Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A pox on both their parties

I'm leaving the GOP, but not for the Democrats


Senior editorial writer and columnist

Last weekend, I announced my not-so-Earth-shattering decision to leave the Republican Party. In the era of George W. Bush, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Arnold Schwarzenegger, I simply have had enough. While I've been pleased by the correspondence I've received, most of it from other disaffected Republicans who are sick of the party's abandonment of its stated "liberty" principles, I've left some readers confused about where my allegiances now lie.

Here's my chance to elaborate a little further.

The country has devolved so much into a two-party system that many folks believe that if you abandon one party, you must necessarily take up common cause with the other one. Yet if a restaurant gives you a choice between eating food laced with rat poison or with arsenic, you might want to eat somewhere else, even if it's a long drive until the next rest stop and even if the new restaurant hasn't gotten great reviews.

So ... no, I have not become a Democrat. I haven't criticized Democrats too much in recent months, mainly because it's so pointless.

Let me reiterate the obvious reasons why I will not return to the party of my youth. It's long been clear to believers in free markets and limited government that the Democratic Party is committed mostly to European-style socialism. Ever fearful of the free market and hostile to the free choices individuals would make if left on their own (with the sole exception being what they call "reproductive freedom"), the Democrats ceaselessly advocate for more government control of the economy, more far-reaching cradle-to-grave social programs -- never mind that such programs can't sustain themselves over the long term, and that government "services" are notoriously wretched compared with those offered by market-based companies in a competitive environment.

Listen to the Democratic presidential candidates argue over who proposes the most gigantic government-controlled health care system, with only one candidate (John Edwards) honest enough to admit such a scheme will require massive tax increases. Being a Democratic candidate means that good intentions are more important than rigorous analysis. The party expresses one constant concern: how to get "greedy" working stiffs to shift more of their income to the government sector. As that sector has gotten bigger, with more than half of all Americans receiving support from government or working directly for some agency, it's become easier to call for more government.

This "we know best" attitude also results in the party's constant embrace of the Nanny State -- the term applied to the endless laundry list of petty rules involving even our most personal choices. Because bans on, say, smoking at beaches or driving without seat belts or spanking children are for our "own good," a lot of folks forget that if you pass the above-mentioned rules, then you need lots of cops to arrest smokers, lots of jails in which to put non-seatbelt-wearers and lots of foster homes in which to put the spanked kids rescued from their "abusive" parents. The Nanny State squelches freedom.

I'm convinced that if many Dems had their way, there would be virtually no area of life beyond their prying eyes, no source of income beyond their prying hands (hence their hostility to property rights), no place where we could retreat to get away from their unceasing desire to regulate us, tax us, prod us, improve us, instruct us, educate us and control us. And, of course, there's nothing Dems love more than a good moral crusade (i.e., global warming) to bludgeon the rest of us into giving them more money and power.

That's why I stuck so long with the Republican Party, seeing it as -- in a two-party system -- the only counterbalance to the above-outlined lunacy. But the GOP has become just like the Democrats in pandering to special interest groups, advocating for large government, supporting new entitlements and social programs. Sure, Republican socialism goes only two-thirds as far as Democratic socialism. And, sure, Republicans are half-hearted about the new wasteful domestic programs they propose. But Republicans have their own agenda that truly excites them. It's even more expensive than the Democratic agenda, in terms of dollars and liberty.

Republicans seem to unite on one thing: support for war. Whenever America attacks a nation -- an increasingly common phenomenon, under either party's watch -- Republicans are in the front row, cheering. Never mind that the founders opposed a foreign policy devoted to slaying foreign dragons.

Republicans are the more zealous of the two parties about building up a security state with unbridled abilities to monitor and arrest people. Republicans, despite their blather about limited government, are unyielding in their support for government police agencies at all levels. They seem genuinely unconcerned about police abuses, government secrecy (unless practiced by a Democratic administration) and due process. To them, those are silly fixations of liberal judges. Republicans are so enamored of the "war on drugs" that they mostly oppose even the most modest reforms -- i.e., allowing sick people to smoke medical marijuana, allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp, focusing on treatment of drug-using offenders rather than hard prison time.

Many Republicans take an excessively punitive approach to life. They embrace the idea that everyone in prison is a hardened criminal, and continually pass new laws to ratchet up penalties for every offense imaginable. Hey, I'm all for keeping the really bad guys locked up, but the pendulum has swung too far in the "throw away the key" direction. Yet Republicans view any mention of injustices in our criminal justice system as tantamount to being "pro-criminal," and they seem perfectly happy just building more prisons to deal with the problem.

At the local level, by the way, Republican politicians have been just as hostile to property rights as Democrats as they seek to control everything that goes on within "their" city.

There are great people in both parties, and some good ideas that come from members of those parties. But, in general, I'd say a pox on both houses.

Now, for the answer to the question that most people have asked me: What party am I joining? Nothing wrong with registering as "Decline to State" and avoiding any new entangling alliances. But I'll hang around the GOP long enough to vote in the Republican primary for Rep. Ron Paul, the only consistent defender of freedom in Congress. Then I'll probably re-register as a big "L" Libertarian, if they don't mind having me. I've got some issues with the Libertarian Party -- i.e., I wish it were more serious about fielding winnable candidates in local races, and it has sported some weird candidates on the ballot at times. But it's filled with good, albeit cantankerous folks who love freedom. So I should fit in pretty well.

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