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Perry vs. Romney? What Do Conservatives Really Want?

According to the left-leaning media and punditry, the race for the Republican nomination for president is dominated by right wing extremism. Positions as frightening as phasing out Medicare and getting rid of the Department of Education are being bandied about, with the only solace for liberals being the knowledge that those positions will moderate once the primaries are over and the Republican candidate tries to appeal to voters beyond the Republican base.

Supposedly, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney represent this “hard shift to the right” within the Republican Party, which is why they are in first and second place, respectively, in national polls. However, given the histories of these two men and their present stand on the issues, that narrative just doesn’t jibe with reality. In fact, if average conservative Americans really believe what they say they believe, it is difficult to figure out how any of them could cast a vote for Perry or Romney.

By “average conservative Americans,” I mean those people not in public office and unconnected to the political machine who vote in polls this early in the election cycle. Everyone knows these people. We work with them, socialize with them, live with them. Unlike most people we know, they feel strongly about politics and identify themselves as conservatives. They care enough to follow the nomination races over a year before the general election and can articulate an opinion, as opposed to the majority of Americans who will say something like “I haven’t made up my mind yet” to cover for the fact that they have no idea what any of the candidates in either party stand for.

I think that most would agree that this group of people generally say they believe in small government, free enterprise, traditional family and religious values, and (let’s face it) unqualified worship of the U.S. military, no matter how it is employed. These are the things that conservatives say that they are for.

It is not so much what they are for as what they are against that brought the Republican Party back from the brink in 2010. The Tea-powered victory in 2010 rode a wave of conservative backlash against Barack Obama and his socialist agenda of big government healthcare, environmentalism, and wealth redistribution. More than anything else, it was Obamacare that served as the rallying point. Anyone who attended a Tea Party event can attest to the fact that the overwhelming majority of the signs and speeches (when not glorifying the military) represented opposition to this evil, Marxist scheme. If only Obamacare could be repealed, America would return to the capitalist paradise
that it was under George W. Bush.

With that in mind, one has to ask how Mitt Romney is even in the race. After all, it was the Massachusetts healthcare plan supported and signed into law by Governor Romney that inspired Obamacare in the first place. Despite Romney’s insistence that there are “major differences” between the Massachusetts plan and Obama’s, the only tangible difference that he has been able to cite is that his plan was run at the state level and not forced on every American citizen as a “one-size fits all solution.” Other than that, I don’t believe that Romney or anyone else has been able to point out a fundamental difference between Romneycare and Obamacare.

So that’s what all of the noise was about in 2010? The Tea Party rallies, the signs, the angry town hall meetings? I thought that conservatives objected to the fundamental socialist principles embodied in Obamacare: the central economic planning, the government-enforced mandate, and the wealth redistribution. I don’t remember signs saying “let the states run Obamacare.” It was get rid of government-run healthcare (except for Medicare) or we’ll be living in the 1960’s-era Soviet Union before the next election.

“People can change,” some supporters might tell you, and that is certainly true. But has Romney really changed? As of this writing, the issues page on his website says, “States and private markets, not the federal government, hold the key to improving our health care system.”

Not just “private markets,” but “states and private markets” hold the key. It would seem that Romney hasn’t changed his mind at all about his state-run, big government socialist healthcare program. If Romney’s only defense of his plan is that it was run at the state level rather than the national level, then average American conservatives should be automatically vetoing his candidacy on Romneycare alone. Yet Romney led the race until Rick Perry entered, and is still a solid second.

That brings us to Rick Perry. He has also convinced his conservative supporters that he has changed his views since previously being a Democrat. That is certainly not unprecedented. Conservative icon Ronald Reagan was once a Democrat before becoming what most conservatives perceive as the quintessential conservative president. However, Perry wasn’t just a Democrat.

