In the December issue of Reason magazine, which appeared in many mailboxes on or around Election Day, Flake appeared just as candid. Why should proponents of limited government vote Republican?
Well, if they grade on a curve, we’re still a better choice. (Laughs.) If you believe in limited government, the Democrats don’t offer you very much. I’ve yet to see a Democrat actually bring a proposal to the floor that spends less or is less intrusive.
But neither Flake nor Reason’s editors are very comfortable grading on the curve. Flake went on:
I think Republicans have by and large gone native. I don’t know how you can conclude otherwise. You look at any measure of spending — overall spending, mandatory, discretionary, non-defense discretionary, non-homeland security spending — whichever way you slice the record, the record looks pretty bad. When you look at where we’re heading, with Medicare Part D, it just means that these programs run out of money a lot sooner than they were going to already.
Summarizing, Flake put everything into perspective: “Republicans have adopted the belief or the principle that you spend money to get elected."
Principle Over Party
The Democrats, over the years, well merited the sobriquet, the Party of Big Government. They pushed the dramatic expansion of the federal government in the last century with FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society. In doing so, Democrats did not merely garner the support of public employees, the party became a wholly owned subsidiary of the public employee unions.
This symbiotic relationship kept the Democrats the Party of Government in the eyes of the American people, even while Republicans controlled Capitol Hill and the White House. Yet, in 2006 that perception changed.
Longtime conservative Richard Viguerie may have put it best: “Republicans became the party of government. With earmarks, with spending, with the prescription drug benefit, with the Foley case, it became clear that they would spend anything and do anything to hold on to power.”
Politics is the practice of power. As such, principle is always fragile. Allegiance to party, to the institutional means over political ends, will often triumph.
But the spectacle got too disgusting for too many independent and conservative supporters. A party that once prided itself on the notion of limiting government can’t long hold the standard of Big Government. It smacks too much of lies and hypocrisy, not to mention bad policy.
Flake saw this coming, saying back in June that “I don’t think our leadership fully appreciates the trouble we are in.”
Let’s hope a new Republican leadership emerges. And let’s hope the GOP, stuck in the wilderness it so decisively earned, learns from its prophets (even Mr. Flake, who, while right on spending, abandoned his self-imposed term limits pledge for the expediency of re-election).
Then Republicans may have something substantial to offer us in 2008 — not a bridge project, but more freedom to pursue our own American dreams. It’s time again to stick to the principle that less government is, indeed, more . . . when it comes to the good of the country.
And when it comes to winning elections, too.