Towards A Good Samaritan World

Saturday, November 06, 2004


David Boaz has a powerful call to arms:

Perhaps even more tellingly, at least nine papers abandoned their previous endorsement of Bush but couldn't bring themselves to endorse Kerry. The staunchly conservative "Detroit News" wrote that in 2000, "We endorsed George W. Bush based on his promises of fiscal conservatism, limited government and prudence in foreign affairs. Today, we sadly acknowledge that the president has failed to deliver on those promises."

It's George W. Bush who almost lost this election, not the idea of limited government. In the most recent poll that asked the question, 64 percent of voters said that they prefer smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes, while only 22 percent would rather see a more active government with more services and higher taxes.

Bush ran worst with voters under 30, perhaps because solid majorities of them favor smaller government and oppose the marriage amendment and other gay-bashing. Young voters from the Reagan years are still voting Republican, but the Bush-Rove borrow-and-spend-and-nanny-state strategy may have cost their party a generation.

The libertarian voters who stayed home this year or switched to Kerry are still up for grabs. Bush and the Republican Congress could appeal to them by reining in spending and extricating us from Iraq, or the Democrats could reach out with fiscal responsibility, a more prudent foreign policy, and more respect for the Constitution. Which way the libertarian voters go may decide elections for decades to come.

I don't think Boaz's claim that Bush has "no mandate" because this was "the anti-Kerry election" is supported by poll evidence. Nor is there support for the claim that the war is unpopular. It is with some people, to be sure, but it also accounts for the intensity of Bush support among many people (and rightly so).

Boaz has a point, and I say: let the various factions of the Republicans fight it out. Boaz's point is actually worrisome for the Democrats. I think Bush did alienate a fair portion of the Republican constituency, yet he still won decisively.

Another David Boaz passage, from his book Libertarianism, A Primer, may provide the key to the evangelical vote. Listen up, Democrats:

The other arena where we formally teach values to our children is education. We expect schools to give our children not only knowledge but also the moral strength to make wise decisions. Alas, in a pluralistic society we don't all agree on what those moral values should be. To begin with, some parents want reverence for God taught in the schools, and others don't. The First Amendment has correctly been interpreted to ban prayer in government schools; but to compel religious parents to pay taxes for schools and then forbid the tax-supported schools to give their children the education they want is surely unfair. In the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical." How much more offensive it is to tx a family to propagate to their own children opinions that they disbelieve. (Libertarianism: A Primer, by David Boaz, p. 111)

Will Democrats consider ending anti-religious discrimination in the schools to attract the evangelical vote? Imagine a Democrat saying:

"People in this country have a constitutional right to educate their children after their own beliefs. But in practice, this right is available only to the wealthy. If elected, I will provide vouchers and tax credits that will make a Bible-educated to children the millions of parents who want it but can't afford it."

If not... well, it's hard to be the party of hegemonic secularism and of populism at the same time.


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