An apologist's open letter to the formerly Grand Old Party

Dear Republican Party:

Hi, my name is Chris. I’ve been a card-carrying Republican since I registered some twenty-four years ago. I realize you probably don’t recognize me because I’m standing in the middle of the road. There are actually a lot of us over here—not that you’ve been paying much attention to us because you seem so fixated on the Right these days.

You might not recognize me, either, because I don’t like circuses, and you have a really big one going on right now. I probably sound like the Party Pooper for even saying anything. Those of us in the middle of the road don’t tend to say much at all, actually. We don’t froth at the mouth, we don’t thump Bibles, we don’t want to crusade. We just want a good, sensible reason to vote for a good, sensible candidate.

Because you seem to have stopped paying attention to us in your attempts to pander to “the base,” you seem to forget just how many of us there are over here in the middle. And I hate to tell you this, but while you secure the base, you’re losing us. In the effort to find The Most Conservative Candidate, the party seems to forget that no one is going to vote for that candidate except The Most Conservative Voters—which is a pretty slim voting block if you come to your senses and think about it. Meanwhile, most of the rest of us are looking at the Right and feeling varying degrees of horror at the circus they’re forcing you to throw.

We want to vote Republican. Really, we do. Why are you making it so damn hard?

I’ve gotta be honest with you: most times, I feel a flush of embarrassment when I have to admit I’m a Republican. I’m sad to think that you probably don’t even care.

“Chris” stands for “Christopher,” not “Christian,” so that might also be why you don’t seem to pay much attention to me any more. I do believe in God, if that makes any kind of difference to you. I should probably wear that on my sleeve more, I suppose, and then maybe you’d ask me to the dance, but I believe in that great time-honored American tradition that we should all be free to worship to the dictates of our own free conscience. I’m a big fan of that whole “Freedom of Religion” thing that the Founders advocated in the First Amendment, the “wall of separation” between church and state advocated by Jefferson and, in the last century, reinforced by JFK (who, for the record, does not make me want to puke). If you really want a good lesson, you might even want to get yourself some really old-school Roger Williams, who pushed for separation since the 1630s.

I believe separation of church and state is right in line with what God wants, anyway. He did, after all, give us free will. It’s up to us, as individuals, to choose. I don’t want someone choosing my values for me—otherwise my conscience wouldn’t be my own and it wouldn’t be free. I believe a person should certainly be moral in the way he approaches his decision-making, but for you, Republican Party, that should not involve a religious component. The Institutions need to stay separate. I know most people on the Left worry about the church mucking up the state. I worry about the state mucking up the church just as much—for God’s sake,don’t tell me how to worship. All the more reason to keep church and state apart.

You seem to be so caught up in pandering to the Right on social issues that you forget you’re the party of smaller government. The surging insistence that the party pay attention to what’s going on in people’s bedrooms seems kind of contrary to that.

After all, that’s why I’m a Republican in the first place: in principle, I believe in a smaller government that does what only a government can do—defense, infrastructure, environmental resources, national parks. I think it’d be really great if the national government paid a little more attention to national parks instead of who’s using what form of birth control.

I’m a big fan of education. That should probably come as no surprise since I’m a college professor—which immediately paints me in your eyes as a Leftie pinko Commie Satan-worshipper who wants to corrupt the souls of children. I realize that education can be a scary thing for people not smart enough to think for themselves. Dogma is so much easier than critical thinking, and faith sure beats factual evidence every time, right? If the Good People of the Right are a God-fearing people, they seem to fear education even more. And you let them!

I do agree that not everyone should go to college. I see kids every day who are there because they’re expected to be, not because they want to be or even because they have the ability. I get that. I see why people mistrust the system, even if it’s based on a minority of negative examples.

But I see many, many more kids every day who are bright, talented, motivated, sharp, and creative—kids who want to make a difference. I believe in a government that wants to enable them to change the world, not one that wants to test the shit out of them until they vomit facts that they immediately forget after the test. I want a government that doesn’t want to crush the spirits of teachers and professors.

It probably wouldn’t redeem me any to admit that I teach at a religious-based university. That might pique your interest until I point out that it’s a Franciscan Univeristy, and everyone knows St. Francis was a flaming tree-hugger, which of course must make him a liberal. I do happen to think the environment is important, though. At the end of the day, I think it’s important to have clean air to breath and clean water to drink—you know, small things.

