Sunday, May 06, 2007

Steven Greenhut, Your Drink Of Choice Is On Me

Would that the national Republican Party establishment were so wise as to listen to Steven Greenhut (seen in this morning's Houston Chronicle) and those like him...

Have you ever been in one of those destructive long-term relationships that, at some point, you really just needed to end?

I'm not referring to my marriage to my lovely wife of 23 years, but to my 25-year relationship with the Republican Party. In recent years especially, I have found fewer things in common with the party. I feel used and abused. We've obviously grown in different and incompatible directions.

It's a groan-inducing cliché, I know, but it applies here: I didn't leave the party; the party left me.


Under Republican leadership, the federal government has expanded – without even including war-related spending – far more quickly than it expanded under Bill Clinton. And when it comes to security matters, Republicans have been zealous in giving the feds additional powers to trample our privacy and liberties. Republicans have been unwavering in their support for embarking on nation-building experiments of the sort that traditional conservatives would abhor. The presidential candidates most committed to a muscular central government – Rudy Giuliani and John McCain – are leading the pack.

Now even the rhetoric of freedom is mostly gone. Most "mainstream" Republicans don't talk about liberty anymore. The advocates for this emerging New Republican Party are becoming surprisingly outspoken. A good example is New York Times "conservative" columnist David Brooks, a former editor at the Weekly Standard, the neoconservative journal that shilled vociferously for war in Iraq. (Hint: The results of that policy might offer some warning to Republicans before they jump too quickly on his latest advice.)

In a column reprinted today (beginning on Page 1 of Commentary), Brooks rebutted those of us who argue that "in order to win again, the GOP has to reconnect with the truths of its Goldwater-Reagan glory days. It has to once again be the minimal-government party, the maximal-freedom party, the party of rugged individualism, and states' rights. This is folly."

Obviously unaware of the ever-growing Leviathan around him, Brooks claims that the old days of oppressive government are over. The idea of limited government – that silly, fuddy-duddy notion advanced by our Constitution, and ensconced in the Bill of Rights – is so 18th century. Time for something more appropriate for our time!

He's got a new idea (actually, the oldest of ideas, the one that says that government and power are what matters, and that freedom and individualism are outdated). And he's even got a catchy slogan for it. He calls it, Security leads to freedom.

Forgive me a Dave Barry moment, but I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. Doesn't this sound like something out of an Orwell novel? War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Security is freedom. Brooks argues that the "liberty vs. power paradigm" is passé. Government doesn't necessarily mean less personal liberty, he writes. Modern voters aren't worried about an overweening state. Instead, the public wants to be protected from the complex modern threats to their existence: "Islamic extremism, failed states, global competition, global warming, nuclear proliferation, a skills-based economy, economic and social segmentation."

As they say, read the whole thing. (And YES, Mr. Greenhut, Brooks and his kind do indeed sound frighteningly Orwellian!)
I was almost surprised that he did not mention Mr. Giuliani's now-infamous quote on freedom being about authority, but that's really a minor quibble, as Greenhut described to a tee what's wrong with today's national Republican Party and a certain portion of the "conservative" punditocracy. I say that because I really don't think David Brooks is really any more of a real conservative than fellow NYT columnists Paul Krugman or Bob Herbert. Call me loony for that if you want, but anyone who argues for the things Brooks argues for is no friend of conservatives, or, for that matter, libertarian liberals. And furthermore, I don't think it's terribly farfetched to say that the ideals of Brooks and his ilk are what's taking the country that much further away from what the Founding Fathers intended it to be, with apologies to Ronald Reagan, the last, best hope of free men on earth. These people are going to be the death of the Republican Party -- and then where will we conservatives be? My money says the answer is going to be "marginalized dissidents in today's party system." I hope that does not come to pass, but I am more and more afraid that it will.