Greenhut: Republicans pay lip service to liberty

O. C. Register editorial writer Steven Greenhut is headed for the Republican National Convention – and on the way out of town he has nailed the Republican Party with an editorial about the utter failure of today’s GOP to embrace liberty.  Here are a few excerpts from Greenhut’s editorial, which is one for the ages:

My main question already has been answered in the negative. Do Republicans still care about liberty?They talk a lot about Ronald Reagan, who reshaped the country’s political debate by talking eloquently about limited government and freedom. But Republicans have become Reagan idolators. They throw around his name, but they have mostly abandoned his principles and positive disposition. They are stuck in the past and seem unable to recast a freedom agenda that can resonate with the voting public today. McCain may be the odds-on favorite to win now, but if he does it will be by default rather than by appealing to the freedom-loving ideals of this nation.

Look at the ghouls who will get center stage at the GOP convention. Tuesday night features Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and presidential candidate who is the living embodiment of this quotation he made in 1994 (well before 9/11): “Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.”

Another prominent speaker Tuesday is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a tax-raising Baptist minister who told voters that it was their Christian duty to battle climate change. “Republicans need to be Republicans,” he said. “The greatest threat to classic Republicanism is not liberalism; it’s this new brand of libertarianism, which is social liberalism and economic conservatism, but it’s a heartless, callous, soulless type of economic conservatism because it says ‘look, we want to cut taxes and eliminate government. If it means that elderly people don’t get their Medicare drugs, so be it. If it means little kids go without education and health care, so be it.'”

Get it: It’s heartless and soulless to cut back government spending. Nancy Pelosi couldn’t make the case for big government any better!

There aren’t any pro-liberty Republicans slated to speak any night. Of course, Dubya, whose promotion of war, massive expansions of federal spending and attacks on civil liberties epitomizes the current state of the GOP, will play a key role, as will “Republican In Name Only” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democrat Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

Going through the convention schedule, I found nothing to offer solace. I did find a convention theme of national service. As McCain, who models himself after Progressive President Teddy Roosevelt (the first major U.S. politician to call for socialized health care), explained in a convention press statement, “My friends, each and every one of us has a duty to serve a cause greater than our own self-interest.” How this differs from Democratic Party calls for national service is anyone’s guess.

The founders didn’t argue that Americans have a “duty” to serve the government or even their neighbors. It’s the government that has the duty – to protect our liberties and stay out of our lives. Free people are welcome to devote their lives to serve their fellow man, but they also are perfectly welcome to serve their own self-interest, as long as they don’t directly harm anyone else. McCain’s rhetoric sounds strikingly familiar to the rhetoric of service embodied by every authoritarian regime. While the GOP convention press room had nothing to say about liberty, it did have a lot to say about “giving back” to the community and participating in an Earth Day program along the Mississippi River. Ugh!

Who can blame the liberty-minded for seeking friendlier locales, such as the Libertarian Party? Yet, typical of what I hear, Republican activist Matt Cunningham, editor of O.C.’s Red County blog, recently took shots at the LP and argued that, instead of helping its candidates, who sometimes “tip races in favor of Democratic candidates,” serious libertarians “ought to leave en masse and register as Republicans, and bring their energy for limited government to bear on pushing the GOP back onto its philosophical moorings.”

But how could any libertarian feel at home in a party that is so bad on government growth, international meddling, civil liberties and personal freedom? A libertarian joining the modern GOP is like a country music enthusiast joining a punk-rock club. They both, arguably, make music, but there isn’t much in common beyond that.

Fortunately, I found one pro-liberty event during the convention week. GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul will be leading a Campaign for Liberty event, which bills itself this way: “Our speakers will clearly articulate the need to reduce the size of government, maximize freedom and return to the Constitution. We will call upon the Republican Party to come home to its historic values and show them the path back to electoral success.” Ironically, it won’t take place as part of the GOP convention, but will be held independently at the Target Center in the neighboring city of Minneapolis. Apparently, St. Paul isn’t a big enough for both Republicans andbelievers in liberty.

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"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.