The pundits are talking about it. The Republicans are hoping for it. The Democrats are dreading it. And the odds makers are taking bets on it. The “it” is a set of Republican November midterm victories if not an outright landslide.
There was a time in my past when I would have been elated at that prospect. But that was in a period of my life when I thought the GOP still had the potential for conservative greatness as a champion of limited government and individual liberty.
Don’t get me wrong. I surely don’t want the Democrats to win. But if the GOP achieves a midterm victory, it will not be from mounting an energetic conservative campaign but rather because of the failings of President Obama and particularly Obamacare. And thus, the only long-term consequences of November 2014 will be the hangovers from the election night victory parties.
Let’s not fool ourselves. We may be a center-right country when measured by surveys meant to capture how individuals think about liberty, but the total is not the sum of the parts. In practice, we are culturally, academically, legally, and politically a center-left nation.
How did we transition from a society founded by individuals believing in limited government and populated by a majority claiming to support that supposition, to a society of a large, often abusive government creating a permanent dependent class? Think of our political process as a machine that receives inputs of individualism and liberty, uses graft and corruption as lubricant and fuel, and outputs collectivism and servitude. The Founding Fathers did their best to prevent the machine from being used this way, but we refused to understand the operating instructions and to take responsibility for its maintenance, so we handed everything over to political parties.
Within the current Republican leadership, I believe there are no real desires to put forth and fight for conservative solutions to our nation’s problems. Without strong conservative leaders with zeal for real change, the November Republican victory will be nothing but a mirage in a conservative desert.
What went wrong with the Republican Party? How did a party ostensibly based on limited government learn to like Big Brother, if not outright love him? The answer has several components.
First, there has been for a long-time a trait deep within the Republican DNA that manifests itself as an affinity toward being satisfied as a minority party. The idea is that the benefits of serving in the king’s court outweigh the trials and tribulations of being the king.
Another reason is that from local councils to Congress, a fraternity of arrogance has taken over our politicians: an arrogance that pushes for a presence of government in every aspect of our lives and a dependence on a political class to operate that government.
The third reason is more pragmatic. Once an agency is in place it is immensely more difficult to abolish it than it was to create it. Now, Republican attacks on the IRS for new codes restricting political activities of conservative groups definitely are laudable. As are the periodic Republican attempts at lowering income tax rates. But these actions address the symptoms, not the cure for the disease. Nevertheless, the GOP uses these victories to generate support for a “virtual” conservatism. But we need a cure for the disease, not just a pill to reduce the pain, and we know what the cure is — limited constitutional government.
Where was the party when these agencies or laws were created? Some may point to the 2009/2010 Republican fight over Obamacare as proof of its conservative credentials, but as the opposition minority party that was expected of them. Now that GOP governance may be at hand, there are already discussions of “improving” Obamacare instead of repealing it.
Limited government deprives the political class of governing the masses. How can you govern the masses if you don’t have agencies such as an IRS, an EPA, a DHS, a HHS, or a DoEd, and dozens if not hundreds of others? Therefore, what incentive is there for the political class, R or D, to eliminate or greatly limit these agencies? None. Enough of this “conservative” tomfoolery; parties are about consolidating status and power.
I recently saw a photo of President Obama with John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi sitting to his right, and Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell sitting to his left. They were all having a good old time. It reminded me of the scene in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, when the farm animals (the oppressed) peeking into the farmhouse window, noticed they could no longer distinguish between the pigs (their representatives) and the farmers (their oppressors). This Orwellian picture may seem extreme given that political leaders are forced to occasionally share a photo op, but occasionally photos like these invite us to ask whether the conflict in our political system is indeed between Party and Party, or the Empowered and the Electorate.
It gives me no pleasure to suspect the latter. But I do. How does one explain the Republican establishment declaring war on the Party’s conservative base?
It is said there are no stupid questions, but we all know there are. And one of them is asking why the Republican leadership doesn’t realize that they are dooming the Party to permanent minority status by disenfranchising a significant portion of their base. They don’t see it that way. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, only that you get to play the game. It doesn’t matter if you cure the disease as long as you are seen attacking the symptoms. That’s Party and incumbent job security.
I often write about changes I would make to the constitution if I had the ability to go back in time. Keeping in mind George Washington’s warning in his farewell address about political parties, here’s another addition I would make:
“Congreʃs shall make no law prohibiting the free exerciʃe of political parties, however, political parties being wretched inʃtruments of the deʃtruction of liberties, congreʃs shall make no law respecting the establiʃhment of political parties and political parties shall have no official duties, titles or privileges in the operation of government.”
The addition may not help, but like chicken soup for a cold, it wouldn’t hurt.
Tony Corvo is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel with a Ph.D. in physics. He is active in local Beavercreek, Ohio politics and is the author of All Politics is Loco: Musings from the Conservative Next Door. He and his wife have two grown daughters. He writes extensively on local issues. Many of his recent articles can be found at taxbusters.wordpress.com/author/phdmc2.
All opinions expressed belong solely to their authors and may not be construed as the opinions of other writers or of OCR staff.
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