If there is any one person in second place to Obama as the arch-villain in conservative mythology, it is Al Gore, (or Algore as Rush Limbaugh refers to him). Gore is the undisputed leader of the liberal environmentalist movement, which lays the blame for the global warming that conservatives don’t even believe exists at the feet of free enterprise. If Obamacare was the peanut butter of the present administration’s  platform in 2008, then Cap and Trade was the jelly. Conservatives wanted no part of either, and see Gore as every bit the evil Marxist that Obama is because of his leadership on this issue.

Believe it or not, it was this Conservative Public Enemy No. 2 that Perry supported as a Democrat in the 1988 primaries. He not only supported Gore, but actually chaired his campaign in Texas. He could have supported the eventual Democratic nominee, Michael Dukakis, whose most striking difference to Gore was his refusal to bow to environmental interests at the expense of economic development, as documented in the New York Times. In other words, even as a Democrat, Perry backed a radical environmentalist extremist instead of a somewhat more moderate centrist.

Again, people can change their minds, but has Perry changed his? Does he oppose Cap and Trade on principle, as most conservatives say they do? Apparently he does not, according to his actions as governor. As with Romney on healthcare, Perry is completely supportive of a policy that conservatives say they are fundamentally opposed to, as long as the evil is perpetrated by the state governments rather than the feds. The chief difference between the Cap and Trade imposed on Texans and that imposed by the federal government seems to be that Texas measures emissions limits on the whole facility while the EPA measures it on every smokestack. Is that the sole objection that average conservatives have to Al Gore and his global warming (excuse me, climate change) agenda?

As with Romney, Perry’s support for a key plank in the socialist-liberal agenda should be a deal killer for anyone remotely describing themselves as conservative. Yet not only has Perry been able to sidestep any criticism on this position, he’s currently leading the nomination race by a comfortable margin.

So, what do conservatives really want? If these polls are any indication, they want a good-looking former governor with a suspiciously liberal background who is good at spouting hardcore conservative rhetoric and then doing exactly the opposite once he gets into office. In other words, they want Ronald Reagan, the former New Deal Democrat who suddenly became a libertarian-leaning ultra-conservative and rode that rhetoric into the White House, where he promptly doubled the size and power of the federal government, raising taxes six times and further empowering the Department of Education that he promised to abolish.

It’s not as if there are not alternatives. Ron Paul, currently running third, actually believes in the principles conservatives say they hold dear and has voted consistently according to them as a 12-term Congressman. He is on the record vowing to get rid of the Department of Education, along with Energy, Commerce, and most of the others. You won’t hear anything like that from Romney or Perry, yet it’s an uphill battle for Paul, supposedly because of his foreign policy positions.

But what about Herman Cain and Gary Johnson? As a libertarian, I don’t buy into the “government should be run like a business” philosophy, but most conservatives do. Both Cain and Johnson take this approach, with Johnson promising to deliver a balanced budget proposal in his first year, including abolishing the Department of Education. Yet these two candidates aren’t even on the map with conservative voters.

With several nationally-televised debates completed and plenty more coming, conservative voters have plenty of alternatives in selecting a candidate. According to their most fiercely-held beliefs, conservatives should be voting “anybody but Perry or Romney,” yet those two lead the race. One has to wonder where all of these supposed “right wing extremists” are hiding.

Contrary to the liberal media narrative that the Republican Party has shifted hard to the right and is fielding “extremist” candidates to run against Obama, the primary race looks more like business as usual. Former liberals and big government conservatives are railing against government to energize their conservative supporters, while at the same time openly supporting cornerstones of the liberal agenda. If Perry and Romney are an indication of where conservative voters are headed in 2012, then the Democrats have nothing to worry about, even if Obama loses.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

© Thomas Mullen 2011

>Collectivist Republicans Losing Their Fight

>For eight years, the only reasonable commentary on government policy came from the left. While George W. Bush was president, supporters of the Democratic Party correctly protested the evil war of aggression in Iraq, the abominable use of torture by our military and intelligence agencies, and the sinister aspect of our own government listening to our phone calls, reading our e-mails, and infiltrating our peaceful clubs and organizations as part of the tyrannical War on Terror. Regardless of their motivation, all of these criticisms from the left were valid. The Bush administration, especially while enjoying the support of a Republican majority in Congress, was one of the most damaging administrations to our liberty of any in recent memory.

