The issue of who founded modern conservatism is important not just to the historical community, which lives to debate the origins of anything and everything. It has deep significance for any politician who seeks to invest himself with such august symbolism, as with anyone who tries to fathom American politics today.
Barry Goldwater is a logical candidate. Despite his failure in the presidential lists, he advocated conservative principles long before any other national political figure, making him a prophet before his time. Pat Buchanan dubbed him no less than “the father of us all.” Daniel McCarthy, in The American Conservative, believed that “his place in conservative history, and conservatives’ hearts, is settled … each branch of the conservative movement can plausibly trace itself back to some tendency… in the Goldwater effort.” And Phyllis Schafly called the Arizona senator “the undisputed original leader of the modern conservative movement … It is hard to overestimate the importance of Barry Goldwater.”