One of the beneficial side effects of George W. Bush's so far disastrous presidency -- kind of like, Man, that six months of chemotherapy really sucked, but hey, I lost 30 pounds -- is that it has all but vaporized the longstanding myth that Republicans, even those who claim to be dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, really give a rat's ass about smaller government.
Libertarian-leaning conservatives, in particular, are getting pissed in a big way, as well they should be. I'll give you an example in my friend Josh, whom I've known and sparred with politically since college. Josh gives me plenty of grief for being a bleeding-heart pinko liberal, and I fire right back at him with plenty of pointed questions about how, if he's such a big libertarian, he's always pulling the "R" lever when shit-or-get-off-the-pot time rolls around every November. But at the risk of sounding patronizing, Josh has made some big strides lately, and he's been making them faster than a whole bunch of his conservative brethren: He rightly saw last fall's Congressional election results as a big wake-up call for the GOP, and he laid into Georgia's so-called conservative governor, Sonny Perdue, for apparently not thinking that Georgia's citizens are grown-up enough to even determine for themselves whether they should be allowed to buy beer on a Sunday.
If you can buy it on Sunday in Lynchburg, Virginia, Jerry Falwell's backyard -- and you can -- you should be able to buy it on Sunday in Atlanta.
Am I sitting around waiting for Josh to start voting Democratic with a vengeance? Nope. I just now tried to picture him hanging out at one of the Tent City tailgates wearing an Obama '08 T-shirt and proclaiming an acute case of Barack fever, and it was about the most surreal thing I've ever imagined. (Don't even get me started on Hillary Clinton.) But as a left-leaning Democrat, I don't think it's too much to ask that libertarians, or at least those who purport to be, take a step back and ask themselves if the Democrats are still the real antagonists to their beliefs these days.
For the longest time the liberal has seemed to be the bane of the libertarian's existence. Neal Boortz, to my mind a LINO if ever there was one, inveighs against liberals with a vengeance on his radio show, but makes only passing criticisms of so-called conservatives. Up until recently, at least, groups like the CATO Institute railed against big government and blamed it all on liberals.
But let's take a look at some of the things that people like Josh and Neal Boortz consider "libertarian." For starters, they're both pro-choice as far as I know. Guess what? So are the Democrats. They're also pro-gay-rights, or at least they don't think the government has any place restricting them. Neither do the Democrats. Freedom of speech is paramount? The Democrats think so, too -- it's the so-called conservative Republicans who have been pushing stuff like the anti-flag-burning amendment. And I could write a whole month's worth of posts about how the Democrats have been the only ones really fighting for civil liberties the past six years, as George W. Bush has repeatedly taken a Ginsu blade to the Constitution with the full support of the formerly Republican-controlled Congress.
Oh, so that's where that ended up. Hey, who wants to suspend the right to due process?
A lot of libertarians (or people who call themselves as such) have, deep down, recognized that for a long time, yet they still primarily attack Democrats and liberals because of the old "tax-and-spend" stereotype. But that doesn't really apply all that much anymore.
One of the first major proposals from the new Democratic Congress -- yes, the Democratic Congress run by that horrible San Francisco liberal, Nancy Pelosi -- was to make some of the big budget cuts that their Republican predecessors hadn't had the balls to make in six years under Bush. They also passed a measure that would bring pork-barrel spending under greater scrutiny and make it easier to trace such projects back to their sponsors, something even the ultraconservative Republican representative Jack Kingston had to applaud.
This was necessary, of course, because government spending has has risen faster under Bush 43 than under any president since FDR -- and that's even if you don't take his increases in defense spending into account. Pork-barrel spending, needless to say, has set new records as well. (I could also go on and on about how that horrible liberal Clinton did a vastly better job of balancing the budget than anybody since WWII, including conservative demigod Ronald Reagan, but that's for another time.)
Are the Democrats going to be able to wave their magic wands and rectify this sad situation immediately? Or even before the 2008 elections? Not likely -- but it's worth pointing out that the only consistent budget surpluses since the 1950s happened under, again, that horrible liberal Bill Clinton. And Clinton is the only president in the last 30 years to have actually paid down any portion of the national debt. (As opposed to Bush, who just added more than $3 trillion right back to it.)
My grandkids are going to be paying this thing off. Thanks, dillwipe.
Now, again, I'm a liberal. Which means I likes me some social programs, some of which I'm sure make true diehard libertarians cringe. But first and foremost, I want to make sure the budget is balanced -- social programs or no, I don't believe in spending money we don't have. And as much as libertarians hate taxes, I still think I'm closer to their ideal philosophy than the Republicans who subscribe to the absurd notion that you can slash taxes, jack discretionary spending through the roof, and somehow not end up with a complete disaster on your hands.
So look, libertarians, I don't expect you to start loving Hillary Clinton. I don't expect you to abandon your tax-cutting principles. Honestly, I don't even expect you to start voting Democratic. But I do think it might be a good idea for you to re-evaluate who your friends are -- and who's really presenting the fiercest opposition to the things you want done. Because it isn't the Democrats who have exploded federal spending over the last six years. It isn't the Democrats who think you should be governed by a Christian worldview whether you want to be or not. It isn't the Democrats who are trying to dig into your stuff and find out whom you've been calling on your cell phone and which library books you've been checking out. It isn't the Democrats who tried to throw out the 800-year-old tradition of fricking habeas corpus. And it isn't the Democrats who subscribe to the "unitary executive" theory, a school of thought whose quest to place as much authority as possible in the hands of the executive branch would seem to go against not only everything libertarianism stands for, but against the very ideas upon which this country was founded to begin with.
So all I'm asking is that you don't automatically train your guns on the so-called liberals when you're getting your dander up about expanding government. Try zeroing in on those so-called conservatives once in a while - you'll probably find a lot more to get angry about.
Oh, and if you're going to call yourself a libertarian, then you might want to try actually voting libertarian once in a while. If you want libertarians to become a valid third-party alternative, support 'em! Personally, I would love it if a viable third (or even fourth or fifth) party started gaining some traction, and I see no reason why it shouldn't be the libertarians. And if the day ever comes when the Libertarian Party becomes the major-party voice for smaller-government conservatism, with the Republicans being reduced to thrown-together meetings in basements and library meeting rooms . . . well, I won't exactly be shedding any tears over that. But then I don't suspect you will be, either.