Of course, these persistent attacks by the Democrats were not really motivated out of a love of liberty. They simply represented a rival gang appealing to the American public’s dissatisfaction with the Bush administration for their own political ends. If anyone doubts this, simply put your ear to the ground and listen for a moment. While the Obama administration marches forward in expanding the War on Terror, fights in court to solidify the government’s right to spy on its own citizens, and has actually confirmed the government’s right to torture under the guise of prohibiting it (as long as said torture is called by another name), all protests from the left against these abominable practices have stopped (kudos to Rachel Maddow and Glen Greenwald who are both notable exceptions).

Since it is apparent that the Democrats are not going to reverse any of these Bush-era incursions against liberty, we can see what President Obama really meant by “change.” While breaking every promise he made to his supporters regarding war, torture, and domestic spying, he has launched an all-out assault on what is left in America of the individual rights to property and free enterprise. His American Recovery and Reinvestment Act handout to existing welfare programs instead of to the “shovel-ready projects” that he claimed the bill would fund, his health care “reform” initiative that will merely attempt to implement programs that have already failed in Europe and Canada, and his destruction of contract law in stiffing secured creditors in the GM bankruptcy are only the beginning.

While all of this might seem gloomy, it should at least represent a political opportunity for the Republicans. Finally, the Republicans have a chance to start making sense and appealing to the natural sense of justice inside each American that was the reason for their political demise in the first place. However, while it might appear on the surface that they are taking advantage of this opportunity, they are not. While railing against what they call Obama’s socialism, they fail to recognize the reason that they will fail in opposing him: their arguments are as collectivist as Obama’s.

Consider their arguments against “Obamacare.” They argue that a government-run program would be inefficient, would eliminate competition through artificially low prices subsidized by tax revenues, and would result in lower quality care and rationing. All of these things are true.

Regarding the government’s takeover of the automobile industry, they argue that the government doesn’t know how to make cars, that forcing the American manufacturers to try to make “greener cars” will only raise their costs and make them less competitive, and that without eliminating the labor union contracts that brought down the American automakers in the first place, they can never compete with foreign automakers, not even those operating in the United States. All of this is true as well.

As just one more example, the Republicans criticize President Obama’s call to expand public works projects, including adding 275,000 jobs under Americorps. They argue that these are not “real jobs,” that once the projects are completed the jobs will go away, and that government cannot create real, sustainable economic growth. Only the private sector can create jobs that last. Again, all true.

While all of these arguments are valid, they are share the same flaw: they are all made based upon what they believe will achieve the best aggregate economic results. Their arguments amount to “the beehive will make more honey under our system than theirs.” Like the Democrats, their positions all proceed from the belief that the “needs of society” or the “greater good” outweigh the rights of the individual. If anyone doubts this, then they should take a few moments to read a transcript of John McCain’s acceptance speech upon receiving the Republican nomination for president last year.

The correct argument against all of President Obama’s programs is that they violate the individual rights that government is supposed to protect. Government is an institution of justice, not economics. It exists solely to protect the life, liberty, and property of its constituents. The minute that government attempts to achieve anything beyond this, it must necessarily destroy those rights in the process. As Thomas Jefferson said,

To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association–‘the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”[1]

When government protects life, liberty, and property, enforces the sanctity of contracts, and punishes only violence or fraud, the “free market” that results does produce higher economic productivity and a more equitable distribution of wealth. The beehive does in fact make more honey when the individual rights of the bees are respected. However, when those rights are violated in an attempt to manage the results, the wealth-generating mechanism is destroyed. There is no conflict between individual rights and the needs of society. Securing the rights of every member of society is society’s greatest need.

These are supposed to be the central principles of the Republican Party. Their name itself should be an enormous public relations advantage for them over the Democrats, as our Constitution guarantees us a republican form of government – not a democratic one. Yet what word did we hear from George Bush to describe our nation and its philosophy for all eight years of his presidency? “Democracy.” There is a good reason for that.

