I have a few things to say in response to Mickey Edwards’ LA Times hit piece entitled “Reagan wouldn’t recognize this GOP.” I will not rehash the entirety of the tripe, but I will highlight a few areas with which I take exception. First, I will agree to the title of his Op-Ed. He is right in saying that Reagan would not recognize this GOP, but for the wrong reasons. Reagan would not recognize it because once again, the Republican party has left him. The GOP is but a homogenized version of what he eventually brought the party back to being. There are very few other statements in which Mr. Edwards and I are in agreement. The vast majority of Mr. Edwards’ dribble is just that, dribble.
On the premise that simple is best, many Republicans have reduced their operating philosophy to two essentials: First, government is bad (it’s “the problem”); second, big government is the worst and small government is better (although because government itself is bad, it may be assumed that small government is only marginally preferable)
This statement is a misrepresentation of conservative ideology at best, and pure fallacy at worst. The fact of the matter is conservatives do NOT believe that all government is bad. We do believe that bureaucracy is inherently flawed, and we do believe that over-reaching government is bad. Over-reaching government (intrusive) is the polar opposite of liberty and independence. As conservatism is based on the premise that liberty and independence are the driving forces of our society, it is fair to say that intrusive government (not all government) is “the problem.” There is a tendency to use the terms “big” and “small” when describing government, the terms are not used literally, as Mr. Edwards ascribes here. The literal quantity or size of government does not accurately encapsulate the conservative stance on “big government.” The size of government, as described by conservatives, is relative to the scope and power of government. Big government is one of extended and over-reaching scope and excessive weight and power over the people (i.e. intrusive). Conversely, small government would be one of a more limited scope, as described by the Constitution. We are not anarchists.
Limited government is not no government. And limited government is not “small” government. Simply building roads, maintaining a military, operating courts, delivering the mail and doing other things specifically mandated by the Constitution for America’s 300 million people make it impossible to keep government “small.” It is boundaries that protect freedom. Small governments can be oppressive, and large ones can diminish freedoms. It is the boundaries, not the numbers, that matter.
This statement is largely correct, and describes precisely what we mean by the term “small government.” Again, it is not a literal use of the term “small.” All forms of government can be oppressive. This is precisely why conservatives fight the initiatives and policies of the Democrats. Their policies expand the scope of government beyond the limits set forth by the Constitution. I will, however, say that typically the number of bureacracies is directly proportional to the scope of government power.
“In the present crisis,” referring specifically to the high taxes and high levels of federal spending that had marked the Carter administration, “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” He then went on to say: “Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it’s not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work.” Government, he said, “must provide opportunity.” He was not rejecting government, he was calling — as Barack Obama did Tuesday — for better management of government, for wiser decisions.
First and foremost comparing the late great Ronald Reagan with Barack Obama is like comparing Thomas Jefferson with Karl Marx. Obama could not possibly be more different from Reagan. They stand for completely different ideas. I would bet dollars to donuts that when Mr. Edwards arrives at the pearly gates, Reagan will be waiting with a few choice words for him.
Secondly, Reagan was also the man who said “As government expands, liberty contracts.” Which, as Mr. Edwards has seemingly forgotten, is one of the primary ideological stances of conservatism. There are myriads of choice Reagan quotes on the matter of expansive government and its inherent infringement of personal liberty, but quoting them here is unnecessary. I’m sure that Mr. Edwards, a man who spent a great deal of time with Reagan, could take his Alzheimer’s medication (there could be no other explanation for such egregious and apparent utter lack of memory), delve deep into his clearly vacuous mind, and remember Reagan’s words.
It is also interesting to note that Mr. Edwards, a self-described “true” conservative and Reaganite, was and is an Obama supporter. (If I recall correctly Mr. Edwards stated in a radio interview that he voted for Obama —If this is incorrect, please let me know).
With the nation in financial collapse, nothing is more imprudent — more antithetical to true conservatism — than to do nothing.
