Time for Republicans to be ‘reactionary’
“Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” - Samuel Johnson, English writer
Now that the misnamed “stimulus” package has passed that President Obama requested and the Congressional Democrats crafted, we have clarity about our nation’s choices and thereby its future. The poorly kept secret is out: this is not a bailout law, this $780 billion monstrosity. It includes everything Democrats have wanted for decades, from subsidies to handouts to income transfers.
The best news is that no Republicans in the House of Representatives and only three (northeastern) Republican Senators voted for the omnibus legislation, meaning that our so-called “reactionary” political party is doing the right thing and laying the basis for a comeback in the 2010 and 2012 elections.
Much has been written and said in recent years about how much better it is to be “proactive” than reactive, as if there’s something unintelligent and ill-advised about responding promptly to challenges that arise. I see a good sign in the initial GOP reaction to the opening salvo in the Democrats’ campaign to make Big Government permanent and impregnable, for precisely the reason that Dr. Johnson gives.
Reactionary has been a bad word and unwelcome label at least since self-styled “progressives”such as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson came upon our political scene a century ago. They favored equality of condition over equality of rights and therefore saw nothing sacred about freedom of commerce or the Constitution that provided security for it.
Not surprisingly, then, Republicans in opposition were castigated as hopelessly reactionary in the 1930s when Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal dramatically increased the role–and the cost–of the federal government’s regulation of commerce. When FDR took office in 1933, the annual federal budget was $3 billion. Now it is $3 TRILLION dollars.
Republicans survived the New Deal by conceding the good intentions of the Democrats, promising the same advantages for less cost. They were tax collectors for the welfare state until Ronald Reagan showed that high tax rates are counterproductive and instead stimulated our “Carterized” commerce with a cut in the rates and the number of brackets in 1981.
Reagan’s “reaction” to the stagflation (high inflation, unemployment and interest rates) of the 1970s was exactly right. But he was not the first Republican president to “react” to bad Democrat policy.
Our first GOP chief executive, Abraham Lincoln, reacted to the Democrats’ policy of extending slavery into western territories and even Latin America by calling for the repeal of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and overturning of Dred Scott v. Sanford that made this possible.
When there is a fire, we expect the fire department to react. When a crime is committed, we expect the same from the police. When we were attacked by our Islamist enemies on September 11, 2001, President Bush reacted by taking the war to the enemy. In all these cases, we are better for our duly constituted authorities reacting promptly to threats to public safety.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with being “proactive” in the sense that the fire and police departments encourage prevention among the citizenry, and the U.S. government seeks peace with friendly nations and is on guard against unfriendly ones.
But when the threat to our safety, and most assuredly to our liberties, is clear and palpable, the political party that should be preferred is the one that reacts in the right way. Just as the first Republicans did not relent until they had won control of the government and reversed bad policy, so today’s party should work in earnest to sound the alarm at the Democrat majority’s assault on our freedom.
Already President Obama has rescinded the ban on government funding of abortions overseas. Next will be all abortions in this country through the utterly dishonest “Freedom of Choice” Act that will remove all legislative, judicial and funding limits on abortions for all nine months of pregnancy.
Equally menacing are the deceptive (again) Freedom of Choice Act which would permit unionization without a secret ballot; and the misnamed “Fairness Doctrine,” which would force all radio stations to provide equal time to popular conservative talk shows, effectively driving them off the air.
In a year or two, socialized medicine will be proposed, probably in stages, which will drive up the cost of health care and lead to rationing as government bureaucrats decide who deserves to live or to die.
There’s plenty here for freedom-loving Americans to react to. The sooner we toss out the avatars of Big Government, the better.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org