Republicans Ought to Recall Theocratic Principles, Not Gray Davis

by | Jul 29, 2003

The nation’s most frenzied electoral battle since the 2000 presidential election — the effort to recall California Gov. Gray Davis — offers dramatic evidence that the GOP is intellectually bankrupt. The Republican philosophy was once represented by the late Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, who opposed Medicare, favored a woman’s right to an abortion, and sanctioned […]

The nation’s most frenzied electoral battle since the 2000 presidential election — the effort to recall California Gov. Gray Davis — offers dramatic evidence that the GOP is intellectually bankrupt.

The Republican philosophy was once represented by the late Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, who opposed Medicare, favored a woman’s right to an abortion, and sanctioned a strong defense. Individual rights were implicit as the party’s premise — until the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, when religion replaced individual rights as the guiding Republican philosophy.

To the extent Americans have resisted theocratic notions of government, the GOP’s religious right domination is mixed with pragmatism, resulting in a Republican Party whose goal is a smaller welfare state under God. The arch proponent of this blend is the GOP’s standard-bearer, faith-based President Bush, who is on the verge of signing the largest expansion of Medicare since it was enacted in 1965.

A rejection of Bush’s compassionate conservatism nearly prevented the recall. Last year, Bush backed liberal Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan over conservative businessman Bill Simon in the GOP’s gubernatorial primary. Republican voters overwhelmingly rejected Riordan in favor of Simon who, despite a 2-to-1 Democratic voter registration advantage, came within a narrow margin of defeating Davis.

The campaign to recall Davis was funded by GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, whose name will be on the recall ballot as a gubernatorial candidate on Oct. 7. Issa is known more for losing a U.S. Senate primary race than for his ideas. His congressional Web site boasts that he has pushed special programs for Medicare recipients with chronic illnesses — hardly a landmark for capitalism.

Republicans considering a run include actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose sole political feat is a law that grants subsidies to public schools, Riordan, who endorsed Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein for reelection, and Simon. There are also the Huffingtons: Arianna, a conservative pundit turned Republican in Name Only whose ex-husband, Michael, lost a close Senate race to Feinstein, came out as gay and has filed papers to run for governor against his ex-wife.

If the GOP field sounds like a rerun of “Dynasty,” it’s because their campaigns appear to be more self-promotion than crusades on principle. Among their positions are regulation of free speech, higher tobacco taxes, and restrictions on private property. They aim to take down America’s least popular governor by embracing the governor’s Big Government philosophy.

Not one of the GOP’s would-be candidates advocates individual rights and, therefore, no one offers California voters a real alternative to Davis, whose governorship is a disaster. His liberalism has caused one calamity after another: rolling blackouts, the nation’s first attempt to prescribe which vehicle each person drives, outlawed washing machines and, of course, higher taxes. Californians deserve an antidote to Gray Davis; instead, they face a band of wannabes.

Contrary to Jefferson’s contention that the best government is that which governs the least, today’s Republicans increase public school subsidies and raise tobacco taxes. While Goldwater opposed Medicare, today’s Republicans expand it. Republicans’ only coherent notion, family values, is a euphemism for collectivism. Individual rights have no place in the Republican Party.

Goldwater’s defiant cry that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue has been abandoned. Before the party that cheered Goldwater at the 1964 San Francisco convention recalls California’s governor, the GOP must restore individual rights as their essential philosophical principle. Then, they will win elections — or, in losing, they will at least have been right.

Scott Holleran's writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Classic Chicago, and The Advocate. The cultural fellow with Arts for LA interviewed the man who saved Salman Rushdie about his act of heroism and wrote the award-winning “Roberto Clemente in Retrospect” for Pittsburgh Quarterly. Scott Holleran lives in Southern California. Read his fiction at ShortStoriesByScottHolleran.substack.com and read his non-fiction at ScottHolleran.substack.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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