If your roommate is a hippy, a peacenik, or a socialist, he may tell you that there are no liberal options in mainstream politics today. I argue that there are no conservative options. The neocons have alienated the core Republican values that permeate their ideology and once dominated their politics. If you relate to Republican ideology (Party of the Right take note), you’re probably better off voting Democrat.
I define the following to be core values of Republican ideology: government should not impose itself on the lives and choices of the people; big government, inflexible regulation, and barriers to free trade distort markets and exert onerous drag on the economy; government efforts to address social problems, such as racism, inequality, and poverty can be ineffective, corrupt, and even malignant, with unintended side effects. If you Google “Republican Principles,” you will find this rhetoric in the mission statements and Web sites of numerous Republican organizations, even though Republican policy has alienated these stated values.
Some obvious examples of Republican Party hypocrisy are sodomy laws in many conservative states and efforts to ban gay marriages. If the Republican Party thinks that the government should not impose its will on the private lives and choices of people, it should not seek to punish consensual acts of sex, practiced in privacy. At the federal level, Bush’s recent opposition to marriage and civil unions for same-sex partners reveals the Party’s loyalty to religious groups over any ideology of personal freedom and equal legal treatment for all. Furthermore, Bush’s goal to write an amendment to the constitution prohibiting gay marriages alienates the noble Republican ideal of states’ rights and local governance over federal mandate.
Republicans have abandoned their ideology in economic policy as well. The tax cuts, not a product of smaller government, are accompanied by increased government spending, resulting in recklessly irresponsible deficits. Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) sharp critique of his own party on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” reveals the Party’s deviance from good Republican policy. McCain accused his colleagues of “spending money like drunken sailors” and reminisced that the Republican Party was once the party of “fiscal discipline” and balanced budgets.
Coupled with a bloated military budget, the Bush tax cuts are producing a deficit that will require crippling taxes in the future just to keep up with interest payments. The disproportionate benefit of the cuts bestowed to the rich indicates that allegiance to wealth, not smaller government, motivated the cuts.
The GOP has abandoned its ideological focus in other economic policies as well. In 2002, a Republican Congress pushed through the Bush endorsed “Freedom to Farm Act,” which will increase farm subsidies by 70 percent over six years. Subsidies are market distorting and antithetical to the Republican doctrine of free markets to insure the most efficient use of labor and capital.
The subsidies also compromise American credibility in advocating free international trade. Trade is not free from government protection if developing nations, rich in agricultural production, have to compete in world markets against subsidized American goods. In WTO talks, the Americans lose bargaining ability because of their subsidies. If the Republicans want to talk free trade, they should practice it as well.
Our extended international military presence is perhaps the most striking example of Republican deviance from its stated ideology. As the party of small government, the Republican Party should advocate a less aggressive and interventionist military policy. Local conflict should be solved locally, not by a distant hegemonic power. Local solutions are consistent with the Republican values of personal responsibility and self-government.
As Republicans may argue that many social programs make people dependent on the government, they should similarly conclude that each intervention makes the world more and more dependent on our uncompromising and expensive military force. However, situations in Iraq, Liberia, and most recently Haiti have made it clear that Republicans are happy to intervene in, and indeed sometimes stir, international conflict. In accordance with Republican ideals, we should save our military forces for the defense of our own borders and retaliation in the event of an attack.
While neocons like Wolfowitz want to “democratize” the Middle East, we must ask ourselves if our government has the right to impose social values on other countries. If Republicans contend that the government does not have the responsibility or power to intervene in domestic social problems, it probably shouldn’t try to solve international ones or bring “freedom” to countries with different histories, cultures, and institutions like Iraq (it’s true that originally the justification for invasion was WMDs, but this reason has been largely dropped as the public discovered that Iraq was never a threat).
Certainly we do not have the right to manipulate other countries for our own economic interests. The sovereignty of other countries to be free from U.S. tyranny is as important as individual sovereignty to be free from government tyranny.
Republicans have alienated their ideology on a wide range of social, economic and international issues. If you believe in Republican values, you’d do well to vote against a Republican.
Samuel Taylor is a junior in Saybrook College.