I’m old enough to remember when the Republican Party stood up for limited government and Ronald Reagan thundered “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”
Today’s Republican Party, while still claiming to defend limited government, is practicing exactly the opposite: government intrusion everywhere.
Republican lawmakers are banning masks in schools. Iowa, Tennessee, Utah, Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Arizona and South Carolina prohibit public schools from requiring students to wear them. Republican states are on the verge of banning abortions. Texas has just banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant. Other Republican states are in the process of adopting similar measures.
Republican lawmakers ban teachers from telling students about America’s racist past. State legislatures from Tennessee to Idaho prohibit any reference to racism in the classroom. Republican lawmakers are forcing transgender students to exercise and use the toilet based on their sex assigned at birth. Thirty-three states have introduced more than 100 bills aimed at restricting the rights of transgender people.
Across the country, Republican lawmakers are making it difficult to vote. So far, they have enacted more than 30 laws that reduce access to polling stations, the number of voting days and the availability of postal voting.
It’s not limited government, folks. On the contrary, these Republican lawmakers have a particular ideology, and they are now imposing those opinions and values on citizens with different opinions and values.
It’s a big government on steroids.
Many Republican lawmakers use the word “freedom” to justify what they are doing. It makes no sense. What they are really doing is denying people their freedom – the freedom to be safe from Covid, the freedom over their own bodies, the freedom to learn, the freedom to vote and participate in our democracy.
Years ago, the Republican Party had a consistent idea about limiting the role of government and protecting the rights of the individual. I didn’t agree with that, like much of the rest of America. But at least it was honest, reasoned, and consistent. As such, Republicans played an important role in a debate about what we wanted for ourselves and for America.
Today, Republican politicians do not have a coherent vision. They only want to be re-elected, even if that means abusing government to promote a narrow and increasingly anachronistic set of values - encroaching on the most intimate aspects of life, interfering with what can be taught and learned, risking violence. public health, prohibit what is necessary for people to exercise their most basic freedoms.
It is not hypocrisy. The Republican Party is now a clear and current threat even to the values it once espoused.