Certainly everyone in all those mid-western Red States you love so much must realize that almost all of them depend on the land for their livelihoods, so you think they’d show a little more concern about the environment, too. (I know, I know—I shouldn’t go imposing those kind of values on others, right?)

Of course, Jesus was a flaming liberal, too. Bigtime. I know some folks might actually be surprised by that since you’ve done such a great job branding him as The Protector of Wholesome Family Values™. He didn’t say, “Love people if they’re The Right Kind of People” or “if they belong to The Club.” It’s every neighbor for each other, man. He also said, “Give away all your money and help the poor.” It seems the Republican Party has been a little slower to adopt that particular philosophy, so I’m wondering just how cozy you are with the guy or whether we’re even talking about the same person.

I also believe in a little sensible gun control. I know the Second Amendment is more important than the rest of the Constitution to many folks on the Right, who all seem to have the wet dream of a land where everyone gets to walk around with concealed weapons. Ah, the good ol’ days…. Welcome back, Wild, Wild West!

Should any of the Red Staters you love so much decide to leave their mountaintop bunkers and sally forth into a Blue State inner-city, they’ll see that gun control issues there are entirely different than they are in the land of camo pants.

Can you tell me, honestly, that if the Founders had the kind of weapons we have today that they’d let everyone pack heat? Uh, uh, uh—before you answer, remember that these were the same people who kept the community’s flintlock muskets locked up in common arsenals. Is that somehow not gun control?

Once upon a time, the party would have described me as a fiscal conservative but a social moderate. There were plenty of great role models. You’re letting one of them, Olympia Snowe, walk out the door. Like the rest of us in the middle of the road, you were taking her for granted and now she’s walking out on you.

How soon before I do, too?

As I watch the current political freakshow, I can’t help but lament how far you’ve lost your way, Republican Party. I want the Grand Old Party of Teddy Roosevelt, who embraced progressivism. I want the Grand Old Party of Eisenhower, who warned of the evils of the industrial military complex.

I’d even settle for the Slightly-Less-Grand Old Party of Bush Senior, who wanted to enable a Thousand Points of Light.

Hell, I even bought into the “compassionate conservatism” of Bush Junior because I’d seen it in action in my own family and knew it was real. He was onto something with that. Why the hell did you let him start playing to everyone’s fears? You’re the party of Lincoln, for God’s sake. If ever a president gave Hope™, it was him, wasn’t it—he who spoke to the better angels of our nature?

I’m asking you to wise up. Please. I’m still feeling bad that I had to vote for John Kerry in 2004, but you didn’t give me any other choice. And then in 2008, that’s when I knew you had jumped the shark for real. McCain might’ve been worth looking at, but you put that crackpot Tina Fey impersonator on the ticket with him—do you think I give a fuck if she can see Russia from her house? That’s not the kind of shit I want just a heartbeat away from the presidency.

This year, you’re about to do it to me again. You’ll either choose The Most Conservative Candidate, who’ll make me and everyone else in the middle of the road vote Democratic again (or not turn out to vote at all), OR you’ll choose Mitt, who has contorted himself so badly to make his moderate record look like he’s The Most Conservative Candidate that we middle-of-the-roaders won’t vote for him because he’s spent the last eight months spewing bullshit and therefore has no credibility.

Wise up. Please. Stop pandering. Stop playing politics. Make the system work again. Those of us in the middle of road want a reason to vote, too—or, even better, a credible reason to believe again.

40 replies »

  1. Sir, I cannot assume that anything found upon the internet is true, but, if this letter was truthful, then you are like unto the parents and grandparents I was raised by: a classical Republican of the old school. There are reasons I turned away from my family’s political history and became an ardent independent…and almost all of those reasons are listed here. The party that considered careful statecraft, fiscal prudence, and limits upon the role of government…is dead. There is nothing left of that party. My family considered federal land and parks a heritage held in trust for all Americans…not a convenient source of auctionable loot. The environment was something which each generation takes stewardship over…a responsibility to be handled soberly and with respect for the children who will take it next…not a dumping ground for toxins. Religion was treated as an intensely personal issue…and to spare us the wars and terrors of other nations, it was separated from governance for the protection of both institutions. These aren’t the policies of liberalism (or weren’t when I was a child)…these were the foundations of simple common administrative good sense. Science (real science and not paid for advertisements masked in jargon) was held above superstition and education was a thing to be sought after…not discouraged and restricted. If that era of sanity were to return to the GOP…I would return with it, but alas, I have seen no sign of this reign of terror letting up. It seems that a constituency of thinkers is undesirable compared to gathering a flock of sheep that enjoy their own fleecing. These reasons and more are why, for now, and for the immediate future, I do not vote for Republicans…not even the best among them…because they owe and answer to a party that is dedicated to the destruction of all that I hold precious, right and just. I commend you for your thoughtful examination…and I share your hope for a saner future for the party…I just wish I had confidence that anyone was listening.

