Grand Old Fraud
[John Berntson wrote the following "Notes from the Chair" column for the August 2001 issue of Colorado Liberty (page 2). It is reproduced here with permission of the author.]
Something happened to Ronald Reagan on the way to the White House. Here was a man who spoke the language of liberty better than anybody who has come since -- who spoke it in a way that Mr. Average Joe could understand it. He didn't have to. Doing so did not ingratiate him to the press or to that great mass of people who believed they already lived in the land of the free. To say some of the things he did, he must have really believed them, from the bottom of his heart.
Yet, when all was said and done, Mr. Reagan's administration did not reign in spending, cut bureaucracy, or convince federal employees to recognize the Bill of Rights in any meaningful way. His initial tax cut was offset by tax increases in later years, and his people wrote far more regulations than they ever cut. At best, the Reagan Administration slowed the growth of government, even though Mr. Reagan held the veto pen and one house of Congress.
It is this last point that is most telling. The Republican Senate, from 1981 through 1987, did nothing to decrease the influence of government in our daily lives except to help repeal the 55 MPH speed limit. Likewise, the Republican Congress of the Nineties never spent less money in any year than in the previous year, and never dissolved any of the agencies that they said they would. Here in Colorado, our legislature, even with a Republican governor, cannot seem to find a program worth cutting.
The GOP, the self-anointed party of smaller government and individual rights, is nothing more than a fraud.
Not that I am any more fond of the Democrats, mind you, but it is important to point out the fraud that is Republican. We can get one thing from the Republicans that we cannot get from the Democrats: leverage. This is because their politicians pretend to be us. They pretend to believe in freedom.
Undoubtedly, many Republican politicians got into politics because they truly believed in freedom. So why did they betray the cause? Because they needed to win elections to get things done. So, they compromised and made deals. They told the press what the press wanted to hear. They started courting moderates.
You see, the way politics works in the modern era is that each party has to pursue the middle-of-the-road voter to get elected. They hold bidding wars, trying to buy the middle with new programs paid for by tax money (recent example: Bush vs. Gore and the prescription drug benefit). Neither side worries about the non-moderates, their base supporters. The base on each side has been made to fear that other party, seeing in them the focus of evil in the modern world. They can be depended on to vote the "right way" in each election. The politicians believe this is the only way to conduct business. It may not be right, but it's practical.
They are mistaken. There is another way. Instead of trying to buy the middle with new programs, they can sell the middle on freedom. They can conduct education campaigns, explaining to people exactly why free trade makes their lives better, why guns make for safer societies, how environmental laws cause pollution, and how regulations hurt their jobs and their wallets. With the money the major parties have, they could conduct the kind of campaigns most Libertarians can only dream about.
Of course, neither of the major parties will run this kind of campaign on their own. It is untried, untested, and unsure. Better to stick with what you know. After all, if you don't win, you can't help anybody.
This is why I propose we help the Republicans -- them, because they pretend to be us, which gives us leverage with their supporters. I want to knock their legs out from under them. I want to put them in the position of losing seats and majorities unless and until they succeed in selling liberty to moderate voters. Call it "tough love" for recalcitrant politicians. I want to steal away their base support, the true believers in freedom, and thereby make the moderate voters useless to them. Once that is done, the GOP will have no choice but to start selling freedom, that being the only way they can both sway moderates and get their base back. Of
course, this means that Democrats would hold the reins for a time. Frankly, this does not bother me. I do not see much real difference between the two parties, once you get past the rhetoric. Even so, we have survived Democrat majorities in the past; we will do so in the future.
But, if you are one of those who is frightened by this notion, one of those who clings to the Republicans because you think they will protect your freedoms just a little better than the Democrats, then you have already lost. You are admitting to the Republicans that you will support them no matter what they do, so you have no leverage with them. You have only two things they want: your money and your vote. Money they have no problem in getting, from people with a lot more of it than you or I have. Your vote you are giving them for free. You are choosing the lesser of two evils, and that is exactly what you will get.
This is the message we must send to all of the freedom lovers: the tax cutters, the anti-regulators, the gun owners, the pot smokers, the property owners, and all the rest. "You are choosing evil; choose freedom instead." They must be made to understand that if they limit their choices to the two major parties, nothing will ever change, equilibrium will be maintained, and our liberties will continue to vanish.
This party has two possible futures. We will either reform one of the major parties or we will replace one. The formula for getting one is the formula for getting the other: we keep building our party, running more candidates, and getting more votes. By giving the pro-freedom crowd a place to go, we deny their votes to the major parties and make those parties change their behavior in order to get them back.
Maybe they will. Maybe they won't. Either way, we win.