Submitted by D.R. Tucker on Sat, 01/09/2010 - 05:13
Can we all acknowledge that limited government, as a political concept, is hooey?
In truth, there are very few conservative Republicans who actually believe in the concept of limited government; if they did, they’d be explicit Libertarians instead. Most conservative Republicans believe that the federal government does have a role in protecting what Rush Limbaugh has often described as “the traditions and values that made this country great.”
Most conservative Republicans believe the federal government should restrict abortion for birth-control purposes, should maintain the definition of marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution, should strive to prevent euthanasia, should not officially sanction embryonic stem-cell research, etc. In short, most conservative Republicans do believe the federal government should have a morals clause.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the belief that the federal government should operate according to Judeo-Christian tenets. The problem, of course, is selling this belief to a secularized country.
If most conservative Republicans are not, in fact, for limited government, but are instead in favor of a federal government that promotes the philosophy of “ordered liberty” (that is to say, personal freedom within the confines of Judeo-Christian principles), then why not defend this view in the arena of ideas?
Where is the danger in turning federal elections into de facto debates on the propriety of Judeo-Christian conservatism vs. secular progressivism? Why shouldn’t we have races in which Republican candidates reaffirm their beliefs in “ordered liberty”, while Democratic candidates defend their “open society” views?
Most conservative Republicans still admire George W. Bush. While they recognize that Bush was an unpopular figure towards the end of his second term, they still see him as a misunderstood figure who did what he thought was right according to his faith-influenced philosophy.
The GOP’s base still loves Bush because they see him as one of their own—a committed Christian who made mistakes but whose heart was in the right place. Even if his deeds failed, his mission was noble.
Bush, of course, failed to limit the size and scope of the federal government—but the GOP’s base did not really care about that. Bush was, and is, admired by the party faithful because he was a traditionalist Christian subjected to constant rhetorical scourging by secular progressives.
The GOP’s conservative Christian base wanted, and still wants, a champion on earth—someone who will stand fast against the licentious, do-what-you-feel left. Bush’s 2000 campaign was borne of the Clinton-era culture wars; the party’s base saw Bush as someone who would, on a certain level, redeem the White House.
Progressives often ask why conservative Republicans didn’t protest Bush during his free-spending, big-government days. The question answers itself. To conservative Republicans, Bush’s domestic spending was inextricably linked to his Christian values; supporting McCain-Feingold was his way of throwing the moneychangers out of the temple, and backing No Child Left Behind and the Medicare prescription drug benefit was his way of taking care of the least of these. (A desire to take care of the least of these presumably also explains his involvement in the Terri Schiavo case.)
Obviously, conservative Republicans who gave Bush a pass because of the religious nature of his actions are unwilling to give President Obama the same benefit of the doubt, since conservatives see him as the ultimate secularist. To the conservative mind, there is no higher motive for Obama’s actions; he just wants power.
The 2000s proved that most conservative Republicans do not favor limited government; they favor Judeo-Christian government, since they see Judeo-Christian government as presenting the fairest deal for all members of society, including those not of the racial or religious majority. (Perhaps this explains why conservative Republicans are so enthusiastic about a committed Christian such as Sarah Palin; even though Palin will, in all likelihood, not restrict government growth if she’s elected President, she will likely defend Judeo-Christian principles in Washington, as Bush was perceived to have done.)
The Tea Partiers should be aware that they will not, and cannot, realize their goal of limiting the size and scope of the federal government. Neither major political party can accommodate their views. The Democratic Party believes in big government run by secular progressives; the Republican Party believes in big government run by conservative Christians. This is the way it has been for decades. It will not change anytime soon, or anytime later. All one can hope for is that the federal government bureaucracy is run efficiently by whichever party is in charge—and, of course, that God blesses America instead of damning the country.