  2. hey this guy ought to be running for nomination…..if I was American I’d vote for him

  3. What a great letter. Republicans need to (excuse the expression) take their party back. Most Americans like a two party system. The current GOP is alienating more of their base then they realize. They have been invaded and taken over by self serving people who are “purchasing” their party and putting puppets in place where there use to be leaders.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Someone has finally given voice to how I’ve been feelling for a long time now. This is the best thing I’ve read in a very long time. I actually just switched my voter registration from Republican to Unaffiliate because I just couldn’t take it anymore. Great piece! Thank you again!

    Andrew Duppstadt in North Carolina

  5. Bravo, Chris! I couldn’t have said it better myself. I too, have had enough of this political freakshow. It is humilating. Thank you for saying what SO many of us are thinking!
    -Laura (Hawkins) Oakes

  6. Vox, i especially appreciated your line “a constituency of thinkers is undesirable compared to gathering a flock of sheep that enjoy their own fleecing.”

    I didn’t even get into the whole war on science, which is directly related to the war on education. The willful ignorance of research for the sake of political expediency has been shameful and will be, I fear, catastrophic.

  7. I wish there were more than two viable parties. I’ve been Republican since I voted for Reagan on an absentee ballot while in boot camp but I’m pretty unimpressed with the choices we have now.

  8. Thanks for your comment, Lee616. I have to admit, I’m not a fan of the two-party system. I don’t think it serves the diverse views of Americans or the political climate very well, and it doesn’t give politicians incentive to compromise (versus digging in and obstructing). The fact that I’m bedfellows with the Religious Right, an association I am VERY uncomfortable with, suggests unhappy and ineffective alliances; the same unease exists between the far Left and more moderate Democrats. The system seems so dishearteningly broken.

  9. Thank you so much for this letter. I’m a Democrat, but I’m married to a moderate Republican who constantly says more or less the same. Even for me, this is painful to watch. I know very few Republicans who care for how this circus is going – and I live in an extremely rural area that’s almost entirely Republican. I do hope someone will listen to you.

  10. Thank you for your amazing letter. I am a Liberal. Not a long haired peace and love hippy but someone who just wants better for our country. I was raised in a long line of ultra-conservative Republicans, the kind of base Santorum is aiming for, but out of the ashes of our families GOP came a liberal rose. I agree 100% with everything you said. If not for a few words change it could always be flipped around to the other party. Its so depressing to see how our government came so far from a new nation of new thinkers to a middle age nation of lets make things up and pretend and hope it works and no one checks our facts.

  11. Chris, Well articulated. Sad to see the pandering, the name calling, the bravado. As a fiscal conservative I wonder whythose representing our party are not dealing with the elephant in the room, our $15 trillion national debt. Conventional wisdom says that people with the courage to do the right thing will lose elections. The contrary is true. American’s would rise to the defense of those that put the good of the people before politics, before contraception, before talk of war.

  12. “Ah, the good ol’ days…. Welcome back, Wild, Wild West!”

    In the year 1900 and years before the enactment of any gun control the murder rate was 1.1 per 100,000. Obviously, they were doing something right in 1900 and gun control was not one of them.

    “Can you tell me, honestly, that if the Founders had the kind of weapons we have today that they’d let everyone pack heat?”

    Of course they would. The Founders placed more faith in the people than they did in government or governmental officials.

    “…who all seem to have the wet dream of a land where everyone gets to walk around with concealed weapons.”

    Firearms rights have been expanded over last several years, and more citizens are now free to carry firearms in more places. Yet, homicides, including homicides with firearms, as well as all other violent crime have been decreasing since 2006. Moreover, after a dramatic increase in firearms sales and ownership after the last Presidential election including an increase in first time firearms purchases and an increase in firearms carry permits, gun ban groups and zealot predicted that there would be a corresponding increase in murders. However, the U.S. homicide rate decreased from 5.0 per 100,000 in 2009 to 4.8 per 100,000 in 2010.

