On the other hand
By Lady Liberty
Political pundits say that Republicans are worried about the upcoming elections. Political pollsters say that they ought to be.
The majority of Americans are, it seems, not particularly happy with George W. Bush or the way the War in Iraq is being prosecuted. That means that virtually every Republican — particularly those who voted to get involved in Iraq in the the first place — are vulnerable on the issue. Most voters are also less than thrilled about borders which are porous at best, and though it's Republicans in the main who want to address the problem, it's also a Republican president who has prevented real solutions from being implemented.
These issues and others ensured that the Republican Party was in a certain amount of trouble in the polls even before the disaster that was Congressman Mark Foley's downfall became public. But certainly that fiasco has sealed the deal in the minds of even more voters as the finger-pointing rapidly approaches a crescendo in Washington.
This bad news for Republicans has been good news for Democrats. In fact, all of the headlines have got Democrats cautiously optimistic, and they're doubtless going to wring every last bit of condemnation they can out of the situation. They'll claim ad nauseam that the War in Iraq is a quagmire from which will have a difficult time (at best) extricating ourselves. They'll say that they never favored the war in the first place (although many of them did, they'll claim — with some justification — that they were misled by a Republican administration). They'll wax poetic about civil liberties lost or compromised in the War on Terror.
Democrats will join quick-thinking Republicans in self-righteously condemning Mark Foley's behavior. They'll demand honest, non-partisan, and thorough investigations into Foley's actions, which other Republicans knew what and when they knew it, and the Congressional Page Program itself. They will, of course, issue their statements while holding themselves far above Foley's behavior and the fray it engendered.
The arguments and the techniques employed by the Democrats will only be all the more effective thanks to the underlying truth behind each claim.
Despite working to highlight their differences, Republicans and Democrats are — as always — far more alike than they are different. Consider a Senate race in the state of Ohio, for example, being watched by many because Ohio is so important to presidential elections (especially for Republican candidates).
Incumbent Senator Mike DeWine, a Republican, is in a tough battle to hold onto his seat against Democratic Congressman Sherod Brown. Though the pair obviously have significant philosophical and political differences, an entire series of campaign ads is devoted specifically to body armor for soldiers. DeWine's camp claims that Brown has repeatedly voted against funding for body armor, but that DeWine has long championed the needs of our fighting men and women. At the same time, Brown says he's gone out of his way to ensure that our soldiers have body armor, but that DeWine has made it difficult for soldiers to get the equipment that they need. In short, both are busy pointing disparaging fingers at the other. If either one of them is telling Ohio voters why they're the better candidate, no one has told me about it.
It's situations like this — more common than they are unique — that likely do the most to convince voters that they've got little choice come election time but to choose the lesser of evils. That, of course, assumes they can determine which candidate represents the lesser evil. The difficulty in doing so only makes it more likely that voters will do just what the pollsters suggest they will, and cast their ballots in large part in retaliation for the actions of the party currently in control.
It's easy for me to predict that this is precisely what will happen both this November and in November of 2008 when we remind ourselves of historical precedent. I'm not talking ancient history by any means, but the history borne out by elections in relatively recent years.
Those Democrats who are so indignant that we may (or may not) have been misled by Republicans as concerns the War in Iraq are conveniently ignoring what happened not so very many years ago when President Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of an aspirin factory. Presidents Clinton and Bush both claimed they were acting against terrorists; both later claimed their intelligence was faulty. President Clinton was vilified by Republicans; President Bush by Democrats. Though the circumstances surrounding Iraq involve larger issues to be sure, and the bombing and other actions in Iraq have killed far more people than the earlier "mistake," the general comparison remains valid. If Bill Clinton was wrong, then so is George W. Bush. If George W. Bush had good reason to base his decisions on the best intelligence he had at the time, then Bill Clinton must also be excused.
It goes without saying that the Clinton administration had its very own sex scandal involving an intern, a blue dress, and perjury. At least Mark Foley had the good grace to resign! Of course, Mark Foley's attentions were directed toward young people, of the same sex some of whom were underage at the time (though no one has suggested he touched any who weren't of legal age) which some doubtless believe makes his actions more heinous; at the same time, Foley hasn't denied his actions or attempted a cover-up.
Bill Clinton didn't really do anything to shore up our border security; but it was, in fact, his predecessor that offered up a now infamous amnesty program that only encouraged more illegal border crossings the Clinton administration chose not to stop. The Bush administration can't be blamed for causing the problem by the remotest stretch of the imagination, but in an age of the War on Terror, it can at least be held responsible for failing to take concrete action to make our borders more secure!
In the meantime, while the single most obvious measure to protect us from more terror attacks — meaningful border security — remains yet to be taken, the Bush administration has been accused by many of curtailing civil liberties in its War on Terror. Parties as disparate as the very conservative former Republican Congressman Bob Barr and the significantly-less-than-conservative ACLU are agreed on that particular issue. That alone might suffice as reason for many voters to pull the lever for Democrats this time around.
But it was during the Clinton administration that the Waco fiasco was prosecuted in which dozens of men, women, and little children were burned in an ill-advised attack on a far-right religious sect in Texas. No one has suggested that the Branch Davidians were entirely innocent of everything, but federal law enforcement officers were certainly guilty of plenty. And though the indignity of the error-filled "no fly" lists begun under the Bush administration is more broad based, it has at least not proved to be fatal.
