The Republican Party Must Restore its Legacy of Expanding Freedom
The Republican Party must reclaim its mantle as the party that expands freedom. The GOP has a deep history of promoting liberty, both at home and abroad, and it must draw on this legacy to gain moral strength and clarity of vision. The party should thus distinguish itself from the progressive Democrat Party if it wants to regain the trust of the American people.
Since its inception, the Republican Party has broadened the empire of liberty and has enabled millions of people to escape from the bondage of tyranny. The party itself was formed in the raucous twilight period prior to the American Civil War. An abolitionist movement was spawned and gained momentum as a coalition of Radical Republicans, carved from the carcasses of the defunct Whigs and the transient Free Soilers, who committed themselves to opposing slavery and its expansion into the new territories. The Republican president Abraham Lincoln dispatched a Union army and guided it to victory against the secessionist states, thereby helping to institutionalize the founding truth expressed in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal.
The Radical Republicans moved assertively to ensure the southern states complied with the outlawing of slavery, accruing to its credit as an anti-slavery party. Black political activists noticed: the first black politicians to deliver addresses at a party convention were Republicans, the first black representative was Republican John Willis Menard of Louisiana, and the first black Senator was Republican John R. Lynch of Mississippi. The Fifteenth Amendment, passed under Republican control, formally acknowledged that blacks had the right to vote. Yet it took the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, both passed nearly a century later, to remove impediments to voting such as literacy tests and poll taxes. The bills were disproportionately passed by Republicans, despite a lengthy filibuster of the Civil Rights Act, which was led by Democratic Senator and former Klan leader Harry Byrd.
The Women’s Suffrage movement was spearheaded by the Republican Party as well. In 1870, the Massachusetts Republican State Convention made the suffragettes Mary A. Livermore and Lucy Stone its delegates. Famous women’s right advocate Susan B. Anthony persuaded Republican Senator A.A. Sargent in 1878 to introduce the Nineteenth Amendment. Passed in 1919, the amendment acknowledging women had the right to vote had been defeated four times by Democrat-controlled legislatures.
But one should not confuse the right to vote with the protection of one’s individual rights as a citizen. Voting in-and-of-itself is a practice designed to help citizens protect their rights by holding politicians accountable in free and fair elections. The Democrat Party’s modern success is based on the false perception that it had worked assiduously to give blacks and women the right to vote; meanwhile, it has subtly conflated this popularly held distortion with the party’s “progressive” drive towards supposed economic emancipation.
What the Democrats are actually driving at is to progressively undermine the lynchpins of all Americans’ freedom, as articulated in The Constitution and The Bill of Rights. The Democrat Party seeks to ensnare all men and women with the seductive allure of government dependency. Its economic policies are as unmistakeably destructive to the national economy as they are to the families of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. What the Democrat Party has to offer is not freedom; it is some temporary comfort on the road to ruin.
Throwing light on the Democrat Party’s insincere homages to freedom is its history of belligerence and sympathy for socialist dictators. It should not be controversial to point out, while paying tribute to the consistent heroism of our American soldiers, that President Woodrow Wilson led us into a primarily unnecessary war in Europe. The dire situation in Europe, brought about by the decay of empires and the inflammation of national passions, was not one that demanded the country’s intervention. And it is no small irony that Woodrow Wilson, both an internationalist peace advocate and an irrefutable racial bigot, exacerbated tensions in Europe following the war with his naive handling of the Paris Peace Conference and his quixotic Fourteen Points. Wilson would also sow the seeds of future corruption and partisan volatility by overseeing the income tax amendment, the establishment of an unaccountable central bank, and the democratization of the U.S. Senate.
The Great Depression would see the promulgation of the notion that the Democrat Party was the place for the working man, the poor, and the oppressed. It is a stubborn myth that persists that Roosevelt was a great man of history whose steady hand rested on the shoulder of every down-on-his-luck laborer in that dark period. But without a doubt, the man’s policies lengthened and worsened the depression, as even his Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr. later admitted. As Morgenthau confessed, “No, gentlemen, we have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. …I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started.”
