Opinion

Ellen DeGeneres & Barry Goldwater: Conservatism’s odd couple

Rick Robinson Author, Writ of Mandamus

This week, JCPenney introduced Ellen DeGeneres as its new company spokesperson. One Million Moms, an anti-gay activist organization, immediately jumped to the defense of self-righteous homophobes everywhere and called upon JCPenney to ax Ellen from the campaign because she is a lesbian. JCPenney responded by saying they were sticking by their decision to hire her.

To be perfectly honest, Ellen and the folks at JCPenney should not feel all that special about being singled out. One Million Moms, and its parent group the American Family Association, also want Americans to stay away from Macy’s, quit watching the Disney Channel and boycott Home Depot. According to their websites, people should help bankrupt these businesses because they all “support the homosexual lifestyle.”

I shop at Home Depot nearly every weekend and I’ve yet to see the aisles decorated with mirrored dance balls or caught a single sales associate wearing a sequined nail apron. Maybe OMM is confused about the weekend circulars advertising that Home Depot has the best prices on wood.

One Million Moms called upon JCPenney to be “neutral in the culture war.” Yet the great culture warrior himself, Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, called the anti-Ellen campaign a “witch hunt.” On the same episode of “The O’Reilly Factor,” Fox News contributor Bernard Goldberg denounced the anti-gay bigotry of some on the right. “To call [for] somebody’s dismissal, to be fired, to lose her job because she is gay, is bigotry,” Goldberg said.

WWBGD (What would Barry Goldwater do?)

One Million Moms is a project of the American Family Association, a $40 million, “conservative,” non-profit corporation located in Tupelo, Mississippi. Its mission, laudable in theory, is to “promote the Biblical ethic of decency in American society.”

Apparently, the folks at the top calling for people to lose their livelihood missed the Sunday school class on “judging not least ye be judged.” I was taught that this was a basic tenet of biblical decency, but I digress.

While I do not agree with how the American Family Association conducts its multimillion-dollar operation, I am not shocked or offended by it either. The last 2,000 years have been filled with people interpreting the Scriptures for their own benefit. Hatred and bigotry are easier for some when they can establish a religious foundation for them.

What is offensive to me is that this organization refers to itself as “conservative.”

The late Barry Goldwater, the father of modern-day conservatism, once said that “a lot of so-called conservatives don’t know what the word means.” Goldwater correctly predicted that the religious right would one day try to take over the conservative movement.

When Goldwater backed the appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor to the United States Supreme Court, the founder of the Moral Majority, Rev. Jerry Falwell, said that every good Christian should be concerned. Goldwater responded by saying, “I think every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.” Goldwater warned that religious factions in America would go on trying to impose their moral will on others, “unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy.”

With those dire predictions, Goldwater probably would not be shocked at those today who label themselves conservative.

As an example, Goldwater’s conservatism was defined, in part, by a strict adherence to the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution, reserving to states those rights not set forth in our federal government’s founding document. Today’s presidential candidates are defining conservatism via their support for the federal Defense of Marriage Act, legislation that imposes on states mandates regarding qualifications for marriage that have been decided exclusively by states for over 200 years.

Near the end of his career, Goldwater drew a line in the sand with those who were trying to redefine conservatism. “I am warning them today,” he said. “I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism.”

What would Barry Goldwater do? He’d probably make a special trip to the nearest JCPenney and buy Bernard Goldberg and Bill O’Reilly each a new tie.

Rick Robinson is the author of political thrillers which can be purchased on Amazon and at book stores everywhere. His latest novel, Manifest Destiny, has won seven writing awards, including Best Fiction at the Paris Book Festival.