Two hundred thirty-two years ago, the American colonies recast themselves as free and independent states with the words: “[T]o secure … rights, governments are instituted among men.” Eleven years later, delegates representing these states adopted a Constitution that established a federal government and explicitly listed what that government may do.
The quill pens with which the Constitution was drafted had scarcely been replaced in their wells before cries rang out for the government to venture beyond these enumerated functions and misuse its power to molly-coddle some at the expense of others. As early as 1794, Congress was asked to consider a resolution spreading $15,000 of taxpayers’ money to a group of French refugees. James Madison, remembered as the “Father of the Constitution”, shot down this early wealth transfer with the words: “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
For roughly a century, Mr. Madison’s integrity lived on in his successors. But a depression in the late 1800s gave rise to the so-called Progressive Era, which called for government to ignore its charter and start spreading wealth around. Within a couple of decades, Americans would be saddled with that favored tool of the redistributors: a graduated income tax. In another couple of decades, the New Deal expanded government with a panoply of programs and interventions. Then the Great Society extended its meddling fingers even further, to the point where it is nearly impossible to live without being the double-sided culprit and victim of state-sponsored plunder, at once ravaged by the moral cancer that afflicts both master and slave.
And so the temptation to rely on the federal government, as a matter of first resort, has become so ingrained that the Republican Party as a whole has forgotten how to stand firm against it, and even that it should. Instead of pointing out that it is simply not the proper purview of government to protect people living below sea level from hurricanes or to bail out irresponsible banks and borrowers from the consequences of their own errors, Republicans embraced these impossible, inappropriate tasks, and many others.
The result was the insidious undermining of the GOP’s commitment to limited government, the free market, and strict construction, and the Party’s well-deserved loss of the trust of its constituents.
The Democrats, on the other hand, are not afflicted with this split-personality disorder. They believe in misusing government to serve their own absurd dreams of utopia. They’re consistent; their disastrous policies match their ludicrous beliefs.
The Republicans’ disastrous policies contradict their correct, purported beliefs.
And a consistent message, no matter how asinine, will beat a correct philosophy undermined in word and deed every time.
If the GOP is serious about pulling America out of the moral morass into which it has dragged her, it must start by recovering its correct principles and adopting policies and rhetoric that match them.