  13. Willbill —

    Thanks for the stats. Alas, I have none ready to counter with because gun control isn’t a battle I typically fight. Like the issue of abortion, gun control is an issue most people have no interest in discussing because their opinions are entrenched.

    You draw an interesting correlation between increased gun rights and a drop in homicide rates, but no where have I seen where there’s any actual cause and effect between those two things. Instead, I tend to look at societies where there’s historically been stricter gun control and a much, much lower gun-related homicide rate, which for me is a far more compelling argument. I unfortunately know too many people affected by gun-related crime to ever be convinced that guns aren’t a problem.

    And you’re only half-right about the Founders. The whole reason we have a two-party system is because half of the Founders placed their faith in the people and the other half felt the people were too passionate to be trusted. Firearms technology has evolved so dramatically since then that they wouldn’t even be able to fathom what we have today, and anyone who questions that need only look at how long it took entire armies to adapt to new firearms technology during the Civil War. People could not wrap their heads around the wholesale slaughter that guns were suddenly able to produce.

    I’m not anti-gun. I’m just in favor of some reasonable discussion about the issue so that kids aren’t getting gunned down in the streets.

  14. What WillBill comment ultimately reveals is that this president has NOT come after everyone’s guns as is oft repeated by some STILL, even though it simply has not happened. It is nothing more but another false scare tactic that if you look at the facts it is plain to see that they do not line up with the rhetoric.

    I’m not anti-gun – I grew up around them. I am anti-fake inflaming of people via untruths and exaggerations like this. So far this election seems to be all about this kind of ginning up.

    I’ve always been an independent voter and recognized that both party’s have their own extreme fringe (and I have never felt allegiance with either party). But the GOP is so bent on appealing to that extreme, that I may as well be a Democrat anymore – the current Repubs have run so far to the right, they’ve made it impossible for me to vote GOP. This election cycle makes it clearer than ever as so far I’ve learned from the GOP that I’m not the “correct” religion and am apparently now a slut since I use birth control.

  15. I am an Independent voter that despises the extremist on both sides. The far right however, makes me completely sick to my stomach and mad as hell. This article is complete common sense which the far right can’t stand. This article is most likely the way the founders of the country thought. I hear there are qualified Republicans who won’t run because they don’t want to be part of the circus, but they also refuse to speak out against the establishment. I applaud you standing up to take your party back.

  16. Wild Bill comes from a long line of underhanded obfuscaters, of course. Disraeli was wrong. Statistics don’t lie. But liars can certainly use statistics, presented improperly, to bolster their points.

    There was a dip in the murder rate at the turn of the 20th century. No one knows why. There were no sudden changes in police, economics, or what have you to point to that I can find in any of the research. So, Bill’s numbers are from a very unusual period, and belie the real numbers just prior to that.

    Western towns full of young, unattached males (as in “unattached to women”) were incredibly violent compared to today. I’ll put a few links at the bottom of this to illustrate the point. But even the numbers of a place like Dodge City during its heyday (165 murders per 100,000) fall short of the reality, because most of those murders occurred during the short window each year when the cattle drives arrived in town, and young men with guns liquored up and wandered the streets. What happened during those months is diluted in the numbers that include an entire year.

  17. Absolutely one of the best political op-eds i’ve ever had the pleasure to read.

    I’m not, by nature, of either party or any particular ideology. I guess i fall to the left, but that’s mostly because my lifetime of political consciousness starts with Reagan and it’s been nothing but down hill for the right since then. (Caveat, Bush I was the last foreign policy president we’ve had…even if i didn’t agree with all that he did, he understood it and emphasized it.)

    There are points within what i would call the traditional GOP platform that i’m amenable to and agree with. There are ideals in GOP history that i see merit in. But i don’t see any of those poking through the GOP candidates or modern platform. Yes, i voted for Obama, but only because the GOP put Palin on the ticket. Without her i would have abstained from major party voting because by election time i didn’t like Obama.

    To be fair, a liberal could write a very similar piece about the Democratic Party … especially since Clinton. I’m almost forty and cannot remember a time of functional politics, rational discourse, loyal opposition or even the feeling that any candidate actually has the best interests of the Republic at heart. Where does that leave me?

    Cynical and bitter. I can’t see things getting better. I can’t see a way out of our messes. I’ve reached the point of withdrawal, because i don’t even care enough to want to see the system broken down and rebuilt.

