Speaking with many conservatives as of late, the Republican Party is still recovering from the shock-and-awe phase of McCain’s primary election win. No one can quite swallow McCain as the Republican front-runner from the libertarian conservatives to more mainline conservatives. Everyone grumbles at his loose chances and his left-leaning tendencies.
But exactly why is anyone surprised? McCain’s candidacy is the brain-child of a decade-long direction of conservatism. The Republican Party as the torch bearer has raised the cry of war, a fear of Islam, and a hatred of homosexuality. No room was left for fiscal responsibility and free market economics. The free market is a phrase Republicans say but don’t discuss in the modern-day party.
Conversation has drastically altered course. The best evidence of this re-directed route comes from the liberal camp. Once upon a time, Liberals attacked the Republican Party over issues such as free markets and supply-side economics. During the primaries, rivals would poke at each other’s policies by naming them "voodoo economics" or later "Reaganomics."
Today, the Left offers no such insults for the very reason that the Republican Party offers no such concrete economic agenda. There are of course the Bush tax cuts, but this is simply an argument of policy not general direction. Many current Republicans are pro-tax cuts and pro-regulation. A belief in tax reduction does not equate an adherence toward free markets.
The tax cuts without a reduction in spending are originally leftist Keynesian economic schemes. Discussion of the validity of markets has been pronounced deceased and buried at sea without the approval of those on the home port who cared for these principles.
Tracing the start of this downward path comes with ease. Topics such as supply side economics are difficult to explain to voters. The task of a politician lightens in load under demands for war, politicized religion, and a xenophobic attitude toward Muslims. "We’re the good guys and they’re the bad guys" is the simplest argument in the world. This stance needs no explanation into alternatives, cost/benefit, and theory.
Religion has been perverted to this mold as well. "This is what the Bible says. It’s good versus evil." There is certainly nothing wrong with Christianity. Judeo-Christian values are one of the pillars of Western Civilization. In my own belief, I’m a proud practicing Roman Catholic. But unfortunately, politicized religion has been swayed toward absolutism.
Homosexuality is the single biggest non-issue in America. Yes, according to the Bible it’s a sin in the 8 passages that mention homosexual acts. But should sins be regulated by law? If your neighbor…wait, no, that’s far to close. If someone in your state cheats on his wife and commits adultery. Does this devastate your world? This person has just committed a sin.
Same with homosexuality, does it really bother you that two men are getting married? This might bother me a little bit, just like someone tattooing their face bothers me but certainly no reason for law to step in. (After all, tattooing is also forbidden in the Bible.)
The only real difference in the eyes of God between an adulterer and a homosexual is what they pray for regarding forgiveness at night. This is a matter between you and God, not you and the State.
Surely, everyone wishes a happy faithful marriage for others, but constitutional law has no place in the matter of sin whether regarding adultery or homosexuality. The law is designed to respect property rights not moral codes. Those who attempt to use law to enforce moral norms open a Pandora’s box. Once this usage of law is an acceptable precedent, it is only a matter of time until the same methods are used against your own beliefs.
The homosexual marriage debate simply divides voters in the neo-conservative goal of absolutism. For the restoration of the Republican Party, this issue needs to be severely down-played. Young conservatives need to especially heed this warning. In 30 years, anyone who aggravated homosexuals openly and viciously now will be viewed in the same light as 1950’s racists. If you want a short-lived political career: go around shouting damnation and hellfire to homosexuals.
Think of the long-term. At the very least, keep this a party issue but a minor one. Treat homosexuality the same way free markets have been treated in the past twenty years crammed in the background of the platform.
McCain arose directly out of this absolutist political machine. The movement is reaping what it has sowed. Republicans haven’t gotten a fiscally conservative free market candidate for the very fact that they have been advocating no such position.
A decade-long focus on homosexuality, war, and a perverted form of politicized Christianity has resulted in the embodiment of these erroneous values through John McCain.