Liberal judges — the kind of judges Democrats say they'd like to see appointed — have resulted in court decisions that have infringed on the religious liberties and free speech rights of many (take a look at "hate speech" statutes and you'll see what I mean). At the same time, conservative judges — the kind that George W. Bush and other Republicans take pride in placing in office — have ruled that the Ten Commandments aren't really religious (excuse me?) and that they're perfectly okay for public display. And while courts decide this way or that way, the ACLU seems as if it would strike all public mention of religion from all venues everywhere while their conservative counterparts would institute school prayer and the teaching of creationism.
If you're now just a little confused as to which party is the better one, well, there's a reason for that. The answer is that neither is better. When it comes to freedom, both are worse. But voters tend to ignore that fact and simply see how bad the one currently in power is and then vote for the other guys. Six or eight years from now, polls will show that the majority of Americans favor Republicans, and that a number of Democrats stand to lose their places in an upcoming election cycle.
Someone I knew a long time ago had the general sense of it when he referred to both major political parties as "nazis." The word "nazi" has the connotation of total control, complete intolerance, and ruthless social engineering. It doesn't seem an inappropriate term.
He called the Democrats "Social Nazis." They were, he said, determined at all costs to "improve" society by coercing all of us to participate in what they view as improvements. The "social" appellation was doubly appropriate in that many "improvements" are socialist in nature. Nationalized health care, for example, was — and is — high on their list, as are things like universal pre-school (which another friend all too correctly calls "early indoctrination") and "for your own good" laws like the non-smoking ordinances being passed in so many places.
"Social Nazis" don't like things like self-sufficiency or guns, so they do their best to make the ownership of private property or firearms expensive or difficult to obtain and maintain (if you own property, you might not want other people to freely enjoy it; if you own guns, you might actually have the nerve to defend yourself against some poor, misunderstood attacker). "Social Nazis" are also big fans of things like the imposition of eminent domain (if the town gains economically, it can afford to provide more amenities to more citizens); the homogenization of speech and thought (hate speech laws and other curtailments of "unpopular" expression); and broad-based welfare programming for the "less fortunate" (which all too often in this country means the "less motivated"), something that actually translates literally into taking from the rich (and not-so-rich) and giving to the poor (and with disturbing frequency, the lazy).
He referred to the Republicans as "Salvation Nazis." That's because, he said, Republicans often seem to base their actions on the morality they wish to impose on everybody else. Recreational drug use in the Republican vernacular warrants draconian punishment whether the user has hurt anybody but himself or not; creationism isn't a matter of mythology or faith but is rather a "theory" (apparently, some Republicans are unclear as to the actual definition of "theory"); and while abortion is anathema, so is the birth control that might prevent the vast majority of abortions from being a consideration.
Under conservative Republican auspices, freedom of religion is only truly important if it's the freedom of their religion. That, in turn, all too often translates as a "majority rule" issue when the fact of the matter is that the Bill of Rights was specifically enacted so as to protect against that very thing. That same Bill of Rights that proves ideal for reinterpretation or "modernization" for Democrats is hallowed to Republicans — except, of course, for the times it proves inconvenient.
The truth that too many still refuse to see is that the more the Democrats and the Republicans are different, the more they're just alike. We scratch our heads and finally decide to vote for the "lesser evil," but it gets harder and harder to determine which is actually the lesser. And even when we're able to figure out which is lesser, we manage to forget that the lesser evil is still evil. In our disgust, an ever growing majority of registered voters don't bother to vote at all. (Yes, I know that some of you don't — and won't —vote, and that's fine. But with or without philosophical objections to voting, you're still going to be subject to the whim of those who do cast ballots whether you happen to like it or.)
Do you know that if every one of those disenchanted voters — and who can argue that they don't have every right to be as disenchanted as they are? — would get out to the polls and vote for a third party candidate, the third party candidate would win? (When you look at the statistics even for a good voter turn-out in a presidential election — 2004, for example — do you know that the presidency was decided by only a quarter of eligible voters?) And while there are those third party candidates who are at least as evil as the Democrats and Republicans (do you seriously want a Socialist Party candidate in charge of anything having to do with the economy, or a Green Party candidate having anything to do with agricultural rules or regulations?), there are others that would be vast improvements over the status quo.
Libertarians aren't perfect, but unlike Democrats or Republicans, they don't pretend to be, and they'll certainly not enact laws to make you conform to their idea of what is! The Constitution Party has its flaws (its platform plank involving religious issues is seriously problematic for me), but in the main it's also a giant step above either Republicans or Democrats. Some of you have well qualified members of third parties running for office in your area right now, and whatever the polls say, they can win if the disgruntled, disgusted, and disappointed American actually decides to vote for the best rather than the least objectionable candidate.
I've said it before, and I'll doubtless say it again. But frankly, as election time nears, there's no better time to say it again than right now: If you're sick of politics as usual, stop voting for the usual politicians. More important, start voting for the unusual ones. If you do, you have a chance at seeing some much better candidates take office. It's certain you couldn't see much worse...
Lady Liberty, a senior writer for ESR, is a graphic designer and pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House, at http://www.ladylibrty.com. E-mail Lady Liberty at