Libertarian History/Philosophy

The Greatest Trick the Republicans' Anti-Government Belief Ever Pulled Off Was Convincing Us It Actually Existed

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Daniel McCarthy at American Conservative backhandedly and ironically thanks Todd Purdum at Vanity Fair on behalf of the bullshit artistes of the modern Republican Party, who manage to create a phony market differentiation by pretending to be the party of shrinking government. 

In the stylized but phony Kabuki theater of American politics, the Dems and their town cryers such as Purdum pretend to believe that the Republicans are or will shrink the state, since that belief helps (supposedly) energize the Dems base to come out against the GOP even as the lie energizes the GOP's own base. But no matter who wins elections, big government wins.

As McCarthy notes, the Republicans have:

convinced panicky liberals…that the GOP really is a radically right-wing party hellbent on rolling back the welfare state and shattering the status quo. You would never imagine such a thing from looking at the record of the most recent Republican president — who added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare and did not, in fact, "privatize" Social Security — but it's thrilling for liberals to pretend they're about to be ravished, and it serves the GOP well to be thought of as a party of change and, for Americans who want smaller government, hope.

Why do so few outlets call attention to the obvious: that the GOP out of power campaigns as one thing — a party of cut-government-to-the-bone libertarians (God-fearing libertarians, of course)  — but once in power practices a feed-the-base style of welfare politics little different from what the Democrats once perfected? Military budgets, particularly for bases in the South, are subsidies, and whatever Marvin Olasky may have intended with his talk about compassionate conservatism, in practice Bush's faith-based initiatives were a way to channel federal money to religious organizations, rewarding Republican churches and aspiring to buy off urban ones (which received the lion's share of the funds). Medicare Part D was explicitly aimed at shoring up the senior vote for the party. The GOP campaigns on a get-government-off-our-backs platform because Democrats are ideologically resistant to taking that line, but in practice both parties are the party of big government. You cannot look at their governing records and come to any other conclusion.

McCarthy does praise Purdum for noting another trend in national politics: the seeming death of lively and active regional interests in Congress, which means:

the old dams and harbors of our politics have been broken down — as Americans have been disaggregated from their localities and recombined in a national mass — allowing ideological currents to sweep freely from end to end of the country.

I have written in the past on the failure of the conservative movement, in the Republican Party or out of it, to actually achieve conservative political goals, all the while growing in reputation with the failure. See this March 2009 review essay for one example.