  18. Chris

    I am a lifelong independent, 42 years now, a center, center-left voter, who once voted routinely for GOP candidates. The party you long for is a party I would vote for again. I agree; it no longer exists. I have not voted for a single GOP, or now GOP/Tea Party, candidate at any level of government since the rise of Newt Gingrich and his Contract with America.

    The current GOP/Tea Party does not reflect my values, their message is one of exclusion, intolerance and hate and their proposed legislation favors the wealthy, big business and the religious right at the expense of all the other players in our democracy.

    The circus that has been the GOP/Tea Party presidential candidate selection process would be very funny if it were not going to end with a gentleman who could become the President of the United States. A thought that scares the hell out of me.

    I know you are not in the current clown car, but should you ever wish to dip your toe in that pond, please let me know. I will listen.


  19. I appreciate the kinds words folks have been showing. I really wish that the piece didn’t resonate so strongly with so many people because that would suggest that I’m more isolated in my discontent than I’d imagined. Alas, there seem to many of us–Right and Left–who yearn for a more moderate, sensible politics and a more workable political system.

    Lex, I try hard not to be cynical and bitter because I’m so steeped in background about the Founders, and I appreciate so much what they were trying to do. It’s hard not to feel crushed by the scope of failure by our current political generation. I teeter on the brink of giving up all the time. Ugh.

  20. I have to call BS all over this article. First of all, the author has noted that the Republicans have been spending more time than in past years pandering to its Right base. This is primarily because they have yet to pick a nominee for president. Every party panders to its base until it picks a nominee. What the author is seeing is not a Republican party shifting more right than usual, so much as a party without a clear nominee. Once they finally pick one, then the process will switch back to campaigning to the middle, which is what he is used to. And obviously the nominee is going to be Romney…eventually. So he really doesn’t need to be getting upset.

    Secondly, it’s not the Republicans who put government into the contraception debate. It was the Democrats who used government to mandate that all insurance companies provide contraception for free. The author states that “we should all be free to worship to the dictates of our own free conscience,” which is exactly what the Republicans are fighting for and the Democrats are fighting against. The Church is not trying to use government to ban contraception, but the State is using government to impose contraception upon the Church. “It’s up to us, as individuals, to choose” …which is why there should be variety in the marketplace for insurance companies so those who choose not to pay for contraception can do so, and those who want it covered can also do so. Basically this guy really has the issue completely backwards. The bullies are crying victim here.

    “Of course, Jesus was a flaming liberal, too[…]He didn’t say, “Love people if they’re The Right Kind of People” or “if they belong to The Club.”” Of course, he also said, ‘you are forgiven; go forth and sin no more,’ not ‘you need no forgiveness, I will accept all of your actions.’ “He also said, “Give away all your money and help the poor.”” Yes, but He also did not say, “have Cesar take your money and give it to the poor for you.”

    The author bemoans the right leaning Republicans of the past. When the Republicans finally put forth a moderate’s moderate, John McCain, this wasn’t good enough for the author. He chose instead to vote for the most Left-leaning president in recent memory. Please. This author is not the moderate he paints himself to be, but a good ways left of center. (As an aside, Sarah Palin never said that seeing Russia from her house thing, that was Tina Fey.)

    But he really tipped his cards with this line: “I want the Grand Old Party of Teddy Roosevelt, who embraced progressivism.” Come on. This guy is not a moderate. Just look at all of the issues he felt were worth mentioning. Those are progressivist issues. He would rather vote for a far-Left guy than a far-Right guy. He’s a obviously progressive and probably was not even a Republican. I call bologna.

  21. Jeez, “S,” seems like you missed that whole line: “in principle, I believe in a smaller government that does what only a government can do,” which had been a hallmark of Republican Party for as long as I can remember.

    I am amazed that you’d presume to tell me that I probably was not even a Republican. I don’t know if you are or not, but you certainly prove my point about the party these days by presuming to tell me what I should or should not think. It’s not a question of being a Republican but of being Republican enough, apparently. “Right” makes right!

    And you’re really uptight, too, man. Loosen up. Even Sarah Palin laughed at Tina Fey’s parody.

  22. If more Americans could get over the notion that they HAVE to subscribe to the two-party system, we wouldn’t be in half the trouble we are now. You’re a Libertarian at heart–your letter practically screams it. Vote that way.

