While Goldwater began his political career as an arch-conservative (he voted against the Civil rights act of 1964 and was a major supporter of winning in Vietnam at any cost).
Many feel Goldwater both changed politics for the worse and was the reason so many dixicrats reregisterd as Republicans.
Goldwater gradually drifted toward a more libertarian viewpoint which led him to reject socially conservative positions in his later years (he accepted his gay grandson, and testified to Congress on gays in the military that "you don't have to be straight to shoot straight"). This caused many in his own party to disdain him, and to suggest that it was well past time for his retirement. One of his last public pronouncements, in fact, was to blast his party for impeaching Bill Clinton. Extremely ironic, since most of Goldwater's backers in 1964 had been fiercely socially conservative.
Golwater was well-known for refusing to tailor his remarks to specific audiences or to sugar-coat anything he said for any reason. This, of course, made him an easy target for Lyndon Johnson, who was nothing if not a smooth-talker. While most of the accusations leveled against Goldwater were slightly unfair, he all but invited many of the criticisms with his tactlessness and far-right views on such popular programs as Social Security (which he wanted to make voluntary) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (which he wanted to abolish).
Most on both sides would agree that much of what Goldwater cherished about the Republican Party died with him.
He is the uncle of Don Goldwater.