Despite their talk about free markets, capitalism, and smaller government, the Republicans have rarely practiced these principles over the past century. The closest they came to fielding a presidential candidate that intended to govern by them was Barry Goldwater, and we the people handed him the most one-sided defeat in American history. After that, Republicans have decided to “talk like libertarians but govern like European social democrats,” as Thomas Dilorenzo so eloquently put it.

After giving the greatest inaugural address of the 20th century (and yes, I am counting John Kennedy’s), Ronald Reagan went on to save Social Security. He had his chance to make a stand and point out that nothing with the word “social” in it was likely to work, besides it being abhorrent to liberty, yet he contradicted everything he said in that wonderful first speech and raised taxes to perpetuate American socialism for another generation. He also ran deficits that exploded the national debt, started the Rex 84 program (the dreaded FEMA camps), and launched the War on Drugs. So much for the “Goldwater Republican.”

George Bush similarly came into office talking about “smaller government,” and “free markets (not to mention his “humble foreign policy”), yet he expanded federal entitlements more than any president since LBJ and cheered on Clinton’s “ownership society,” whereby people who couldn’t afford houses got loans for them anyway because they got to use other people’s money as collateral. Like so many of his Republican predecessors, George Bush’s idea of “free markets” was merely that his friends on Wall Street and in corporate America made as much money as possible, regardless of the fact that they did so because of artificial market conditions created by the Federal Reserve, Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, and the spider web of regulations that are now written by the very corporations that they are supposed to govern. All of these institutions represent government interference with the free market, fundamentally violating property rights and insulating government-favored corporations from competition. If that is “capitalism,” then Stalin and Mussolini were history’s greatest capitalists.

That brings us to newcomer Sarah Palin. Somehow, she seems to have acquired immunity from criticism of her economic policies despite being the most overt Republican socialist alive. As governor, she put a windfall tax on oil companies operating in Alaska and redistributed their profits to Alaskan citizens. She says that the oil in the ground under Alaska belongs to “the people of Alaska,” instead of to those who risk and spend their own capital to drill for it. When Hugo Chavez did that, it was socialism. When a Republican governor did it, it was “standing up to big oil.”

So, the Republicans are out for now and the Democrats are presently in a position of unchecked power. The minute that they gained the advantage, they began proposing monstrous programs that could truly destroy the last vestiges of our republic. As a result, it is tempting for many to think that the Republicans can be “reformed” or “infiltrated.” Perhaps their decisive defeat has “scared them straight” and will force them to adhere to their supposed principles. One might say to oneself, “At least their rhetoric invokes some of our founding principles. If only we could redirect them while they are rudderless, perhaps we could use their political infrastructure to champion liberty.”

The Democrats have never tried to hide what they are about, least of all during this past election cycle. They sold us socialism and they are going to deliver. We may have to learn the hard way how evil and destructive that system is.

On the other hand, the Republicans have continually sold us free markets, smaller government, individual liberty, and then delivered…socialism. One could make a compelling argument that the misconception that capitalism causes the problems in our mixed economy while socialism provides the solutions is due in large part to people mistaking the economic policies of the Republican Party as “capitalism.” It is not. It is corporatism at best, and fascism at worst – if indeed there is a difference between the two. They combine that with at least as much support for the mammoth entitlement programs as the Democrats. Reagan said that FDR was the U.S. president that he admired most. That really says it all.

The prospect of the present Democratic regime left unchallenged should horrify every sane person with any desire at all to live his own life and have any control over his future. For over a century, our conditioned response in times like these has been to run from one gang of thieves to the other. The Republicans are now on deck, warming up with the familiar big government program of military deficit spending, “compassionate conservative” welfarism, and their hypocritical pandering to the “Chrisitan Coalition.” Four years of misery under the Democrats may be just enough to allow 51 percent of Americans to forget how bad the Bush years really were.

