John McCain is prone to tout himself as a "Goldwater Republican," the inheritor of a party and ideology that his Senate predecessor from Arizona, Barry Goldwater, helped shape decades ago.
But Goldwater's own family members say that, if the family patriarch were alive today, he would be sour on McCain and shudder at the kind of conservatism that the current GOP nominee is proposing.
"I don't know if he would recognize the Republican Party today," Alison Goldwater Ross, a registered Democrat and granddaughter of the 1964 GOP presidential candidate, told The Huffington Post. "I'm sure if we were to raise his ashes from the Colorado River... he would be going, 'What? This is not my vision. This is not my party.'"
Such bewilderment, Ross offered, would extend to McCain, the man who took over Goldwater's seat in the Senate in 1987 and currently is the GOP standard-bearer. The two Arizonans clashed on several occasions during their political careers. Goldwater, as documented in "Pure Goldwater," a book by the Senator's son Barry Jr., was depressed and angered by McCain's involvement in the Keating Five scandal. Later in his career, a rift developed between the two after McCain used Goldwater's name -- without his permission -- for fundraising purposes.
"My grandfather felt that he was deceived by McCain," she said. "Because he looked at McCain and said, here was this young guy who has a lot of potential in the Republican Party, who is coming through the ranks, and then he pulled something like this. My grandfather had to ask, 'Is this something I want to be close to?'"
That Goldwater's grandchild says McCain doesn't represent her grandfather's political tradition is not an insignificant revelation. McCain has, in the past, acknowledged a deep desire to impress the elder Goldwater and continue his conservative legacy. In his memoir, "Worth the Fighting For," McCain said of his predecessor: "I admired him to the point of reverence, and I wanted him to like me.... He was usually cordial, just never as affectionate as I would have liked."
And on several occasions, McCain has deliberately taken steps to position himself as the inheritor of the Goldwater revolution. In the final speech of his "biography tour," McCain traveled to the historic Yavapai County Courthouse, a location where Goldwater started all his bids for office.
The reality, some observers claim, is that McCain and Goldwater are two contrasting breeds of Republicans. Ideologically, Matt Welch writes in "McCain: The Myth of a Maverick," the two have a fundamentally different idea about the role and scope of the federal government. But, on a broader level, the Republican Party as a whole has shifter drastically away from Goldwater's vision.
"I think, at the end of my grandfather's career, first of all he would be looking at what state we are in today with what Bush has done, and I think he would be just incredibly appalled," said Ross. "I think his head would be spinning. How in the world did we get ourselves in this state? How did this happen? What went wrong? Where did this Republican Party go?"
On the issues of Iraq, women's rights, and the separation of church in state, Goldwater's granddaughter says the gulf between Barry and McCain is vast.
"I don't think my grandfather would ever pander to the religious right like McCain did. That would get him angrier than anything. He believed in the division between church and state, he fought that constantly. And these guys are getting in there... religion is a wonderful thing but it does not have any place or purpose in politics," she said. "My grandfather was for women's rights. The idea that my body is mine, and what I want to do with it, I will do with it... McCain isn't of that mindset."
So, whom would Goldwater support if he were alive today? Ross, whose dissatisfaction with McCain was first expressed on the website of BraveNewFilms, wouldn't say. But she herself is "leaning towards" Sen. Barack Obama, despite believing that Sen. Hillary Clinton has gotten the short end of the stick in terms of press treatment because of her gender.
"Hillary, you know, was a Goldwater girl. And she has this great tenacity," Ross said. "Unfortunately, she has been directed in some ways that haven't really worked for her campaign... I really like what Obama is representing. I like the fact that if he becomes our next president, the walls will come down; people around the world will view the U.S. as a more enlightened, open-minded country. It will be, overall, an extremely positive mood."