The Republican Sickness

by Harry Browne

September 13, 2002

Do you ever wonder why conservative Republican journalists and commentators support a man like George W. Bush someone whose proposals for foreign aid, health care, education, farm subsidies, and constitutional violations contradict everything the conservatives claim to stand for?

They suffer, I believe, from a sickness.

A Republican sickness.

Like a virus, it can start very subtly, but eventually it takes over one's whole being.

An individual believes in small government, low taxes, and the free market. He decides that Republicans seem slightly more freedom-loving than Democrats. At least, that's what the Republicans claim.

So he supports the Republican candidates. In fact, he quickly comes to decide that good Democrats are so rare that he might as well vote the straight Republican ticket.

And he comes to believe that only when the Republicans have complete control of the government will he finally get the small government, low taxes, and free market that he longs for.

Contradictions?

He sees Republican positions that are opposite to those goals such as the insane War on Drugs, tough-on-crime violations of the Constitution, and reckless military spending. But someone persuades him that those measures are essential to establish a framework in which we can have small government, low taxes, and a free market.

From time to time, he notices Republican politicians promoting big-government programs like corporate welfare, farm subsidies, and foreign aid. But he becomes persuaded that some of this is necessary "in today's political climate" in order to remain in office. And if the Republicans don't remain in office, how can we ever hope to have small government, low taxes, and a free market?

By this time, the sickness is well advanced, but he still retains some control over his thoughts and actions.

Advanced Stage

However, in 1992 the virus exploded inside him triggered by an event from which he has never recovered . . . 

Bill Clinton was elected President.

This man, who seemed to embody everything bad about the Democrats, won the Presidency, won it handily, and proceeded to smirk and waffle and lord it over all those who want small government, low taxes, and a free market.

Not only that, he had a wife who seemed to make Lucrezia Borgia look like Sister Teresa.

But Bill Clinton's worst attribute the quality that drove Republicans over the edge into complete irrationality was that, no matter how many sins he committed, he got away with them.

Even when Clinton was nailed dead to rights for having sex with a White House intern, the Republicans couldn't bring him down.

From that point on, the Republican couldn't clear his head, evaluate what his party was doing, and think objectively. Now, to concede any failing by a Republican would imply that Bill Clinton wasn't so bad after all. And that simply couldn't be admitted.

Al Gore, as Clinton's surrogate in the 2000 election, had to be defeated. Every future Democrat has to be defeated. Every Republican has to be supported. To do otherwise is to acknowledge that Bill Clinton might not be much worse than your garden-variety, everyday Republican political hack.

This Is your Brain . . . 

In one tragic case history, a conservative columnist decided in 2000 to run for Congress as a Libertarian. She wanted to take enough votes away from Connecticut Republican Congressman Christopher Shays to make him lose his seat to punish him for voting against Clinton's impeachment. But the Libertarians refused to endorse her.

Suffering from a particularly severe case of the Republican sickness, she wrote two nationally syndicated diatribes condemning Libertarians for believing what she had professed to believe only two weeks earlier.

Young people, please pay attention to this tragic story and resolve to resist peer pressure. Don't let this happen to you.

The Terminal Stage

So is George W. Bush pushing for more taxpayer money for foreign aid, farm subsidies, government health care (also known as "socialized medicine" during 1993-2001), and federal education? Well, that's just what we have to do now or we'll never get small government, low taxes, and a free market.

"Oh to hell with it. I don't care about small government, low taxes, and a free market anymore. I just want to show those damn Democrats they can't get away with what they've done!"

And so we see Republican talk-show hosts, columnists, and TV commentators supporting George W. Bush for doing the very things they had condemned Bill Clinton for doing. The Republican sickness is a tragic thing to behold.

The Other Strain

(There also are authoritarian Republicans who never did believe in small government, low taxes, and a free market. They're the ones who all along have loved the insane War on Drugs, the tough-on-crime constitutional violations, and the bullying foreign policy. They chose the Republicans because the Democrats seemed soft on these issues.

(Most people don't realize that the Republicans have been for big government ever since the party's inception in the 1850s. Until Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt, the Democrats were the party of smaller government.

(When the Democrats switched ideologies, the Republicans attempted to move slightly to the libertarian side of the Democrats' new stance. But they still chose big-government leaders like Herbert Hoover, Thomas E. Dewey, Dwight Eisenhower, Robert Dole, and the George Bushes.

(But that's a different story for another time.)

Symptoms

As I said, the Republican sickness infects the body very subtly. You must be on the lookout for early warning signs:

  • Do you find yourself saying, "I must vote for the lesser of two evils"?

  • Have you ever said, "Sometimes a politician has to vote for a bad bill in order to stay in office"?

  • Have you ever maintained that not voting or voting for a third party is "wasting your vote"?

If you've experienced any of these symptoms, please seek professional help as soon as possible.