Eventually, the Republicans will lose power and the left will again rise in our country. How soon this happens, and what it means for liberty, will be determined over the next few years, and what the left, right and libertarians do in that time.
Conservatives who have become accustomed to having their guy in power need to wake up. Although I have totally given up on the GOP, I think there are good conservatives out there who have some libertarian inclinations. They need to get a reality check about government power.
In the 1990s, liberals were riding high. They had their man in the White House. They didn’t worry much about government getting out of hand and actually posing a danger to their interests. Now they see how pernicious government power can be. I’ve talked to a lot of liberals and leftists in the last few years. At the moment, almost all of them would prefer a smaller government, fewer wars, and a less bullying Big Brother. Many of them have given up on the idea of a socialist paradise. Now they would be happy with a return to normalcy.
Meanwhile, most conservatives have become either desensitized to, or enamored with, Big Government. It’s true. You can’t deny it.
But how will they feel when the left takes over again, now with a Leviathan state much larger than it was when the left last held the reins of power? Even if conservatives don’t fear Republican rule, they should be frightened by the sheer amount of power that Bush has asserted and consolidated for himself. It is far more power than any mortal organism should ever possess.
One day, not too long from now, the left will rise again. What will they do with all the power the Republicans have accumulated in Washington? Will they seek revenge on the right? Will they bomb the hell out of a country that, for one reason or another, conservatives might actually prefer not to see devastated?
Libertarians need to reach out to the left. The left has some despicable characters, for sure, but there are many who consider themselves leftists whose ideal government would be smaller and far less threatening to liberty than the status quo. Libertarians who long ago gave up on the left to focus on the right should learn a lesson, now that the right holds power and has proven an increasing and belligerent threat to freedom. If we don’t get at least some of the left on our side, we will surely lose in the long run. Half the right is totally nuts and unlibertarian. Giving up on the entire left is something we can’t afford.
There probably has not been as good of a chance as we have today, for libertarians to make inroads with the left, since the Vietnam War. Look at the leftist publications online and in the bookstores. Most of it is about how Bush has done too much in foreign policy and in the domestic War on Terror. Only a minority is about Bush’s fictitious spending cuts. In contrast, most conservative literature is about how great the Republican-controlled U.S. warfare state is. Only a small amount is dedicated to anything resembling libertarian principles.
But I also think we can’t totally give up on the right. When the left was in power, most libertarians cozied up to the conservatives and brushed off the left completely. That was a big mistake. If we do the same with the right now, we’ll never get anywhere.
Both leftists and rightists have their place. When one camp is in charge, the other is almost certainly going to lean more libertarian. The idea that some libertarians still hold, that the right, in spite of being in power, is less a worry than the out-of-power leftists in Hollywood, is just plain ridiculous.
If there is hope for liberty in electoral politics, it will not come until the Republicans lose power again. Either the Democrats will actually cut government — it sounds crazy, I know, but it’s possible — or the Republicans will become less fascistic upon losing and once again become an opposition party calling for less government. The hope for liberty, in the political arena, depends largely on how the Democrats see themselves.
We need to face this sad truth.
If the liberals run in 2006 and 2008 on the same, tired, stupid FDR-LBJ platform of more money for this and more money for that, they’ll probably lose again. Or they’ll win, if America has finally become sick of the Elephant Party again. Either way, the Republicans will only be encouraged to continue on their path of increasing hostility to liberty.
If, on the other hand, the American left takes a good look in the mirror and realizes that America has long ago abandoned left-socialism, and is now in some sort of anti-leftist vogue, the Democrats can put the brakes on our country’s fast journey toward totalitarianism, simply by returning to their roots. Not their Rooseveltian roots, but their Jeffersonian ones.
One thing the Dems should do is stop being so overtly hostile toward gun owners. If the Democrats came down hard in favor of the Second Amendment, that alone would probably win them the national elections. Howard Dean had the flexibility as the governor of the most gun-friendly state in the Union to do this, but the establishment didn’t like him because he got too excited at some rally or something. Kerry, on the other hand, seemed to come right from the factory with three facial expressions, none of them particularly threatening, but that didn’t seem to get him anywhere.
The Dems need to come out against this war. They should stop playing games and just say the war is wrong, that we need to bring home the troops and stop playing world cop. The left doesn’t like the war; many moderates and conservatives don’t either. The Dems need to promise to tame down the Mussolini impersonations coming from DC.
The Dems should also come out in favor of federalism, at least on some issues that would favor them. They should say the federal government has no business superseding a state’s drug laws, marriage laws and criminal-justice policy.
They could also come out opposed to Bush’s tax-reform schemes and offer simple tax cuts for the middle class, including a reduced payroll tax.
And they could promise to cut spending, especially on Big Business pork.
If the Dems did this, they would succeed in the national elections, and they could do it while remaining on the left, ideologically. Or, they might once again emphasize all the great programs they could pay for with tax dollars. Whether they run on the socialist aspect of leftism or the civil-libertarian-antiwar aspect, the left will eventually, once again, rise in America. When it happens, we will either see more or less liberty as a result. If the left stresses its anti-authoritarian side, I believe it will win sooner rather than later, and America will slow down, if not reverse, on its current road to serfdom.
It’s up to us libertarians to explain to them the best path to victory, security and prosperity.
Meanwhile, the conservatives need to stop cheering on their party’s orgy of spending and warfare, because every dollar spent or innocent life vanquished by this administration will likely be precedent for a future government that, if only for aesthetic reasons, today’s conservatives will not find nearly as endearing as the smirking tyrant currently occupying the Oval Office.
Anthony Gregory [send him mail] is a writer and musician who lives in Berkeley, California. He is a research assistant at the Independent Institute. See his webpage for more articles and personal information.