Greenwald on the GOP and Limited Government

While I’m on the subject of Glenn Greenwald, I should point out his great response to David Brooks’s latest column on the alleged death of small government conservatism. Greenwald cites a Cato study by Gene Healy and Tim Lynch on the Bush administration’s terrible civil liberties record to make the broader point that the Bush administration has abandoned the limited government ideals that animated the Republican party in under the leadership of Goldwater and Reagan:

But neoconservatism – which is really what the right-wing pro-Bush movement has become – doesn’t believe in any of that, and Brooks’ column demonstrates that they are admitting that more and more explicitly. Instead, it touts a radical and authoritarian nanny-statism that seeks, at its core, to provide feelings of protection, safety, and moralistic clarity – “security leads to freedom” – all delivered by political leaders using ever-increasing federal government power and limitless militarism. Whether one believes in that radical and warped vision of the American federal government is, more than any other factor, what now determines one’s political orientation.

I have argued several times before that the radicalism of the Bush presidency and the neoconservatism on which it is based has resulted in a fundamental political re-alignment. As Brooks points out, the issues that shape our political spectrum and determine one’s political orientation have changed fundamentally – Brooks contrasts today’s predominant issues with those of the 1970s in order to demonstrate this shift, but the shift is just as drastic even when one compares today’s predominant political issues to those that drove the key political dispustes as recently as the 1990s.

There is one principal reason for this shift – the Bush presidency and the political movement that supports it is not driven by any of the abstract political principles traditionally associated with “liberalism” or “conservatism.” Whatever else one wants to say about the Bush presidency, it has nothing to do with limiting the size, scope and reach of the federal government. The exact opposite is true.

On every front, the Bush administration has ushered in vast expansions of federal power – often in the form of radical and new executive powers, unprecedented surveillance of American citizens, and increased intervention in every aspect of Americans’ private lives. To say that the Bush movement is hostile to the limited-government ends traditionally associated (accurately or not) with the storied Goldwater/Reagan ideology is a gross understatement.

Of course, our own Ed Crane saw this coming almost a decade ago, observing in 1999 that the future President Bush had absolutely no interest in carrying on the Goldwater/Reagan tradition of limited government.