One of the goals of this series of articles is to set out a series of principles around which Republicans can rally to restore the faith of the Joe Everyvoter in California in Republicans as defenders of the individual, and of liberty. I believe that a consistent agenda of liberty is the road to creating a Republican majority in California. Grover Norquist has called it the “leave me alone” coalition, but whatever it is called, people know what real liberty is, and truly desire that liberty for themselves and their family. They want the right to pursue their own life, and raise their family, without interference from government, or without the government giving one powerful group or person a leg up in society. Liberty is true equality. Liberty says that everyone starts at the same spot, from a legal and economic point of view, in the eyes of the government decision makers.
If Republicans fall short in any area (beyond being “pro-business”), it is their “pro-cop” or “pro-military” rhetoric. It is appropriate that we as a government and society maintain and protect the public safety, that is, protect citizens from plunder, whether that plunder comes from criminals within our borders, or governments outside our borders who covet our land or wealth. Government’s main purpose is to protect public safety, and resolve disputes between its citizens. If it fails to keep people safe, from invasion or from internal attack, a government has failed.
And it is true, we need people on the front line performing these valuable governmental functions. But it is important to note, those who perform these functions work for the government, and have as much propensity for interfering with individual liberty as any other government agency. Whether they operate drones designed to kill American citizens without a trial, or shoot up a car because they suspect the occupants might be some criminal, these public servants can violate individual liberty with impunity if they so choose, and to support them without reservation is as much a risk to individual liberty as expanding government power in welfare, taxation, spending, or any other intrusion into an individual’s life.
In Sacramento, many Republicans will vote for legislation simply because the County Sheriffs, Police Chiefs, or public safety unions (police, fire, or prison guards) say it is necessary. In Washington, Republicans vote for legislation simply because the generals, or weapons manufacturers want it. Once again, we need to be safe, but the desire for safety is not a substitute for reason. Our founding fathers understood the risks of an all powerful police force or military. Most of the first ten amendments are restrictions on the cops and the military. Even the second amendment (along with the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth amendments) was meant to be a counterbalance against a powerful police or military force. Maintaining public safety doesn’t mean sacrificing liberty to the cops or the military.
Republicans should take the lessons of the founding fathers to heart, and have a healthy skepticism of government power, even when it resides in the police or the military. Of course, we should thank and respect our front lines in the fight for public safety, the cops and the fighting men and women in the military, but we don’t give them unlimited power, and we make it clear that they can’t do whatever they want. Whether it is requiring a search warrant, or a fair trial, or a reasonable bail, or a reasonable sentence, liberty and public safety must achieve a balance, and Republicans hurt themselves and their election chances when they sacrifice liberty to public safety.
As the only real voice of liberty in this state and country, Republicans have to be especially careful about how they approach the question of police or military power. There are many who would be naturally sympathetic to the Republicans’ position on liberty who embrace the Democrats because the Republicans literally cozy up to the cops and the military so closely that these Republicans lose all perspective on the role of liberty in a free society. These Republicans don’t question wasteful military spending. They don’t question wasteful spending by the police or the prisons. They grant the police or prison guard unions unbridled control of the public safety process, no matter the cost to the taxpayers or individual liberty. By doing so, they undermine their advocacy of liberty in other, very important areas of public policy.
I don’t mean by these comments that Republicans should start letting bad guys get out of prison, or even see public safety employees as enemies, as the Democrats think. Not by any means. However, Republicans need to balance liberty and public safety, and let the public know they value a structure of ordered liberty, not a police or military state. Being pro-liberty and pro-public safety, instead of being pro-cop or pro-military, lets those who value our founding principles when it comes to these areas know that Republicans care about liberty and safety, with a bias toward liberty. There are lots of Democrat votes that would change to Republicans in a second, if they saw Republicans strike that balance in a rational way.