These are sad times for classical liberals. The Republicans are spending taxpayer money at a pace that has drunken sailors saying, "Whoa, hold on a minute there, Buddy!" With President Bush's enthusiastic encouragement, they created a new Medicare prescription drug plan and managed to keep a straight face while telling us it would actually save us money. Katrina gave them a great excuse to add tons of new spending without making corresponding cuts in non-emergency programs. The Republicans are flirting with allowing lawbreakers to benefit from their illegal actions in flouting our immigration laws, all for the benefit of rich people looking for cheap gardeners, nannies, fruit pickers, and warehouse workers. And so on.
It's repugnant, all right, and there would be something we could do about it if not for the fact that the Democrats are not only for all these these things, they support them more strongly, want more spending on these programs and more solicitiude toward the lawbreakers, would press forward more quickly toward the precipice of economic and social destruction, and advocate these absurd proposals with a level of moral smugness even Republicans have difficulty matching.
Mark Steyn describes it well in the current issue of National Review, excerpted on National Review Online:
I'm not predicting electoral disaster this November. It would be nice to think that the GOP might get to enjoy a Geena Davis-style "hiatus" while they "retune" their winning formula. But I doubt it will happen: Even losers need someone to lose to, and the Democrats have failed to fulfill even that minimal requirement for the last decade.
Christopher Hitchens said on the Hugh Hewitt show recently that he "dislikes" the Republican party but has "contempt" for the Democrats. I appreciate the distinction, though I'm not sure I could muster even that level of genial tolerance. The Democrats have been the most contemptible opportunists in the years since 9/11: If they've got nothing useful to contribute to the great challenge of the age they could at least have the decency not to waste our time waving around three-year-old Abu Ghraib pictures and chanting "exit strategy" every ten minutes.
Hitchens has it just right, I think.
Now in power, the Republicans are doing whatever they can to retain that power, which in the nation's capitol means buying votes with taxpayers' money. That's what political parties do, and as long as huge amounts of money and power are concentrated in Washington, D.C., that will be the way of things, with the taxpayers occasionally saying "enough!" and the party out of power deciding to take a chance on a small dose of economic liberalization and a slightly greater encouragement of rule of law.
Unfortunately, the Democrats are so strongly attached to their economic redistribution ideology that there is virtually no hope of them pursuing a course toward liberalization and rule of law. They seem likely only to fall further into their present radicalism.
One might hope that such a course would send them into final political oblivion and allow a more plausible political opposition to arise, but the Republicans' adoption of the Dems' principles has kept the latter party alive.
So a plausible alternative party is not going to arise under current conditions, and a classical liberal third party is an impossible dream.
Which leaves us with the Republicans. Will they see the foolishness of their choice to become the party of huge government as opposed to the Democrats' gigantic government?
Not any time soon.