How Barry Goldwater's Granddaughter Ended Up at the Democratic Convention

CC Goldwater reveres her grandfather's legacy -- and says he wouldn't recognize today's GOP. Last week in Charlotte, she helped renominate President Obama.

Of all the things Barry Goldwater, who died in 1998, might find foreign about today's political scene, one was surely the scene that unfolded on the floor of the Democratic convention in Charlotte last Wednesday: His granddaughter, surrounded by Arizona's Democratic delegates, nominating President Obama from the convention floor.

"Madam Secretary, Arizona is the Grand Canyon state and has produced some fabulous politicians on both parties. One includes my grandfather, Barry Goldwater," the dark-haired, red-lipsticked woman in a blue dress said, stumbling over her words a little bit -- she was very nervous.

"I'm CC Goldwater," she continued. "My grandfather wouldn't recognize the Republican Party of today."

It was very late -- 11:30 p.m., after Bill Clinton had finished speaking and most of the networks had cut away -- but to those still watching the convention, it was a riveting moment: A direct descendant of perhaps the most conservative presidential nominee the Republican Party has ever had, asserting that today's GOP has gone too far. "Barry Goldwater believed in personal freedoms, the right to privacy, and a woman's right to choose," she said. "On behalf of the Arizona delegation, I want to cast 77 votes for Arizona for Barack Obama, the president of the United States!"

I caught up with Goldwater, who lives in the Phoenix area, this week to see how Barry Goldwater's granddaughter ended up at a Democratic convention. CC isn't actually a Democrat -- she's still registered as an independent, though she thinks she might switch over soon -- and she wasn't a convention delegate, just a guest of the Arizona delegation. Nor was it her first public foray into Democratic politics: In 2008, she came out in favor of Obama and against the Republican nominee from her home state, John McCain.

This might seem like a repudiation of the legacy of the man many credit with pioneering the Republican Party's shift toward an ever more uncompromising conservatism. But CC Goldwater -- a filmmaker who in 2006 completed an HBO documentary about her grandfather called Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater -- sees it as consistent. Goldwater, 52, lived with her grandparents for part of her childhood in order to attend high school in Phoenix (she grew up in the small town of Sedona), but her sense of her grandfather was mainly nonpolitical. "Sometimes I'd see the Secret Service at my window because Kissinger was coming over for coffee or something," she laughed. "I knew he was really important, but not what he stood for."

It was through the documentary that she got to know, and admire, her grandfather's politics, interviewing dozens of political figures on all sides about Barry Goldwater's beliefs and his legacy. It's this education that she believes qualifies her to say what he would think of today's GOP. "At the end of his career, he was seeing it too," she said. "He was saying things like, 'If I had to run 10 or 20 years from now, I might not get elected in my own party.' The Republican Party has changed into less than what I think Barry Goldwater would be supportive of."

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Molly Ball is a staff writer covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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