On Tuesday, January 17th, Ed Gillespie made a campaign stop in Harrisonburg, Virginia. To the best of my knowledge, he is the first candidate of any political party to come to the city. He spoke in front of a rather impressive crowd of about 60 or so individuals during the mid-afternoon at the Agrodolce restaurant.
Personally, I though Mr. Gillespie gave a great speech, much improved from any of the speeches I heard him give during his run for U.S. Senate in 2014. He spoke of the need for limiting government and, as opposed some members of the Republican Party these days, seemed to speak against crony capitalism. Unlike many first-time candidates, although Ed Gillespie spoke about his personal story, it wasn’t the central focus of his talk. My only real disappointment was that I wish he would have taken questions from the audience, but his campaign seemed to be in a bit of a time crunch, clearing out of the restaurant soon after the speech was over.
The biggest concern I had about the event had nothing to do with Mr. Gillespie or his campaign, who again put together a quality campaign stop on his kickoff tour, but rather some the individuals who attended. One could label quite a few of them as establishment Republicans and, while I’ve known some of them for a decade or more, many have unfortunately proven themselves untrustworthy and, just as troubling, more desirous of accumulating power and demanding loyalty to the GOP than advancing any other political principle. I know that some good, honest, principled people are supporting Ed Gillespie too, and there were some at the Harrisonburg event as well, but I have to say I sensed I was out of place. Borrowing a line from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, I felt like a pilgrim in an unholy land.
But, if Ed Gillespie and his campaign can hold more events like the one in Harrisonburg today, it will likely solidify his status as the frontrunner for the GOP nomination.
On Saturday night, before sitting down to play Die Macher with a handful of friends, I had the opportunity to speak with a local professor about politics. A self-identified Republican, he voiced his frustration with the direction that the party has been heading. In an earlier conversation he mentioned that although he had donated to the party in the past, he has not done so in some time.
As a libertarian within the GOP, the professor said that he now has little in common with the other factions in the party. Although the Republican Party used to be an advocate for both fiscal responsibility and limited government, those haven’t been primary concerns in many years. Amusingly, the professor has a Republican elephant magnet on his refrigerator, but it is turned upside down as if the party were now dead.
Looking at the matter objectively, what have limited government advocates gained in the past 15 years with the Republican Party? Yes, in the first half George W. Bush was president and in the second Barack Obama has been at the head. All the while the Republican Party has been in control of Congress more often than the Democrats. But the policies under both the Republican and Democratic leadership have been fairly consistent. We’ve gotten a massive increase in our national debt and an expansion of government programs including: No Child Left Behind, Common Core, Medicare Part D, Obamacare, the Patriot Act, NDAA, continual war in the Middle East, the TSA, the Department of Homeland Security, curtailing of our civil liberties, extrajudicial killings of foreign civilians, scores of executive orders, and the list goes on.
As the professor lamented, far too many social conservatives seem to tolerate or even embrace these intrusions so long as Republican politicians continue to offer lip service to God in the public sphere while national defense Republicans howl at any sort of cost saving measures regarding our armed forces or the idea of cutting back on our ever-expanding policing of the world.
Perhaps the worst part is that limited government conservatives are actively being fooled (or more realistically they are fooling themselves). For example, when the 10th district of Virginia was deciding upon a Republican candidate to replace Frank Wolf, anyone who had been paying attention would know that based upon her rhetoric and record that Barbara Comstock was not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination. After she won the nomination and the election many seemed surprised when she voted more like the Democrats than any other national Republican legislator in the state. Or how about Paul Ryan? When he campaigned for vice president in 2012, I had an opportunity to listen to him in person and came to the unfortunate conclusion that he was about as committed to limiting the power of government and reducing the national debt as my own representative, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6). It seems odd that people are now calling Speaker of the House Paul Ryan a traitor after he pushed through the latest budget given that his track record showed that that was exactly what he was going to do if he were given such authority. Isn’t it painfully obvious that neither Paul Ryan nor Barbara Comstock share our ideology? Therefore, why in the world should we support them?
Over at Bearing Drift Brian Schoeneman bemoans the infighting in the Republican Party, declaring that the libertarian Republicans “openly flaunt their unwillingness to stand by the Party when it does things they disagree with, going so far as to run and support third party candidates that have cost Republicans victories”. However, the better question one should ask is, why should liberty-minded folks continue to support the Republican Party? In the last decade and a half can you name even one federal department that has been eliminated or drastically curtailed as a result of Republican leadership? Can you point out more examples of ways that the Republican Party has reduced government involvement in our lives…or ways that they have expanded it?
I would argue that regardless of party Americans desperately need a Margaret Thatcher. After World War II the Conservative Party more or less surrendered on the issue of limiting the power of the British government, much like the current Republican Party, instead trying to make the bloated national government as efficient as possible. However, Thatcher upset the wisdom of the day by openly questioning government involvement in a variety of areas that used to be under the control of the private sector, charities, or churches and, once she became prime minister, instituted policies which began to dismantle government control. How many leaders of today’s Republican Party are willing to take such a step? Certainly not Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, not Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and not most of the Republican or Democratic candidates running for president.
The traditional three-legged stool of the GOP is falling apart because the party has almost completely abandoned the tenets of liberty and limited government. The party is led by men and women who treat power and not principle as the holy grail of politics and are willing to sacrifice anything to achieve it. When these people don’t get the influence that they so desperately desire, rather than blaming their failed policies they blame us for not blindly following them! If the Republican leadership is unwilling or unable to abide by the limitations set forth in the Constitution, perhaps liberty-minded folks ought to take the advice of Dr. Henry Jones at the end of Indiana Jones &The Last Crusade: