Justin Logan at Cato pulls a long quote from a piece by Ryan Lizza asking if can John McCain can reinvent “Republicanism.” That’s a bit of a stupid question since the party has been co-opted by a bunch of imperialists, and he’s in the same vein. A more important question is whether we’ll care to help him win when his policies are, on the whole, antithetical to the reasons we preferred the Republicans over the Democrats. Though I don’t doubt that there are those in the party who always side with their team, regardless of which policies their team is pursuing; and also those who believe that this war in Iraq is just, that the government is not hell-bent on destroying our liberties, and that the President can be trusted with absolute power; I would prefer to be left alone. So there are a couple of quotes from Lizza’s article that stand out, and I think need some exposition.
In a recent Foreign Affairs article, McCain called for the kind of costly nation-building capacity that makes libertarians shudder, arguing that the United States should “energize and expand our postconflict reconstruction capabilities” and create a “deployable police force” that would prop up collapsing states. Echoing [Grover] Norquist’s book, [Mallory] Factor insisted that the war in Iraq is not a unifying issue for the right. He told me, “The bottom line is that to the base of the Party the war isn’t Communism—to the Republican Party under Ronald Reagan, Communism was a rallying point. This is not like that.”
Communism was a rallying point because totalitarian states threaten freedom, and the Soviet Union had the ability to directly threaten ours. While the specific policies and practices that proceeded from that may have been flawed, or had unforeseen consequences, the central concern was with our freedom. Communism sought to replace my will with the will of the State. This we could agree was, and is, undesirable.
But the Iraqis do not threaten our freedom. The terrorists, on the other hand, do. They trick us into giving up our freedoms out of fear. But can they destroy in an instant the Land of the Free? No.
And so there is no reason to tolerate the intrusions of government ostensibly designed to protect us, and little to unify a party grown fat with power.
In what sounds like the advice that New Democrats gave liberals in the nineteen-eighties, Gingrich points out that “Republicans allow their campaigns to be dominated more and more by pandering to small, specific segments of the activist wing of the party”—a trend that he believes has contributed to the drop in Republican numbers on the two coasts.
Mr. Gingrich is correct in this analysis. Instead of focusing on the substantive matter of government, the Republicans became instead the church party and of Buttinskis minding of the business of everyone Not Like Me.
That may bring some concerned citizens to the polls, but it’s not why we’re here.