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The Party of Liberty vs. the Party of Coercion

7:00 AM, Mar 13, 2013 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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That is emphatically not the position of the party of Obama.  In his Second Inaugural Address, Obama said, “[P]reserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.”  In other words, liberty isn’t threatened by centralized power; it’s made possible by it.  This essentially turns our founding philosophy on its head.

To be clear, being the party of liberty doesn’t mean being the party of libertarianism. Republicans should stand for liberty and the traditional mores that support it, and against the license and libertinism that undermine it.  They should stand for a strong national defense and a policy of peace through strength. Moreover, they should espouse (as the Founders did) limited government, not small government. Given a choice between big and small government, the citizenry’s preference in the 21st century may not be clear. Make it a choice between limited government and unlimited government, however, and the verdict will be plain. 

Nor does being the party of liberty and limited government mean that Republicans don’t have an essential, indispensable, role to play in reforming government.  To cite just one (but perhaps the most important) example, one cannot realistically hope to repeal Obamacare — and, yes, Republicans should be as determined as ever to repeal it — without first offering a compelling replacement.  At this stage in American history, the cause of liberty requires a keen understanding of federal policy and a willingness to advance creative solutions to combat the Democrats’ statist aims and to undo the damage they’ve done.

But when Republicans won’t speak the language of liberty, they handicap their efforts. Bill Kristol recently quoted the eulogy that Abraham Lincoln gave upon the death of Henry Clay. Recalling the themes of the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln said of Clay,

“He loved his country partly because it was his own country, and mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity, and glory, because he saw in such, the advancement, prosperity, and glory of human liberty, human right, and human nature.  He desired the prosperity of his countrymen, partly because they were his countrymen, but chiefly to show to the world that free men could be prosperous.”

The most striking thing about this passage is the way it prioritizes liberty even over prosperity:  “He desired the prosperity of his countrymen…chiefly to show to the world that free men could be prosperous.”  The contrast with the 2012 campaign is striking.  Think of how many times Romney spoke of economic well-being versus how many times he said the word “liberty.”  America’s political leaders used to make no secret of holding loftier ideals; they viewed being a free man or woman to be an even more important and richer condition than being a materially wealthy one. 

In truth, however, liberty and prosperity go hand-in-glove.  There’s no need to choose between them, and there’s no reason why the Republican party need give rhetorical emphasis to one over the other.  It would be wise, in the spirit of Lincoln, to emphasize both. 

The party of liberty versus the party of coercion — that’s a clear choice for the American people, and one that plainly favors the GOP.

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