Republicans beat themselves this election
by Linn and Ari Armstrong
The following article was originally published by Grand Junction Free Press on November 13, 2006.
The election results weren't surprising, though some of them were disappointing. We're particularly saddened that a slim majority of voters approved Amendment 42, which violates the right to contract and hurts many low-skilled workers by annually hiking the minimum wage. We never thought this would be the year voters would remove legal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of the plant marijuana by adults 21 and over, but support into the 40-percent range shows solid progress on the issue.
We're disappointed but not surprised that, locally, Bernie Buescher beat Bob Caskey; incumbency is a hard nut to crack. Republicans Steve King and Josh Penry handily beat their opponents, so Mesa County will send a mixed delegation to Denver.
Neither is Bill Ritter's convincing victory over Bob Beauprez any surprise. Everything went wrong for the Republican. As Beauprez notes, he was hurt by anti-Bush sentiments. Yet Republicans Mike Coffman and John Suthers won their state-wide races. Mostly, Beauprez beat himself.
Beauprez made two central errors. First, he and running mate Janet Rowland relentlessly injected religion into politics. Whether the issue was welfare, education, separation of church and state, gay partnerships, or abortion, the Republicans made clear that their policies are driven by their religion. That alienates independents, especially in the "live and let live" mountain states.
Second, rather than oppose Ritter on the real issues -- such as Ritter's relentless crusade for more gun restrictions or his proposal to further socialize medicine ("Rittery care," one conservative called it) -- Beauprez attacked Ritter on his record as a prosecutor. Well, Ritter just wasn't vulnerable on that issue. Everybody understands that, in the current legal system, most cases are plea-bargained. Ritter's background as a respected prosecutor was his primary strength. But Beauprez did manage to step in deep doodoo by using information that was apparently obtained illegally from a federal criminal database.
But it was hard for Beauprez to run on the issues when his own record is so bad. His congressional office once sent out a press release bragging about all the pork-barrel spending in his district. When he was head of the state GOP, Beauprez embarked on his own gun-control crusade.
The only thing Beauprez did right was to oppose Referendum C. Yet his opposition was half-hearted and pragmatic, rather than based on any principled support for the individual's right to control his or her own income. And on this matter Beauprez was sabotaged by Republican Governor Bill Owens.
Referendum C, the massive net tax hike, passed last year by a slim majority. Owens put his full resources behind the measure, thereby alienating the free-market faction of the GOP and giving Beauprez's enemies plenty of ammunition. Owens put Beauprez in a tight spot. Either he could support big government and higher net taxes, or he could oppose this "bipartisan" measure and the leader of his own party.
Independent voters hate insincerity and hypocrisy. The Republican Party's strategy under "leaders" such as Owens and Bush has been to try to out-Democrat the Democrats. But big-government conservatism will always lose out to big-government liberalism. All that Republicans have managed to do is completely alienate the advocates of individual rights, free markets, and limited government.
Ryan Sager describes this problem in his book, The Elephant in the Room. He notes that Bush's first term "included NCLB [the No Child Left Behind Act], the prescription-drug giveaway, farm subsidies, steel tariffs, and a 33 percent jump in federal spending."
Sager notes that this "big-government Republicanism" violates the principles of "conservatives who care about low taxes, less regulation of business, less regulation of political speech, school choice, free trade, fiscal responsibility, and reforming massive entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security, whose costs threaten to crush the rising generation..."
Nor is it any coincidence that Beauprez pragmatically sells out economic liberty and rights of self-defense as he ambitiously pushes religion into politics. C. Bradley Thompson argues in The Objective Standard that "compassionate conservatism" is a mix of big-government welfare and big-government religion.
Modern Republicans, notes Thompson, have turned their back on Barry Goldwater. Inspired by "the moral writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau -- the Prophet of Compassion," compassionate conservatism is "designed rhetorically to rely on and appeal to traditional Christian virtues."
Thompson writes, "The Oprahization of American culture has made compassion the standard by which we judge whether men are good or bad..." Compassion is the political standard, not individual rights, not economic liberty, not free markets.
Compassionate conservatism "holds that man must live in selfless service to the needs of others -- which means that rational, productive men must sacrifice (or be sacrificed) for the sake of irrational, unproductive men" -- by political force.
Those who seek to conjoin church and state also seek to conjoin economy and state. And the advocates of individual rights are left without a seat at the party.