The Republican Party Has Abandoned Liberty
That, in essence, is the conclusion reached by Orange County Register columnist Steven Greenhut as he explains his decision to leave the GOP.
In essence, Greenhut maintains, the Republican Party has abandoned even the pretense of believing in limited government:
Under Republican leadership, the federal government has expanded â€“ without even including war-related spending â€“ far more quickly than it expanded under Bill Clinton. And when it comes to security matters, Republicans have been zealous in giving the feds additional powers to trample our privacy and liberties. Republicans have been unwavering in their support for embarking on nation-building experiments of the sort that traditional conservatives would abhor. The presidential candidates most committed to a muscular central government â€“ Rudy Giuliani and John McCain â€“ are leading the pack.
Now even the rhetoric of freedom is mostly gone. Most “mainstream” Republicans don’t talk about liberty anymore. The advocates for this emerging New Republican Party are becoming surprisingly outspoken. A good example is New York Times “conservative” columnist David Brooks, a former editor at the Weekly Standard, the neoconservative journal that shilled vociferously for war in Iraq. (Hint: The results of that policy might offer some warning to Republicans before they jump too quickly on his latest advice.)
In a column reprinted today (beginning on Page 1 of Commentary), Brooks rebutted those of us who argue that “in order to win again, the GOP has to reconnect with the truths of its Goldwater-Reagan glory days. It has to once again be the minimal-government party, the maximal-freedom party, the party of rugged individualism, and states’ rights. This is folly.”
Obviously unaware of the ever-growing Leviathan around him, Brooks claims that the old days of oppressive government are over. The idea of limited government â€“ that silly, fuddy-duddy notion advanced by our Constitution, and ensconced in the Bill of Rights â€“ is so 18th century. Time for something more appropriate for our time!
He’s got a new idea (actually, the oldest of ideas, the one that says that government and power are what matters, and that freedom and individualism are outdated). And he’s even got a catchy slogan for it. He calls it, Security leads to freedom.
Security is freedom, even when obtaining that security means taking away the very freedom that Brooks and other neo-conservatives tell us the terrorists want to take away from us. Even worse, though, Brooks and those like him are proposing that the Republican Party compete with the Democrats for the distinction of being able to spend the most money on the least worthwhile projects:
Traditionally, Republicans believed in negative rights. Yet Brooks thinks that’s a mistake. He writes that the GOP needs to be “oriented less toward negative liberty (How can I get the government off my back?) and more toward positive liberty (Can I choose how to lead my life?).”
Instead of worrying about government spending, and regulating and snooping and launching foreign wars and eroding our civil liberties and imposing crushing tax burdens, and all those silly old fixations, Brooks argues that Republicans have to compete with Democrats in appealing to every soccer mom’s desire for more social programs, more regulations, more protections from hobgoblins. He argues, in a refreshingly albeit frighteningly direct manner, for the final, total rejection of the American founding experiment.
Sure, the Republicans will focus more on terrorism and security issues, and the Democrats will focus more on health care and domestic regulation, but in this Brave New Paradigm, no major party will echo the words of that outdated crank, Thomas Jefferson, who argued that “the sum of good government” is one “which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned.”
Sadly, I think the future Greenhut paints is all too accurate.