Republicans are the party of civil liberties as Democrats walk away
Since the heyday of the civil rights movement, Democrats have touted themselves as torchbearers of the Jeffersonian principles of individual rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. The Founders considered it axiomatic that the government should have strict limits and the rights of the individuals were not to be constrained. But Democrats have sadly shifted their priorities. The left wing increasingly favors intrusion in all aspects of American life and advocates policies diminishing personal rights in favor of state power and jeopardizing the social contract.
Joined by activist groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Campaign, liberals argued for years that the Christian right was coming to take away your personal autonomy. Slogans such as “my body my choice” underscored a powerful conviction that the government should not interfere with your ability to live your life as you see fit. From marriage to police surveillance and from abortion to free expression, Democrats gained votes by advertising themselves as the defenders of individual rights in this nation. For years, they could claim that title.
In the era after the demise of Jim Crow, the cultural and political left vastly expanded the reach and breadth of institutions and ideologies devoted to the protection of individuals rights and free will. Progressive intellectuals championed the moral imperatives of free speech and expression as keys not only to an effective academic environment but a thriving economy and polity. Universities represented our bastions of learning and debate. During the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s, campuses brimmed with ideas to improve the nation and the world, many of which were wrong, but at least open for discussion. The American Civil Liberties Union had insisted on the fundamental right to speech even for the most odious of causes.
But times have certainly changed. Widespread calls for safe spaces, incessant demands of progressives to be comfortable, and constant disruptions of conservative talks on campuses have replaced the rallies championing the First Amendment. Airing an opinion about biological science, including one universally accepted throughout the entirety of human history barring the last five years, was startingly sufficient for author J.K. Rowling to be exiled from the realm of acceptable speakers. The advocacy of free market principles is even on the precipice of being deemed hate speech. Free speech has firmly given way to groupthink with a constant race to the bottom. Only the most woke survive in this heated political environment, to the detriment of healthy debate in our country.
All of this leads the Democratic candidates competing for 2020 and their counterparts in Congress to increasingly become nanny staters. Against the First Amendment are proposals to restrict the use of money to affect policy under Democratic proposals to constrain lobbying, shut down free speech under Democratic proposals ostensibly aimed at “hate speech” but which really aim to shut down conservative speech, and reduce the ability to exercise religious conscience under Democratic proposals to strip churches of tax exempt status. Little remains of leaving people free to run their own lives. Instead, the new doctrine is more related to the idea that everything is political. “All within the state and nothing outside the state,” is not just a frightening concept on its own, but effectively an unintentional carbon copy of the core philosophy of Benito Mussolini.
While Republicans are certainly not perfect on civil liberties by any means, the strong libertarian streak that runs through the party still demonstrates itself in many ways. Although President Trump is a flawed messenger for the argument that Americans should be left to simply pursue their own best interests, he is actively working to move power from the Washington swamp back to the states and to your wallet. If Trump is not good enough on civil liberties for your appetite, the reality is Democrats are far worse.
Their proposals are straight from the Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter days of seeking to fix everything through federal mandates. Elizabeth Warren wants to set up a series of government funded daycare centers that not only will cost taxpayers $70 billion, but will also replace traditional family bonds with the state. There is no more basic right than familial autonomy, which would sink away if such plans were enacted into law. Bernie Sanders pushes more extreme ideas, opposing the ability for homeowners to control their own dwellings. As the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg is most remembered by the long list of activities he chose to ban, from large sodas to styrofoam packaging to loud music.
These are not policies of a civil liberties party. They are inducements to relinquish our autonomy to Washington. Anyone who believes that is a fair trade is marching the nation down the road to serfdom. As Gerald Ford famously declared, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”
Kristin Tate is a libertarian writer and an analyst for Young Americans for Liberty. She is an author whose latest book is “How Do I Tax Thee? A Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off.” Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.