. But I kept digging until I found some answers, and here are my thoughts.