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A Smaller Tent With Fewer Leaks

The benefits of moderates bolting the GOP

by James Leroy Wilson
May 30, 2001

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A Smaller Tent With Fewer Leaks_James Leroy Wilson-The benefits of moderates bolting the GOP Will the defection of James Jeffords, Senator from Vermont, hurt the Republican Party? Conservatives might like to say "good riddance," except the Republican Party has now lost official control of the Senate. But over the long term, such a move might be helpful to the GOP. The party today is not the same party in which Jeffords began his political career, the party of Gerald Ford, or, yes, Nixon and Eisenhower. Back then, activist government was popular because it seemed to be effective, whereas conservatives believe it helped destroy America's social and moral fabric. The Republican Party has indeed gotten more conservative, but would even more if it wasn't forced to accommodate people like Jeffords.

A moderate Republican, if he can be defined, is a big-government liberal with some desire for fiscal restraint and balanced budgets. Fiscal restraint to him, however, is the Democratic version of it. A conservative believes the first means of achieving balanced budgets is to eliminate spending on needless or Constitutionally dubious projects, whereas the moderate's instinct when faced with a budget crunch is to raise taxes.

This is because moderates are, like Democrats, inherently nationalist. They see in the United States a country so vast, diverse, and complex that only the national government can solve its problems. They mask their distrust for local democracy and economic freedom with nice-sounding phrases: "We can't have an ideological judiciary"- therefore the precedents of leftist Justices, which usurp democracy and undermine federalism, must remain in place. "We must protect our children" - therefore assaulting our personal freedoms ranging from gun ownership to drug use. "We can't turn our back on our nation's schools," - as if the educational crisis was about infrastructure and salaries instead of curriculum and method. "We can't see our workers lose their jobs because of cheaper foreign products" - therefore aiding industry and agriculture through the corporate welfare of subsidies and tariffs. This list goes on and on.

Conservatives, however, are federalist. To them, federal solutions for America's problems are unworkable precisely because America is so vast, diverse, and complex. Moreover, they obscure clear Constituional limits on federal power, inviting corruption and abuse in the government. Conservatives hold that one of the largest obstacles to social improvement is the central government: its regulations stifle innovation, its subsidies foster dependence, its taxes drag down the economy, its tariffs hurt the consumer, and its courts undermine self-government. Jeffords seeks to "conserve" the status quo; conservatives prefer to roll back the federal government in order to "conserve" our founding principles.

If Jeffords left because the Republican Party really is increasingly conservative, that's good news for those, like me, who have defected to smaller parties or haven't voted. In fact, Libertarian votes cost the Republicans a clear-cut majority that would have remained despite Jeffords' departure. It is the influence of moderate Republican Governors, Congressmen, and Senators like Jeffords, that has alienated many conservatives. They water down Republican platforms and Republican legislation. They pretend that their bi-partisanship is a virtue when actually they just disagree too often with their own party. It hurts, but to gain more new friends, you may have to lose a few of your old ones.

If other moderates follow, the Party and its President can either try to woo them back or state their message in clear, bold new terms to the people without trying to please or appease. This would mean President Bush will have to abandon his silly boondoggles like increased education spending and 'charitable choice." A case can be made for personal freedom and responbility, local government, and a strong defense, with offshooting benefits like low taxes, free trade, and freedom to implement solutions to social problems without dependence on federal funding or conformity to federal regulations. This message can persuade the American people. The "Big Tent" politics of the past, in which the GOP accommodated conservatives, neo-conservatives, libertarians, and moderates, won't be attractive to the people when they constantly see ideological leaks all over the place. The moderates cause most of the leaks. A smaller ideological tent with fewer leaks is far more attractive.

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Rural Wisconsinite writes:
May 31, 2001
This is not a baiting question, because I do not know the answer to it and I suspect James Leroy Wilson does, without have to look it up.

In the world marketplace, is there any major, national player that participates according to the principles laid down by James Leroy Wilson and other such conservatives, or are they all protectionists in their own economies? If protectionism prevails in the world economy, would the United States be able to compete in it on the non-protectionist principles implied by the terms free enterprise and free market?

Rural Wisconsinite

James Leroy Wilson writes:
June 4, 2001
Of all national players, the United States has the lowest tariffs, and it is the strongest economy in the world. Yet that is also because, internally, it is its own free trade zone - states can not make trade policy, only Congress. The same applies to the European Union, which though anti-democratic and anti-freedom, provides an internal free trade

zone that developing Eastern European nations are clamoring to join.

But that is all kind of beside the point. I agree that the pure capitalism of completely free trade is in no nation's best interest, because security is always more important than prosperity and not everything should rely on supply and demand. And I, for one, would never, ever, yield American

sovereignty to a multinational free trade pact. But I wrote of free trade being an off-shooting benefit of core conservative values including strong defense, not a core value itself. Free trade is a benefit because it

always works in favor of economic growth. Free trade results when

Washington realizes it is not in the social engineering business, and shouldn't protect an inefficient American industry if foreigners can do it better. American industries are encouraged to continue inefficient ways if

they are protected from foreign competitors. What helps a special interest hurts the general public with higher prices. Since economic growth is crucial to prolonged security, and since free trade leads to economic growth, conservatives embrace free trade.

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