  23. Not sure if your use of “party-pooper” and “froth at the mouth” in the same paragraph was a subtle nod to the Santorum neologism, but it made me giggle. The rest of the piece made me stand up and shout, “Hallelujah.” Someone with good sense has completely articulated how disenfranchised I’ve felt as a voter for the past 2 decades.

  24. Chris, for many years I have considered myself a moderate Republican and this article makes you sound far left of me. Any one who…

    1. wants stricter or continued gun rights limitation at current levels,

    2. believes that “having clean air to breathe and clean water to drink” is contrary to GOP ideals

    3. finds Jesus’ words of “Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.” to be a liberal position.

    4. yearns for a return to the massive government growth days of the Progressive movement of the early 1900s

    5. considers the insane government spending of Olimpia Snow as a “role model”.

    …is FAR to the left of moderate Republicans and can not begin to claim to want “a smaller government that does only what government can do.”

    I agree with a small portion of your arguments, but I find that most of your positions would lead to even more government power and increased government spending.

    After reading this article I am forced to the conclusion that you would make a great Democrat.

    • S and Donovan – you are both excellent examples of how far to the right the Republican Party has slid (and how the Democrats have slid rightwards too).

      Thank you for providing yourselves as exemplars of just what Chris was talking about.

  25. Ha! Brian, if you only knew how many “true right” Republicans have been outraged over my disagreeing with their social issue policies, it would disprove your claim that I am an “excellent example of how far right” Republicans can be. The truth is, when GOPers, Dems, or anyone start legislating their personal morality I can not support their policies. I fully agree with Thoreau. “That Government is best which governs least.” It is my impression that many of Chris’ cited issues with the GOP are contrary to that basic priciple of “small government”, a principle which Chris claimed to share, and that is why I took issue with him in my previous post. Brian, if you think that makes me a radical right-winger and a true example of what you find wrong with the Republican party then I will gladly wear those titles my friend.

    • When I was young and Republican I used to quote that Thoreau line daily. It’s brief, it’s pithy, it has the smell of truth about it and it comes with the credibility that’s automatically attached to those we were assigned to read in high school.

      But there’s a problem with it. It comes from a guy who was educated, ennobled and enlightened, a man of a class that really didn’t need as much governing as others. If everyone were like Thoreau, hell, you could probably get away with no government whatsoever, or damned close to it.

      But everyone isn’t like Thoreau. He wasn’t the rule, he was the rare exception, and he wrote from a privileged context. The fact is that most people – well, many people, anyway, and certainly enough to make a vast difference in the course of society – require governing. In some cases, lots of governing. Those points in human history where societies have opted for very little government prove the point.

      What Thoreau ought to have done was append a thought to that remark, something to the effect that “and those people are best who require the least governance.” He ought to have linked those things inextricably, because societies pass restrictive laws and regulations not because it’s fun, but because it’s necessary.

      Governments could govern the least by getting rid of laws against murder. That would be LESS GOVERNMENT. Same with laws against theft. Right now, the government could govern least by eliminating all regulatory agencies, including those that keep chemical companies from dumping toxic sludge directly into the drinking water supply. If we had less government the entire Gulf of Mexico might be pure crude by now. Also, if we had the least government financial fraudsters could have accomplished 100 times more in the way of destroying our economy in the past few years.

      So let’s free ourselves from rarified statements of pure idealistic American Romantic philosophy and say, instead, this: that society is best where the least government is required.

      • “It is an old saying that that government is best that governs least. In a truer and more practical sense, modern social thinkers regard that government as best that best protects the lives, the property, and the liberty of its citizens and best guarantees them equal rights, privileges, and opportunities before the law.”
        James W. Good (1866-1929)
        Republican Congressman from Iowa
        Speech to the Wisconsin State Bar Association, 1921

        • Actually, let me amend my earlier remarks, because Thoreau DID say something to that effect, although he put it differently. Specifically, the REST of that passage goes this way:

          “That government is best which governs not at all;” and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient.

          We’d all be better if we considered Thoreau’s edict in the light of its full context. Governing to the left side of the ellipses is always problematic.

    • Donovan, my point is that the entire scale has shifted rightward. A moderate Republican today was a right-wing Republican 30 years ago, and possibly a radical extremist 30 years before that. Today, “small government” conservatives are more interested “micro-conservative,” almost libertarian in their rejection of government beyond defense and law enforcement. The GOP did not used to be this way.

      It’s entirely conservative to work for as small a government as possible while still being effective. I have no problem with that, even if I might not agree with it in all cases. But the Republican party today is run by people who want government to be small and ineffective. And that’s not conservative in any way, shape, or form.

