I highly recommend this weekend reading.
...But if the Republican Party is full of pretenders, where does one look for Goldwater’s true heirs?
To answer that question, one has to look to the sharpest division that split the Goldwater movement of the ’60s. It wasn’t the division between libertarians and traditionalists, it was the division that separated idealistic libertarians and traditionalists alike, the campaign amateurs, from the campaign professionals. The conservative movement still pays lip service to economic liberty, social order, and military strength—but on all three points, Republicans have become hollow men who have preserved the rites of Goldwaterism but who long ago lost its spirit. That was an amateur spirit—in both the best and worst senses of the word—and it drew together in common cause traditionalists and libertarians as different as Brent Bozell and Goldwater speechwriter Karl Hess.
...The conventional wisdom overvalues politics and undervalues the philosophy of the movement: it overlooks the ways in which Goldwater succeeded far beyond the electoral success of a Johnson or a Nixon—or a Bush. The Conscience of a Conservative continues to be read today because it isn’t a political tract, a soulless campaign book of the sort generated by every other modern presidential effort.
The idealism and amateurism of the Goldwater people inspired a movement in a way that political professionals never could: indeed, the cynical professionalism and win-at-all-costs mentality of today’s conservatives, best represented by Karl Rove, has had the opposite effect. Goldwater galvanized America’s youth—Young Americans for Freedom grew directly out of Youth for Goldwater. Under the professional Republicans of the past decade, on the other hand, conservatives have lost whatever momentum they had with the next generation...