Sunday, June 21, 2009

Why do Republicans have trouble with civil liberties issues? (Initial thoughts)

The American revolution was fought on philosophical arguments about natural rights (“human rights”) and civil liberties. The Constitution guarantees many of these liberties and form the common foundation for both Republican and Democratic party thinking and ideals?

How is it then, that when it comes to civil liberties issues that Republicans now almost instinctively react against the broadening of the franchise, the inclusion into liberty of great numbers of people who live within our boundaries, and sometimes even impede access to deny the liberties themselves?

The granting, or acknowledgement, of civil liberties is an essential part of a “law and order” agenda, so how has it become detached from mainstream Republican thought?

The “left” (and we really must examine what that means) has dominated civil liberties and social issues for so many generations that Republicans have forgotten that such issues were why they backed the Union in the Civil War.

One result of Republican inertia in social reform (call it “social improvement” if it makes you fee better) is that it has made the “left” more extreme in its proposals, just so that it can bring about some action. The process is like a sail boat tacking back and forth in an attempt to go straight, and, as a result, taking twice as long to cover the distance.

One objection that is often raised is the notion that “people are getting something for nothing,” and that sticks in the craw of a lot of Republicans. Unfortunately, all this demonstrates is an ignorance of American history.

There is another way of describing what is carelessly called “giving something for nothing” and the word is “investment” (ah, the die-hards just woke up again). Whether it was Federal land-grants to individuals or educational establishments, or the investment of individual towns and states in the development of the railroads, the beginning of all these enterprises was “something for nothing.”

It was more than that: it was in investment in a vision of the future. Sometimes it took a generation or more to bear fruit, sometimes it withered and died.

When we back increased enfranchisement, money for education, medicine, child-care, support of the elderly, this shouldn't just be a handout: it should be the same sort of investment in a vision of the future as was present in the land-grant days. If it is just a handout, then there is something wrong with the program, and Republicans could be in an ideal place to address that end of the problem and work towards seizing the initiative again.


  1. I'd love to see the world you propose, especially since it might mean the return of real options and debate to the American Political Landscape. I fear, however, that both Republicans and we on the "Left" won't actually allow this shift back because it prevents a whole host of politically and economically expedient things from happening. I also fear that Republicans won't engage at all out of shame over the conduct of their own in these matters.

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