I agree that to do nothing would be imprudent and antithetical. However, nationalizing industry and turning over to the Secretary of the Treasury, hundreds of billions of tax dollars, with no afforded protections, no reasonable or responsible oversight, and to do so without discretion or direction is far more antithetical. Perhaps Mr. Edwards was napping when conservatives proposed their own answer for the economic fallout. One that was indeed founded on conservative principles and would undoubtedly stimulate the economy. One that was much akin to Reagan’s plan that DID work. Perhaps Mr. Edwards was still napping when the Democrat controlled Congress refused the plan outright, and further refused to incorporate many of its elements into the bailout.
The Republican Party that is in such disrepute today is not the party of Reagan. It is the party of Rush Limbaugh, of Ann Coulter, of Newt Gingrich, of George W. Bush, of Karl Rove. It is not a conservative party, it is a party built on the blind and narrow pursuit of power.
Mr. Edwards, is again correct with his first sentence, but all wet with the rest of it. The party is not the party of Reagan – as previously mentioned. However, it is also not the party of the “Conservatives in Good Standing” mentioned by name here. The reason for this is because the party does NOT listen to Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, or Newt Gingrich. They instead listened to the McCains and W. Bush’s of the party. The fact that Mr. Edwards lumps George Bush in with Rush alone reeks of uninformed RINO-ism. While, I will defend George Bush as a good man and better President than portrayed, he is NOT a leader in the conservative movement. George Bush is a social conservative with a fiscal policy that is antithetical to actual conservatism. He is a Republican, and thus he is OF the party in disrepute.
I would suggest to Mr. Edwards that he stop conflating conservatives and Republicans. They are NOT one and the same.
Last year’s presidential campaign, on the other hand, saw the emergence of a Republican Party that was anti-intellectual, nativist, populist (in populism’s worst sense).
What? Anti-intellectual? Nativist? Populist? Apparently, Mr. Edwards spent entirely too much time viewing MSNBC. Conservatives are NOT anti-intellectual. Simply because we do not subscribe ourselves to the doctrine of beltway elitists and ivy-league intelligentsia, does not me that we are anti-intellectual. We just disagree with Mr. Edwards’ definition of the word. We do not consider the likes of William Ayers to be an intellectual. I assume that nativist is in reference to our penchant for obeying the law, as in not supporting ILLEGAL immigration. The key word is illegal, our reason for being unsupportive is self-explanatory. I fail to see how populism falls on the heads of conservatives. The only recollection of populism that I have, is the rhetoric of the Democrat that was running for office.
Over the last several years, conservatives have turned themselves inside out: They have come to worship small government and have turned their backs on limited government. They have turned to a politics of exclusion, division and nastiness.
Once again, Mr. Edwards has made the mistake of confusing Republicans and conservatives. Republicans have, by and large, turned inside out and about faced on limited government. Conservatives have done no such thing. If Mr. Edwards bothered to listen to true conservatives like Bobby Jindal, Rush Limbaugh, Eric Cantor, Jim DeMint, Sarah Palin, Mark Sanford, John Boehner, etc, then he would know this. Instead he has apparently contented himself with the common media narrative that all Republicans are conservatives. As for exclusion, division and nastiness… I wonder if Mr. Edwards has been comatose for the last eight years and even completely forgotten the Reagan years. The left has been spewing vitriol, hate, lies, and divisive bile towards any and all Republicans and conservatives for decades. The very notion that the politics of class warfare and nastiness are the sole onus of conservatives is an egregiously erroneous statement. Some Republicans may ascribe to those politics, but by far or near the primary offenders are on the Left. Conservatives, simply do not do that.
And, watching, I suspect Ronald Reagan is smacking himself on the forehead, rolling his eyes and wondering who in the world these clowns are who want so desperately to wrap themselves in his cloak.
I suspect that while President Reagan is undoubtedly directing such wonder at a healthy portion of Republicans, he is directing it at Mr. Edwards as well.