Rick Pearlstein, who wrote the book on Barry Goldwater and his movement, reminds us in his blog that some significant roots of present-day conservatism lie in the white racist crowds who tried to keep black kids from integrating the schools of Little Rock, Arkansas.
“The people who first boosted Goldwater for the presidency, and arranged for his manifesto Conscience of a Conservative to be ghostwritten, chose Goldwater only for second choice as their preferred conservative presidential standard bearer. Their first choice was…Orval Faubus,” Democratic governor of Arkansas who brought out the state’s national guard to try to prevent integration 50 years ago.
Jim Johnson, “founder of the Arkansas White Citizens Councils and one of the organizers of the Little Rock mob” and a Faubus-for-president booster, is another connection. “He returned to the forefront of national conservative movement politics in the 1990s as one of the chief conspirators against the presidency of Bill Clinton, and narrators of the notorious smear video (distributed by the Rev. Jerry Falwell) the ‘Clinton Chronicles.'”
Of course, times have changed in ways Pearlstein doesn’t mention in his post. Just as the Catholic Church has had to admit that the earth revolves around the sun, today’s conservatives have had to admit black people to leadership positions. In both cases it’s a real concession that neither friends nor foes care to acknowledge as such.