Raising the Standard.

Stop Defending 43

(Photo: U.S. Army)

In its infancy, the Tea Party was a vociferous advocate for rational political principles in the United States. Its tripartite motto of free markets, fiscal responsibility, and constitutionally-limited government helped initiate an intellectual reformation on the right, one that continues to today.[1] One of the enduring points of this intellectual renaissance was the Tea Party’s call for focus on “principle over party,” and yet, it is a point that needs some reinforcement.

Even five years into Barack Obama’s presidency — five years with which to reflect on the actions of the previous administration —there are many within the Republican Party unwilling to so much as question the “conservativeness” of the George W. Bush presidency.

While I was in the midst of explaining the similarities between Barack Obama and George Bush to a left-leaning acquaintance, an incredulous College Republican chimed in, “I like George Bush!” The response was wholly unsurprising given the intellectual climate within that organization, inherited in full from its national patron, but that young Republican’s admiration of President Bush does need addressing.

The single redeeming point of President Bush’s legacy, that he reduced tax rates (but even then on a temporary basis), is marred by a slew of other policies that would have made any honest Democrat proud. The federal budget exploded under his watch, as did government intervention in education and housing. He perpetuated federal subsidies for agriculture and transportation. He expanded entitlement programs with Medicare Part D, and increased government regulation of the financial industry with Sarbanes-Oxley. In the wake of 9/11, when the United States had a clear and identifiable threat to its well-being — political Islam —, President Bush’s foreign policy generally reflected Barack Obama’s policy of expending American blood and treasure for altruistic humanitarian missions to aid the “Afghan people” or the “Iraqi people,” while national security interests were only an afterthought. Imagine the results of the Civil War if General Sherman had marched on Atlanta to deliver food packages rather than raze it to the ground, and the continued existence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan after a dozen years of conflict with the greatest military power in the world becomes easier to understand. Bush’s contempt for the unambiguous wording of the Fourth Amendment[2] through warrantless wiretaps and other NSA policies is but the capstone of an inglorious legacy of expanding the scope of the state and eroding the rights of individuals.

By what standard, then, can one claim to “like” George W. Bush while disliking Barack Obama, especially given that, with little exception, the latter has either continued or expanded all the statist policies enumerated in the preceding paragraph? By the parenthetical letter suffixing their names? Well, yes, for many of the Republicans, that is the chief concern: an election is considered successful based on the quantity of Rs in office, rather than the quality.

If the Republican Party is to move forward in advocating limited government ideals in the twenty-first century, it must dispense with the notion that being a Republican shields one from deserved criticism. The GOP must shed the idea that “going along to get along” is an admirable, long-term career politics. And perhaps most importantly as the twenty-first century moves forward, it must cease looking back upon the presidency of George W. Bush with fondness. The so-called “moderates” have led their party to consecutive presidential defeats, and will continue to do so as long as the Democrats continue running more consistent versions of what the Republicans are already offering.

Again, “principle over party” should be the mantra in all upcoming races in 2014, as well as the eventual 2016 race. If the country is to be placed on a path toward capitalism — the only political system that consistently respects and guards the rights of the individual — the anti-capitalists sullying the ranks of the only occasionally-capitalist major party in the United States must be intellectually castigated, not defended.

—Brian Underwood is a senior studying political science and history


[1] And in some manner, the Tea Party still assists in that reformation, though its message has become muddied as increasing numbers of the Religious Far Right have adopted the label “Tea Party,” though caring little for its laissez-faire message.

[2] “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

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