It's really gotten close to the point where the only reason for limited-government types to vote for Republican presidents is that they occasionally appoint judges who believe that the Constitution restrains federal and state regulatory power...Bernstein links this article from The Washington Post which briefly summarizes a minority committee report from the House finding that Republicans have loaded up on budgetary pork far more than did their recent Democratic predecessors.
"Compassionate conservatism" seems to have turned out to be a replay of the Nixon strategy of buying off every conceivable interest group that is capable of being bought off by a Republican admnistration, while using social issues and conservative rhetoric to appease the Republican masses.
Then, on Sunday, the Post had an op-ed called "The Bush Betrayal" by David Boaz:
Federal spending has increased by 23.7 percent since Bush took office. Education has been further federalized in the No Child Left Behind Act. Bush pulled out all the stops to get Republicans in Congress to create the biggest new entitlement program -- prescription drug coverage under Medicare -- in 40 years.I've been thinking lately that Democrats should make an overt appeal to Libertarians in 2004 to try to pry them from the Republican voter pool.
He pushed an energy bill that my colleague Jerry Taylor described as "three parts corporate welfare and one part cynical politics . . . a smorgasbord of handouts and subsidies for virtually every energy lobby in Washington."
It's a far cry from the less-government, "leave us alone" conservatism of Ronald Reagan.
Libertarians must be given pause by the developments noted in these articles, as well as the Patriot Act (internet and library snooping), the deficit spending (they like the tax cuts, but hate the failure to cut government), the drug war (Ashcroft has gone after head shops), and other aspects of the Bush era.
Democrats could try to appeal to libertarians by promising to balance the budget (cutting corporate handouts in mining, agriculture and other areas would make for a large start), overturning the excesses of the Patriot Act, and perhaps at least thinking about easing the drug war. Democrats could also embrace more transparency in government, which libertarians are bound to favor.
Boaz, from the libertarian Cato Institute, concludes with three options for those that share his political philosophy:
It could happen that limited-government voters decide to stay home, or vote for an independent candidate in the mold of Ross Perot or Jesse Ventura or vote Libertarian.Those are some interesting choices.
They could even vote for an antiwar, anti-Patriot Act, socially tolerant Democrat.
Given a choice between big-government liberalism and big-government conservatism, the leave-us-alone voters might decide that voting isn't worth the trouble.
Update: See another post on Volokh and the links therein. Just last week, the libertarian magazine Reason had a critical on-line piece about Republicans.