What if this time it were different? Instead of doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result, what if we let the Republicans die? They are gasping for air now, without a viable candidate for president and without a prayer of making up ground in the Congress. Their demise would be nothing unprecedented – political parties have come and gone in America for most of our history. The Federalists, the Whigs, the Democratic-Republicans – all of these put presidents into office but eventually went away. The demise of a political party in the United States is long overdue. Imagine if the libertarian wing of the Republican Party abandoned it, making it impossible for them to gain either the White House or a majority in Congress for the foreseeable future? That would spell the beginning of the end of the bipartisan tyranny that we have lived under for the past century.

There is no danger of an indefinite Democratic reign within our government. President Obama and his Democrats are not just going to fail. They are going to fail spectacularly. Hopefully that will be apparent by the next presidential election. If not, then certainly by 2014 or 2016 it will be obvious to the whole world that Obama’s brand of socialism not only should not continue, but cannot continue. Socialism is unsustainable and America has practiced it for far too long. Its inevitable self-destruction is at hand. The present Democratic platform merely steps on the gas pedal as the vehicle approaches the cliff. We are going over the edge sooner than most people think.

When that happens, there is going to be a political backlash against the Democrats that will make the last Republican defeat look like a split decision. What if at that time there was no Republican Party left to bring in more of the same? Imagine the coalition that might be formed to fill that void. Libertarian Republicans, disenfranchised Democrats who truly supported Obama’s anti-war, anti-torture, anti-spying head fake, and all of those independents that presently vote for the “lesser of two evils” could come together. Who knows who else might come out of the woodwork and vote if there truly were something different on the table?

Only when at least one of these criminal gangs is dismembered will there ever be any “change” in Washington. With the Republicans out of the way and the Democrats completely discredited, the chance for a true revolution in Washington couldn’t be better. You may say I’m a dreamer, but life without Republicans should at least be considered. With the taste of Bush and Cheney fresh on our tongues, what do we have to lose?

[1] Jefferson, Thomas Letter to Joseph Milligan April 6, 1816 (regarding Destutt de Tracy‘s Treatise on Political Economy) from The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 14 edited by Albert Ellery Bergh and Andrew A. Lipscomb The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association 1904 pg. 466

Check out Tom Mullen’s new book, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. Right Here!

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>Moderation: A Virtue or Tyranny’s Secret Weapon?

>“Don’t go to extremes.” What could be sounder, more reasonable advice? Moderation is extolled everywhere as one of the highest virtues. Drink in moderation. Enjoy good food in moderation. Take an interest in your favorite hobby – in moderation. Too much of a good thing can be just as bad for you as poison, right? “Moderation is the silken string running through the pearl chain of all virtues,” said Joseph Hall.

In civics classes, we are taught that “democracy” functions based upon compromise. Compromise brings people together. Compromise is the only way that conflicting interests can exist together peacefully. Moderation is unselfish. It respects the interest of all parties, and is willing to “give and take.” Moderation is fairness.

On the website http://moderaterepublican.net/, Moderate Republicans are described as believing:

“…that government does have a basic social responsibility to help those in need; a belief that the nation does have international responsibilities.”
“Moderate lawmakers are consensus builders. But then again the art of legislating is that of compromise, negotiation, and recognition that other views have merit. This does not mean Moderates compromise core values, but rather they understand the complexities of passing intelligent legislation that benefits the greater good.”
“Moderates were the first internationalists. The nation, they contended, had a critical role to play in advancing democracy in the world.”

I’m not sure how this platform would be considered substantially different than that of Woodrow Wilson’s in 1912. Yet, this is without question the platform of George W. Bush and the present Republican party, their 2000 campaign promises notwithstanding. The so-called “neo-conservatives” are nothing more than moderate Republicans. What could be wrong with that?

The media often describes American politics in 2008 as “extremely polarized.” Yet, any sober analysis of American politics would conclude that the debate is now between centrist, moderate Republicans and ultra-liberal, socialist Democrats. A Republican president and Congress have passed increases in entitlement spending greater than any since the 1960’s. A Democratic congresswoman has threatened to nationalize the oil industry, scarcely eliciting a mention in the media, much less a cry for her censure or impeachment. Individual liberty is so far off the table in political debate that it produces almost no results when searched on major news sites (besides the occasional article on Ron Paul). How did we get here?