Yes, war gets votes. Yes, a strong anti-homosexual stance brings votes. But these positions cannot turn voters into conservatives. An Iraq War supporter is not necessarily a traditional limited-government advocate. And certainly not every Christian attracted by homosexual resentments believes in other conservative values.
In fact, the attraction of these individuals into the party dilutes the original limited-government goals. The focus turns to maintaining voter turnouts rather than re-enforcing principles and values. Wars increase votes but these gains are temporary as only an intellectual movement can have long-run advances in the mindset of the country.
Ron Paul has been the only member of the Republican Party to discuss not policies but ideas and directions. He has turned away from a focus on politicized religion and propagandized war rhetoric to actual standards of conservatism.
If you look at Paul’s voting record on homosexuals, it’s not exactly a libertarian stance. But this is exactly the way the Republican Party should be playing their cards. The main platform should be free markets and limited government; the back issue should be gay marriage. Instead, the order is vice versa.
Even conservatives who support the war must ask themselves one question, "Why isn’t there a pro-war version of Ron Paul in the Republican Party?" Surely, there should be some Congressman who votes "yes" on war spending, but votes "no" on every other spending bill exemplifying traditional Republican values. There is no such person because the current focus on war and politicized religion leaves no space for fiscal responsibility.
War is so divisive that politicians believe complicated matters of fiscal responsibility and markets are unnecessary to keep their posts. More and more the fallacy of this viewpoint becomes obvious.
When President Bush says that you’re either with us or against us, he doesn’t ask about your limited-government credentials. These days the only qualification necessary to being a Republican is an ardent celebration of the warfare state. A person could almost be utterly left-wing on dozens of economic issues, but as long as war is supported, he’s an accepted modern day Republican.
There must be a shift back to ideology. Republicans need to frankly tell certain members, "Look you support the war, you don’t have our economic and social principles, please go vote for Joe Lieberman instead." These individuals are weasels in the party rotting the whole from inside.
The conservative movement in the United States has become intellectually bankrupt. There are no more Richard Weaver’s, Russell Kirk’s, and Milton Friedman’s guiding with ideology and value. Remaining are faux intellectuals such as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Dinesh D’Souza. A quite saddening comparison to the past intellectual leaders. If the Republican Party wishes revival and long-term victory, they must resurrect the intellectual stream of conservatism.
The Party must travel away from dumbed-down issues of homosexuality and war and move toward a Judeo-Christian voluntary-based faith agenda backed by a strong adherence to fiscal conservatism and free markets.
McCain is absolutely no liberal as some commentators have named him. After all, McCain voted 95% of the time with President Bush. If we are to call McCain, liberal, then what separates big-time spender, George W. Bush from the accusation? Five percent of votes hardly distinguishes a liberal and a conservative in the traditional sense unless in the case of abortion.
The McCain accusations are entirely correct, but use the wrong terminology. McCain is a neo-conservative just like George W. Bush. These people have absolutely zero concern for traditional Republican values. They are snakes within the ranks of the conservativism with no allegiance to any principle or any value. No greater damage has been done to the Republican brand name than under their watch.
Republicans can only blame themselves for the current state of affairs. McCain, a neo-conservative, 95% like his predecessor leads the Republican Party down a nearly irreversible path that will eliminate all principles and values left. No one should be surprised with this candidate.
His opponent, Barack Obama, stands correctly on one point. The time for change has come. But not first broadly in America as a whole, the most important change must come from within the Republican Party back to intellectually and morally strong free market principles with traditional values upholding a limited government.
Vedran Vuk [send him mail] has a bachelor degree of economics from Loyola University of New Orleans, and was a 2006 Summer Fellow at the Mises Institute. He is currently pursuing a doctorate of economics at George Mason University. He has contributed two chapters to the upcoming first-ever Ron Paul biography, Ron Paul: A Life, coming out in early September 2008. Discuss this article and others on his new blog.