By nearly all accounts, Republicans are poised for a big win, even by historical mid-term standards, in the Nov. 2 congressional elections. Many candidates backed by the Tea Party should have a big day.
But what will these victories mean for people who are alarmed by the growth of the welfare-warfare state? Not much, I'm sorry to say.
Who among the Republicans has presented himself or herself as a peace candidate? Except for Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, I can't think of anyone. That issue would have provided a target-rich environment for a pro-peace, pro-civil liberties Republican. But unfortunately that term is almost a contradiction in terms.
President Obama has not only continued most of President Bush's policies of widespread killing in the Muslim world and disregard for civil liberties at home; he's also fortified them in truly frightening ways. Bush did not openly claim the authority to have Americans assassinated without even a whiff of due process. Obama has widened the war activity to include Pakistan, while conducting covert operations in Yemen and other places. He has truly embraced the killer drones as his own, accelerating the production of vengeful Muslims (also known as "terrorists").
On the civil liberties front, Obama seeks wider powers to eavesdrop on phone calls and monitor Internet activities. His administration is pushing legislation that would ensure that telephone and computer-network technology is open to government intrusion. Hey, Progressives: did you ever think Big Brother would be Barack Obama?
A prominent Republican opposition to war and the national-security state might have produced real results. I really don't think Obama wants to be bogged down in the Afghan quagmire. (Why are Americans involved in that civil war?) In his heart of hearts he may indeed find drone attacks on innocent civilians and dubiously labeled militants abhorrent. But with an election coming up, this consummate politician could hardly be expected to do anything that would be exploited by cynical war-mongering Republicans, ever ready to pounce on anyone with the slightest aversion to war as an appeaser if not a traitor. Given what some on the fringe right wing have to say about Obama, can you imagine what they would say if he had tried to reverse Bush's policies? The Democrats would have been facing an even bigger rout.
So, thank you, GOP leaders Mitch McConnell and John Boehner. Thank you Tea Party leaders. Your support for the war policies and trashing of civil liberties has only encouraged Obama to pursue barbaric policies that should offend every decent American. The blood is on your hands, too.
And what about domestic spending? The Republicans and Tea Partiers make a lot of noise about that, but what do they really propose? The recent GOP manifesto talks about cutting spending and the budget deficit, but it has few specifics. Republicans seem to be asking for trust in their fiscal vigilance, but who would trust them after the profligate Bush years? Their credibility has been destroyed beyond repair.
And how much confidence should one have in the Tea Party candidates, when one of their biggest concerns seems to be cuts in Medicare? When will they realize that Medicare is a government program? So is Social Security. That goes for the Pentagon, too.
Anyone concerned about America's fiscal future needs to come to grips with the fact that every aspect of government needs scrutiny. Whole missions will have to be abolished, including policing the world and providing pensions and medical care for retired people. Otherwise, what we're seeing in Europe will soon be on our shores. The welfare-warfare state is unsustainable.
But despite some campaign declarations, the Republicans seem unwilling to face that fact. Otherwise we'd have seen some specifics.
In at least two other ways a Republican victory will leave the status quo sadly intact. A Republican-controlled Congress will have no interest in abolishing the idiotic so-called war on drugs (it's actually a war on people) or in opening the borders so that the natural right to migrate without government permission is respected. That the self-proclaimed party of limited government embraces drug prohibition and immigration control pretty much says it all. Hypocrisy seems poised to triumph on election day.
- Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation (www.fff.org).