I suggest that extolling the virtues of moderation has played a major role. In political debate, we are given the impression that a range of issues constitute moral dilemmas where competing but equally worthy interests must be considered and an equitable compromise reached. How do we enact legislation that supports labor while not constricting economic growth? How do we fight hate crimes while preserving free speech? How do we support Israel without inflaming further hatred among Muslims? How do we ensure healthcare to all Americans while maintaining fiscal responsibility?

None of these dilemmas are real. A government limited to its proper role faces no conflict. The litmus test in any political debate is simple: Whose liberty is being threatened? By whom? The only proper answer for the government is to defend liberty.

Using this standard, all of the so-called dilemmas evaporate. How do we provide healthcare? Government does not. It has no way to provide anything without attacking liberty. How do we support Israel without incurring more terrorism? We don’t. We take no sides and try to be friends with both. If they attack each other, we mind our own business. Our liberty is not threatened by age-old, regional conflicts on the other side of the world. How do we support both labor and management? We do neither. We enforce the sanctity of contracts and otherwise keep government out of it.

When it comes to wine, women, and song, a little moderation is a very healthy thing. When it comes to questions of liberty, I suggest that it is a deadly poison. If liberty is one extreme and slavery the other, how could we ever benefit from a compromise? Reflecting on the choices we’ve been offered over the past 100 years, we have constantly had to choose between giving up a little liberty or giving up a great deal. Government never proposes to get smaller or surrender any control. When a new government program or initiative is proposed, the choices never include more liberty. In the best case scenario, moderation carries the day, a compromise is reached, and only a little liberty is lost. However, the next debate starts from there.

Seen in this light, it is clear why an establishment bent on socialism or more government control would extol the virtues of moderation and compromise. When it comes to issues of liberty, moderation is like the old saying, “heads I win, tails you lose.” Extremism is an easy position to vilify – nobody likes an extremist. Even John McCain’s rhetoric (when he remembers his lines correctly) has shifted imperceptibly from “terrorists” to “extremists” when talking about threats in the Middle East.

I have a friend that is a few years younger than me that has always been a Democrat. Often, when we’ve debated politics, he has argued that the Republicans are crooks, the party of ignorance and religious fundamentalism. Our age difference is small but critical in that he has never known a Republican party that could be described any differently. A few months ago, he called me very excited about a television special he saw about Barry Goldwater. He went on for several minutes telling me what I already knew, that Goldwater was “a real American,” “a true patriot,” and that “there is no one in politics that is anything like him.” My friend does not remember a Republican party that would nominate such a man.

It was the present “neo-con” platform of the moderate Republicans that Goldwater defeated in 1964, although he lost the general election by a landslide. Why did he lose? He was characterized as an extremist, a label he welcomed, saying,

“Let me remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

Critics of libertarianism often label the movement “extremist.” The most common obfuscation of the debate is to argue that “liberty doesn’t mean that you can do anything you want,” or that “liberty doesn’t mean no government at all,” as if either of these represented the true positions of libertarians. However, these arguments are effective because they use the buzz word “extremism” and count on a public that will hear that word and accept the rest without critical analysis. They certainly would not consider that perhaps extremism in the defense of liberty is a virtue.

Perhaps the only way to truly ensure liberty is to banish moderation and compromise completely. As crazy as that may sound at first, a little reflection reveals otherwise. If liberty means never to initiate the use of force, what is the moderate position? Initiating a little force? If liberty says that taking the fruits of someone’s labor without their consent is stealing, what is an acceptable compromise? Stealing a little? If liberty says that a person’s life is his own to do with as he wishes, so long as he does not violate the rights of others, what does the moderate say? Is his life only partly his own? Before rejecting extremism in the defense of liberty, revisit these questions and ask yourself this: Do we really want liberty in moderation?

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