THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 395, November 26, 2006
"The other parties are afraid to talk about the future.
We are the future."
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
I don't know that there was anybody who knew much of anything about politics who didn't expect Republicans to get spanked on November 7. But as much as I expected the backlash generated by unpopular policies and broken promises, even I was taken aback at the extent of that backlash. The Democrats now control both the House and the Senate, and George W. Bush's remaining years in his "lame duck" presidency are likely all but crippled.
While I certainly understand the reaction, I'm inclined to see it as an overreaction and not a pleasant one. It's akin in my mind to the dieter who errs in eating a piece of cheesecake and then determines to punish himself for his mistake by eating the remainder of the cheesecake. "I'll show me for messing up! I'll mess me up even more!" That's self-defeating at best, and only contributes to the deepening of a downward spiral the vast majority of us claim we don't want.
There's little question in my mind that the Republicans deserved pretty much what they got. In fact, they practically begged for it.
In past elections, Republicans promised us smaller government. Most conservatives and all libertarians aim for that, and Republicans got many of the votes from both contingents accordingly. But over the course of the Bush II administration, government has grown more than it has since the days of President Lyndon Johnson! Given that the Johnson presidency is often held as an example of rampant government growth, we can't pretend that breaking that record is a good thing for those who favor smaller government.
Republicans spend less. Well, that's what they say, anyway. Oftentimes, they spend plenty. But under the Bush II administration, spending literally ran out of control, and the deficit spiraled up, up, and away. The vast majority of conservatives and pretty much all libertarians took one look and said, "No, thanks." Unfortunately for Republicans, they voted accordingly.
The War on Terror hadand still hasplenty of support from Americans of all political stripes. It's the War in Iraq that's caused all the trouble for a Republican president andin a classic case of guilt by association if not by action or inactionfor Republican candidates as well. The majority of Americans are less than thrilled with the no-end-in-sight war (though we were warned from the first that the War on Terror would take some time, most disassociate Iraq from that pronouncement). Add to that the ongoing rumblings that the Bush II administration could take on Iran nextfor reasons similar to those it used and abused to justify the Iraq invasionand voters deserted the GOP ship in droves.
Although the War on Terror has support, the War on Civil Liberties has substantially less, and that support continues to erode. The Republican administrationto be fair, sometimes without the support or, in fact, the knowledge of the Republican Congresshas sliced and diced civil liberties with little thought of anything but its own authority and convenience. A domestic surveillance program alone has generated accusations of a president overstepping the bounds of his authority, and the notion of military tribunals and a resulting Supreme Court slap on the wrist only made matters worse.
So-called "no fly" lists were accepted with some reticence, but since learning how error-filled they are and how unevenly applied they can be, most find them invasive at best and laughable much of the time. Prohibitions against nail clippers and hand lotion only add to the giggle factor. Meanwhile, the Republican-created Department of Homeland Security and its Transportation Security Administration undermined their own effectiveness by failing to institute meaningful border security measures or to permit well qualified pilots to arm themselves as a last line defense against another 9/11, and by succumbing to political correctness and searching kindergartners and grandmothers rather than chance accusations of racial profiling (when, in fact, terrorism is one case where racial profiling actually makes some sense).
The Republican administration, meanwhile, was busy actually encouraging amnesty for "undocumented immigrants" despite the vast majority of us knowing largely unfettered borders and grossly unmonitored entrants were significantly to blame for 9/11. It even went so far as to insult civilians who did their best to shore up the border monitoring the federal government was so lax about handling. It instituted onerous and invasive requirements of legal immigrants and visitors, but did next to nothing to deal with the real dangers of illegal immigrants.
Congress, of course, bears its share of blame for the loss of freedom. First, it's done little if anything to inquire into even the most questionable actions of the administration (it eventually made some noises in that direction only after the protests got too loud). Secondly, and again in the name of the War on Terror, politicians rushed to vote in favor of the USA PATRIOT Act, PATRIOT II, and REAL ID. The debates and protests of the PATRIOT Act provisions are ongoing; states are more and more learning just how onerous REAL ID will be for them financially and logistically. But behind it all is the growing realization of the final insult added to injury: These and similar actions represent little if any improvement in security even as they undermine more and more dramatically the civil liberties of American citizens.
