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Inconsistency, Thy Name is GOP

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.

6 thoughts on “Inconsistency, Thy Name is GOP

  1. It was much less than one hundred years. The death of the enumerated powers was declared officially dead in 1819 with McCulloch v Maryland.

    But the first national bank setup in 1791 and the subsequent rebellion by the Pennsylvanian farmers oppressed by the new bank was the first significant use of phantom “implied powers”.

    The irony is that the abuse of the “necessary and proper” clause used in McCulloch to support the notion of “implied powers” was foretold by Brutus in his first paper objection to adopting the second and current constitution of the US.

    So effective was this objection by Brutus and others [that the “necessary and proper” clause was a gateway to unlimited legislative mischief] that Madison in Federalist #45 stated that Brutus and his ilk were all wet. Specifically, Madison stated: The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. .

    I guess we will have to acknowledge that the opponents of the current constitution (Brutus, Centinel, and Federal Farmer) were right again and the proponents of the current Constitution (Hamilton, Madison, and Jay) were wrong yet again.

  2. Terrific post, Leslie, that sums up so much in such a small space, but in a manner that clearly points out the error of our ways.

    I would add the term ‘hypocrisy’ to your post as well – calling yourself a Republican while ignoring those core principles is nothing but.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking commentary!

  3. Gentlemen, thanks so much for your thoughtful comments.

    Nick, I completely agree with you that Hamilton’s National Bank was an early exercise of overreach. Hamilton’s grandiosity is why he and Madison so swiftly came to disagree with each other after writing the Federalist Papers side-by-side. But despite this and smaller overreaches, the principle of Constitutional fidelity remained much in tact, I think, until Progressivism wormed its way through America’s soul.

    RWL, good point about the Republican Party being new to the limited-government philosophy, and, yes, it certainly has its big-government proponents. But while the modern GOP strives to expand federal power, it also tries to pass itself off as the party of small government. And that dog don’t hunt.

    Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  4. The bigger problem, IMHO, is that the Republican Party is actually very new to the limited-government philosophy. The GOP was the big-governemnt party right up until the moment FDR took the oath of office in 1933.

    It took thirty-years for the Republicans to adopt a limited-government standard bearer (Goldwater) and fifty to get one elected (Reagan). We still have a lot of big-government Repubs here in Virginia, most of them from out west who’ve managed to hide it under social conservatism.

  5. It was less than a hundred years. I think a good look at Hamilton and the earliest foray’s into a National Bank are probably the best examples of the Federal Government going beyond its charter.

    Ironically, before the current incarnation of the Federal Banks, we actually learned our lessons about centralized banking, and let previous charters expire after we saw the effects.

    I’m waiting for us to come to our senses again.

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