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 – without even including war-related spending – 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 – Rudy Giuliani and John McCain – 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 – that silly, fuddy-duddy notion advanced by our Constitution, and ensconced in the Bill of Rights – 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oldest of ideas, the one that says that government and power are what matters, and that freedom and individualism are outdated).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.

  • Zenith

    What Would Thomas Jefferson Do?

    I don’t know what he would do if he were alive today, but I’m sure he’d be spinning in his grave if he knew what had become of America.

    “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” Thomas Jefferson

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  • detayled

    I am so ashamed that I wasted my vote on a pathetic waste of skin like Bush and his daddy Cheney. What was I thinking??? Why did I let my neo-evangelical, right wing extremist, red neck jingoistic views get in the way of exercising sound personal judgement when I stepped into that voting booth?

    It is clear now that 21st century republicanism is just as evil as Islamic extremism. One side likes to murder people by flying jets into the twin towers and the other side likes to sacrifice it’s own citizens by intentionally letting 9/11 happen as well as murdering our sons and daughters in illegal unconstitutional wars. 21st century republicanism and Islamic extremism are simply evil self serving twins.

    War, the destruction of American liberties and the consolidation of wealth into the hands of the greedy rich minority of the nation and large corporations are the real policies of today’s republicans. It is clear that Bush / Cheney never had any real world foreign or domestic policies when they initially seized control of the White House.

    It is clear that everything that Bush / Cheney have ever had their hands into eventually turned to crap. Bush screwed over the citizens of Texas at every point when he was Governor of Texas and he has pretty effectively showed us what republicans can do to screw over the middle and lower classes of the USA along with the people of Iraq as President of the USA. I’ll never make the mistake of voting republican ever again. Thanks for all the corrupt memories GOP…I’m now a Democrat.

  • Rick Sparks

    Come now, folks. Things are NEVER as bad (or as good) as they seem.

    Sheesh. To think you require the likes of ME to remind you of that particular truth!

  • TerryP

    Detayled, I hope it doesn’t take you to long to figure out that the Democrats are no better than the Republicans. Maybe then you will turn to the Libertarian party, as they are the only party at this time that is fighting for your individual rights.

  • Bill Brown

    I can’t recommend this article highly enough to understand how American conservatism has gotten sidetracked from liberty. I’m not sure where the Register columnist got the idea that Giuliani is a proponent of a “muscular central government” but Steve Forbes certainly isn’t and he joined Giuliani’s campaign. I also can’t see anything but paeans to limited government on his site.

  • John Longo

    Bush said over and over that he was going to restore dignity to the Whitehouse. If by that he meant destroy this nation and its constitution then I guess he has successfully restored dignity to the Whitehouse. It’s pretty bad when truth is crying out to be heard and it is continually reduced to being liberal lies by those who claim to be conservative or even Christian. Those of you who support bush should all be ashamed. There is no real dignity among any of you. The following is not a pro Clinton or pro Democrat statement but simply a statement of fact and those who ignore this are hypocrites. These so called conservatives and republicans raked Clinton over the coals for his indiscretion with an intern. However, the very same people condone the murder of our citizens and Iraqi civilians, blatant lies from bush and his cabinet and a presidency that is extremely fiscally unsound with the underlying goal of raiding the nation’s treasury to benefit the rich and wealthy. The facts are all on the surface and bush supporters seem to enjoy having that knife further twisted in their backs by bush and his administration. Clinton screws and intern and the religious right wing of this nation think our country is going to hell in a hand basket. Bush screws over an entire nation and the republican party and religious right wing have no problems justifying and condoning their hypocritical actions and behavior.