  26. Chris, If there were ever to be a viable third party it would have to be established well before becoming earning the right to be viable. As we witnessed in the Tea Party, which was really another version of the religious right with a new name, it was not as it was presented to many folks. The calls for smaller government means different things to different people. The concern that I have since the Citizens United decision (and the results that many of us are witnessing with these “super paks”; which is just another way for the wealthy and corporations to, through propaganda, get voters to vote to their persuasion) is that before we can contemplate a viable third party, we need to clean up what is already there. I believe that we might be able to make some headway by republicans, democrats and independents working together on a common cause to get a Constitutional Amendment past (granted no easy task) to get term limits in place and getting the Citizens United decision overturned. Unless and until those things are done the truly “principled” republican, democrat, or independent American does not stand a chance. Americans must come together for Country over Party. We must keep religion out of politics as well, as it is only being used as a pawn to divide, and compromise needs to become a respected solution instead of a sell-out and “dirty” word. Code words like “good” and “evil” must be stricken from our politics (thank you President Bush #2); as they are just words that inflame the pawns (American people) from the chess masters (those who want to control government) from seeing truth.

  27. Samuel,

    1. You said, “Those points in human history where societies have opted for very little government prove my point.” Please give examples.

    2. Since when does being “educated, ennobled, and enlightened” discredit someone’s thinking? Should those not be the very sources we turn to when doing our own critically thinking? If not, who on earth do you draw inspiration from?

    3. Your examples against limited government of eliminating murder and theft laws are as old and tired as they are rediculus. Our founding documents require government to defend our rights to life and property. The truth is that our Federal government has vastly exceeded it’s Constitutional role and limitations.

    4. Aren’t we lucky indeed to have have people like you, Samuel, to recognize that we non-“enlightened”, non-Thoreau-equivalents need “lots of governing”. We appreciate your selfless willingness to impose more of it on us. (All pun intended.)

    5. There is a reason Thoreau did not amend his thoughts to your liking. He would not agree with you.

    • 1. You said, “Those points in human history where societies have opted for very little government prove my point.” Please give examples.

      Somalia comes to mind. And one can’t help marvel at what happened in the age of the robber barons. One also takes note of what happened with the financial industry in recent years when it became clear that the government was abandoning oversight.

      Your turn. I need examples of things going great in the absence of government.

      2. Since when does being “educated, ennobled, and enlightened” discredit someone’s thinking? Should those not be the very sources we turn to when doing our own critically thinking? If not, who on earth do you draw inspiration from?

      It doesn’t discredit the thinking. It merely represents a context that is important for evaluation. Thoreau was a political philosopher devoted to studying the abstract.

      Our founding documents require government to defend our rights to life and property.

      This is true. But that is not, by definition, the LEAST government. The LEAST government would be less than that. That you’re unhappy with the truth of old, “tired” arguments does not make them untrue.

      The truth is that our Federal government has vastly exceeded it’s Constitutional role and limitations.

      Well, if you’re a Tenther, I’m sure it looks that way. But if the founders had intended for the document to remain static for all eternity, then we’d have no mechanisms by which to amend it, would we?

      4. Aren’t we lucky indeed to have have people like you, Samuel, to recognize that we non-”enlightened”, non-Thoreau-equivalents need “lots of governing”. We appreciate your selfless willingness to impose more of it on us. (All pun intended.)

      Nice try, but I said nothing of the sort and your attempt to mislead readers about my words is intellectually dishonest and in bad faith. Please go read the comment policy before you do it again.

      5. There is a reason Thoreau did not amend his thoughts to your liking. He would not agree with you.

      This would be true, except that it isn’t. Please note the REST of what Thoreau said, noted in comment #29.

  28. What’s marvelous about this discussion is that (aside from the many voices who’ve echoed their agreement with me) I’ve been told I am not a moderate and seem to favor far-Left politics, that I’m a Democrat, and that I’m a Libertarian. That says more about the diversity of the opinions of readers than of me, if you use me as a base of sorts. That variety of opinions illustrates just how screwed up our two-party system is if we’re trying to cram all those different viewpoints into a “two sizes fit all” scheme.

    It’s gratifying to hear, at least, that a number of other self-identifying moderates find the extremism of both parties tiresome. It’s disheartening to hear that so many people are so discouraged by the system that they’ve given up on it, though.