Whether or not it was the final straw is arguable, but more than a few Americans who were paying attention took note of yet another act of Congress: After the US Supreme Court said that the president's idea of military tribunals and incommunicado prisoners was unconstitutional, Congress took action (at the president's behest) to create military tribunals in such a way that the Constitution was effectively skirted. That same action by Congress made the definition of terrorist or those aiding terrorism so broad that it scared even thoseperhaps especially those!who aren't guilty of anything but being critical of government policy.
One of Ronald Reagan's more successful campaign slogans asked voters if they were better off now than they were a few years ago. Depending on their answers, Mr. Reagan got their votes. At the time, most people said that they were better off, and Mr. Reagan was elected in a landslide. Though Mr. Bush had the good sense not to ask the question before these mid-term electionshe knew better!plenty of Americans apparently did. Speaking for myself, I'm okay. But am I better off? The answer is an unequivocal, "No!" Sure, tax cuts were nice. But inflation (all too often well-masked by the terminology used by government analysts) and a lack of economic growth in some sectors (with, say experts, much more to come) exacted its toll, and voters imposed their own when they voted less for Democrats than against Republicans.
While we can't pretend that all Republicans are guilty, it's sure that this administration and many of its cronies within and without Congress chose to style themselves as the "morality police." The religious right was thrilled, at least initially. Most of the rest of the country was not.
The unwavering prohibition on embryonic stem cell research angered almost everyone who was sick or who loved someone who was. The unquestionably conservative Nancy Reagan, herself becoming almost as much beloved in her later years as her husband, spoke out in favor of stem cell research. But the president didn't listen, and Rush Limbaughviewed as very much a conservative party mouthpieceactually had the lack of sense to attack another beloved celebrity (Michael J. Fox) over the issue.
Scientists and educated non-scientists alike were appalled by the growing acceptance of the teaching of "Intelligent Design" or creationism in schools. But the president himself spoke in favor of teaching "all theories" in science class, conveniently disregarding the inconvenient biological facts even as he endeared himself to the far right fringes. The president further catered to the so-called religious right with his "faith-based initiative," something many considered a real and present danger to First Amendment freedoms. Unfortunately for the GOP, even as the administration was favoring the views of the religious right, it was also enraging them with its milder stance on immigration and what were viewed as "moderate" judicial appointments.
After so many years of dealing with a "say one thing, do another" Congress and administration, voters decided to punish Republicans by electing politicians who would punish the entire country by doing some of the same things and engaging in others uniquely liberal in nature. The Democrats who have gained control of the House and Senate are the inheritors of the original proponents of bigger government. This hallmark hasn't changed over their years out of power. In fact, some of the old issues are back, and they're back bigger and badder than ever.
Other countries have done it, and have all but bankrupted themselves and their citizens. They've also downgradeddramatically in many instancesthe quality of care available to citizens. And yet many of the Democrats campaigned on the idea of what is effectively a National Health care program. Unfortunately, the Republicans can't say a whole lot about it without appearing even more hypocritical than they are. It was the Bush II administration and the majority Republican Congress that instituted a bloated expansion of Medicare with a largely misunderstood and hugely expensive prescription drug program. Remember that those mad at Republicans for failing to make government smaller actually voted to teach them a lesson by voting for those who would make government bigger and far more socialist than ever before!
The War on Terror will, mark my words, continue whether Republicans or Democrats are in charge. There's too much vested in it to quit, and it's offered too many ironclad excuses for too many government abuses to be dismissed by those who would engage in such abuses. Besides, the truth is thatand most of us recognize itwe actually do need to fight against terror. It's the methodology that remains in question.
