No matter what the Republican talking heads are saying, Tuesday was an excellent night for liberty. In three states same-sex marriage was recognized, and in two recreational marijuana was legalized. Minnesota defeated a voter ID law, and pro-life extremists Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock were defeated in Missouri and Indiana. All of these are questions of liberty, and all of them have one thing in common: the Republican Party was on the wrong side.
The Republican Party’s talk of liberty is a sham. If it wasn’t clear before, it is now. Taking control of a woman’s body away from the woman herself is not protecting liberty. Limiting marriage based on gender is not protecting liberty. Opposing the use of drugs, where the effect, negative or otherwise, is limited to the user themselves, is not protecting liberty. Restricting immigration is not protecting liberty. What happened to personal responsibility? How can a party that wants government to be out of people’s lives when it comes to health care, or retirement, or schools want government to be involved when it comes to sex and drugs?
Republicans claim superior devotion to economic liberty, but I see little evidence to support this. Booms and busts have occurred under Republicans and Democrats alike. Obama has added trillions to the deficit? So did Bush. The size of government is increasing readily, as it has been for years, due to Democrats and Republicans both. If you’re looking for a limited government of absolute liberty, neither side really wants that.
It’s about time we admit something to ourselves: there is no party of limited government.
Democrats want an expansion of welfare, Republicans want to force pseudo-Biblical morality, and both want an extravagant military and a brutish foreign policy. Let’s not pretend that there are huge differences when it comes to many economic issues. Glass-Steagall was repealed under Clinton, and Obama has been less regulatory than Bush. When it comes to liberties, the differences between the parties are civil and social.
During this election cycle I’ve lost count of the number of old, white, Republican men who have made unbelievably offensive remarks about rape. They want to take from a woman her right to have control over her body, and to justify it must engage in a peculiar brand of victim blaming. The right to abortion is a liberty, one which more than any other is the epitome of ‘personal responsibility.’ The same is true for drug laws. Drug use is a victimless crime; the only person who stands to be harmed is the user himself. I’m not claiming that Democrats are particularly ahead on this issue, especially considering the behavior of the DEA and DOJ under President Obama, but the most vocal opponents of state ballot measures to legalize marijuana were Republicans. In Washington state, 16 state legislators support marijuana legalization, and not one of them Republican.
I am not a Democratic partisan, but on questions of liberty, of how free each of us can be, Democrats are miles ahead. Republicans ask us to forget these issues and instead focus on their dubious economic claims, which they claim are truly fair, free, and libertarian. But how can we forget their social positions? Who in the mid-20th century would vote for a segregationist and defend that vote by appealing to their economic policies? There needs to be a discussion about economic liberty, but that discussion is being silenced by the Republican devotion to bigotry.
My hope is that sometime soon Republicans realize that they can’t continue their current line of hypocrisy, and reform themselves into a more libertarian party. Drop the anti-liberty social positions, and embrace demographic changes. The constituency of old, white men is not enough to base a party on. It’s unlikely that this will happen after this election, but I hope, for all our sakes, that it comes someday soon. Liberty is barely defended at all by our political parties, we need both to make an effort.
I frequently worry that we will stand by and watch as the government eats away at our individual liberties, that we will forget to defend them. Those fears were crushed, for the time being, on Tuesday. America chose liberty and liberty this week in numerous states, and reelected a president that won’t bend to the radical religious right. I’d call that a win.