Neal Gabler explains that the true father of the modern Republican Party is Joe McCarthy, not the Libertarian government-hating ideologue Barry Goldwater. McCarthy was not an ideologue. He provided a populist technique for invoking public fears and anxieties to manipulate votes.
Goldwater's ideology never interested very many voters. It was the McCarthyite election tactics of demonizing the opponent that has built today's Republican Party.
Instead of running in a line through the conservatives, Goldwater to Reagan to G. W. Bush, with slight diversions to Nixon and G. H. W. Bush who governed as moderates, the true lineage of the modern Republican Party runs from Joe McCarthy to Richard Nixon, to Reagan to George W. Bush with a diversion when Goldwater took control of the party in 1964 and broke the power of the northeastern moderate Republicans who had previously run the party. The McCarthy line also runs through Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, while Sarah Palin is clearly applying to join the tradition.
Bill Buckley strongly supported Joe McCarthy all his life, even writing both a defense of Joe McCarthy as well as a poorly written novelization of McCarthy's activities. Many other conservatives such as Ann Coulter are known to similarly support him. As Gabler says, McCarthy is now found in the core DNA or modern Republicans.
While Reagan and Goldwater are the public faces of modern Republicanism, Joe McCarthy is it's soul.
Go read Gabler's article in the Los Angeles Times if you want to understand modern American politics.
[ h/t to TPM. ]