Frankly, I question the Democrats' methodology more even than I question the Republicans. A simple withdrawal from Iraq is out of the question unless we want that part of the Middle East to devolve into total chaos. Though some might expect otherwise, I fully anticipate the Democrats won't engage in any kind of quick withdrawal no matter their campaign promises. Policies will change in Iraq, though not too dramatically or suddenly; Iran, though, will almost certainly be safe no matter what it does (Dems are more inclined to talk about it than to do anything about it) for a few years at least.
We, on the other hand, will not be safe at all. With the Democrats largely in favor of amnesty for illegals, President Bush will finally see his way clear to effectively open the borders. And along with hard workers who want to assimilate and become Americans will come criminals looking for richer folk to prey upon; gangsters looking for new territory to conquer; terrorists wanting to settle in quietly and who will bide their time until an attack is coordinated; and worst of all, proponents of a "reconquista" of the American southwest who will succeed only with help many liberals are all too likely to give.
Democrats are traditionally big-time defenders of freedom of speech and expression. They are, unfortunately, much less willing to recognize unalienable rights they find less palatable. Some of the most powerful people in the upcoming Congressional sessions will be such vociferous anti-gun advocates as Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the all-but-certain new Speaker of the House; and Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA).
While defending freedom of speech and expression, even other First Amendment rights are less popular with Democrats. Gay marriage, for example, will likely show up on the Congressional plate. There's virtually zero chance of a so-called "Marriage Amendment" passing with a Democratic majority, but might Democrats try to head the opposite direction instead? I've staunchly opposed the idea of a marriage amendment in the past because I oppose the idea of the government telling churches how and to whom they may administer sacraments. I oppose the legalization of gay marriage for the same reasons (civil unions are another matter).
Prayer in public venues will also likely prove to be under attack. While I don't believe in "captive" audiences for sermons (such as at school graduations or sports events where prayers ought not be included), I do believe that the mention of religion ought not be prohibited or even frowned upon (a valedictorian should be able to say she's a Christian, and a school shouldn't prohibit Christian clubs any more than it prohibits groups of other natures on school property). Under Democrat authority, however, it's likely an all-or-nothing proposition (in fairness, it was the same all-or-nothing from Republicans, though from the opposite perspective).
The Republicans at least cut taxes on their way to spending more than they were earning. The Democrats will almost certainly reverse the tax cuts and then raise taxes some more. They'll do this so that they can afford to expand entitlement programming, probably including some form of National Health Care or another. That single program alone will, by the way, send our tax burden out of control, and probably sooner rather than later...
If the Republicans can be called the "morality police," I think it's fair that the Democrats be termed the "it's for your own good" contingent. Smoking will likely soon be made illegal almost everywhere. The eating of certain foods will be prohibited or controlled. And if you think Republicans invaded your privacy (and they did), just wait 'til the Democrats get ahold of medical databases and school records! They'll be all over all of usfor our own good, of course (those who wonder how bad it can get need look no further than the passage November 7 of an abhorrent "minimum wage" issue in Ohio which requires employers report everything about their employeesnames, address, social security numbers, wages, and moreand that that information be available to anybody who asks for it).
Sure, there are lots of complicated issues out there. But at the root of it all, it's simple: We got mad at politicians who weren't doing a good job, and so we elected a bunch of politicians who won't do a good job. There are some differences, of course, but the bottom line is thatin direct contradiction to our stated wishesgovernment will continue to grow, our taxes will grow along with it, our freedoms will continue to erode, and the danger to both our country and our way of life will keep right on increasing to the point it's finally realized. And thanks to our votes, that point is rapidly approaching.
Am I the only one out there who actually voted for pro-freedom candidates and issues? Maybe I am. It's more than a little frightening for the future of freedom that that's exactly how I votedand on every matter but one, my vote was cast for the losing candidate or side. I suspect that says a whole lot less about me than it says about the vast majority of voters these days who seem to think that punishing someone by punishing ourselves all the more actually makes any sense.
The hell with those states that want to check voter ID. The entire country ought to be checking voter IQ!