Morgenthau was right. In 1938, unemployment was near twenty percent, worse than what it was in 1931, which was before the government began meddling in earnest. A sharp contrast to FDR’s policies were those of Calvin Coolidge, whose relatively laissez-faire approach following the sharp deflationary depression of 1920-21 helped the country return to its economic moorings in short order. No two depressions are exactly alike; but suffice it to say, Coolidge showed faith in the American people, while FDR showed faith in himself, his technocratic planners, and big government. The historical record bears out whose esteem was better founded.
World War II effectively rescued Roosevelt from the annals of infamy. The war was initiated by a perfidious attack on the United States carried out by Japan. The invasion provided the Roosevelt administration with a unified national goal that temporarily made central planning more rational; but the goal of the war, lest anyone should forget, was killing others overseas, and not creating goods and providing services to satisfy individual wants and needs. Yet it is exposed throughout recent history even unto today that the Democrat Party consistently craves the kind of national control conducive to war-time, even in periods of peace.
We should thus not be surprised to find the Democrat Truman getting us into the Korean War, and General Eisenhower pulling the majority of troops out while maintaining the peace. Or JFK getting us entrenched in Southeast Asia in the 1950s, leading to the Vietnam War; which was in turn mainly carried out by Lyndon Johnson, and ended by Nixon. It is a deliberate omission by the Democrat Party, despite its image as a party of peace and compassion, that the Vietnam War was ended on unfavorable terms due largely to radical activism in the press and unrelenting pressure by the Democrat Congress. In 1975, when the bill came up to provide military aid to South Vietnam and Cambodia to stave off the communists, the Democrats refused. The South Vietnamese would be run into the sea by the vengeful North and over two million Cambodians would die at the hands of the merciless Khmer Rouge.
But the Democrat Party would not learn its lesson, and it unwaveringly clung to the view that socialist dictatorships could bring economic justice to the people. But the only things socialism ever brought to ‘the people’ have been poverty and misery. President Ronald Reagan understood that. His morally principled confrontation with the Soviet Union was remarked upon by dissident intellectuals as dealing a fatal blow to the communist regime, even more than his increased defense spending put pressure on the USSR’s military industrial complex. It was Reagan’s “peace through strength” posture, not just in military but in moral terms, that would secure the nation for eight years, while seeing through the beginnings of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Democrats desperately tried to blemish President Reagan’s record, which not only discredited socialist ideology, but overturned in practice the disastrous Carter malaise by re-establishing the personal economic freedom to renew national prosperity. The Democrats contrived the Iran-Contra scandal, which ultimately saw military aid go to the Nicaraguan Contras after the Democrat Congress voted to ban aid to the rebel organization. The Contras opposed the socialist Sandinistas, noted human rights abusers who even tortured political prisoners. The record of the Democrat Party siding with dictatorships calling themselves socialist, even at the expense of defying realpolitik as well as innocent people’s safety and freedom, continues uninterrupted to today. This was most vividly seen with the Obama administration’s handling of the Honduran people’s removal of socialist dictator Manuel Zelaya.
For all the Democrats’ caterwauling about the wars in the Middle East, which they voted to authorize, let there be no mistake; they serve the purpose of expanding freedom and theoretically, stabilizing a region through the means of democratic accountability. Yet the Democrat Party never lauds the military or its mission in such terms; its spokesmen rather convey that the wars serve no purposes at all. If the Republicans’ faith in freedom burns over-bright to the extent that we at times become burned, that is the price to pay for our convictions. If there be any lesson to be had from our national experience during the wars, it is that freedom a stubborn value to enshrine in the midst of bloodshed wrought at the hands of fanatics. That is understandable. What is less understandable is how a political party in this country does not value freedom, even though our nation’s historical prosperity and happiness depend on it. The onus is on politicians in the Democrat Party to prove such a sentiment wrong by their actions, and not just through sophistry.
The Republicans’ success is inextricably bound up with that of the American people; as one goes, so goes the other. The Democrat Party thrives on misery, which is the ineluctable product of its unrepentant desire to micro-manage others. We who desire to support the GOP should draw a sharp contrast between those Americans who love freedom and those who love control. Whether that line of demarcation runs between the two major parties, through the GOP itself, or between the government and the American people, is left to us.