There is no more party of small government

If Democrat presidential candidates compensate for their lack of substance with their charisma and fresh-facedness, some prominent Republican presidential frontrunners do neither, suggesting that it’s about time the GOP drop its socially-conservative attitude and get back to its so-called values of individual responsibility and liberty. If it wants to win, that is.

Take, for example, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan, who may run for office. As part of his adherence to a culture of life – funny, a culture that tends to neglect the lives of women hurt by abortion prohibitions – Brownback reintroduced the “Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act” on Jan. 22.

Aside from the oxymoronic title – the “unborn child” part – the Act requires both doctors and patients to be subservient to a government of moralists, whose philosophic waxing and strong hints of punishment will likely deter some doctors from performing any abortions at all.

The law entails that doctors read exactly from a 200-word paragraph mandated by the federal government (available here) rather than just saying “fetuses may feel pain.” If doctors fails to comply, they may lose their license and/or pay a fine of $100,000 for the first offense, and $250,000 for the second offense.

Brownback is also a champion of moral cleanliness on the airwaves and, hence, an enemy of free speech. Neglecting the fact that listening to the radio and watching television is a volitional choice, requiring active thought to turn on and pay attention to programming, Brownback advocates FCC censorship of airwaves and intrusion on broadcaster’s rights. In his view, this violation of the First Amendment is justified because explicit material threatens to corrupt the nation’s youth.

On his Web site, Brownback writes, “We live in a nation where we hold the First Amendment in high regard. In an effort to maintain the free exchange of information, thoughts, and opinions, we strive to avoid government involvement in communications content. At the same time, we are (a) nation raising children.”

Brownback also opposes troop-increases in Iraq. Although Republicans distancing themselves from Bush has become a popular way of securing re-election, the fact remains that sectarian violence isn’t going to be stopped by winning hearts or, as Brownback puts it, playing a less-central role in Iraq’s corruption-laden defenses.

Mike Huckabee, a former governor from Arkansas, is another cold fish presidential candidate. Huckabee is socially conservative, but with a kind of egalitarian Christian slant. He claims to be a fiscal conservative, yet proposes a flat tax. Though his supporters purport the tax would be proportionate to each person’s income, and therefore more equitable, they neglect that the income tax amendment would have to be repealed first, as to avoid having to pay two sets of taxes.

Huckabee also maintains the legal scapegoat when it comes to illegal immigration. Rather than questioning whether or not it’s wrong or right for a government to evict non-dangerous parties – aside from legality – who provide America with cheap janitorial, construction and landscaping labor, Huckabee sticks to an ethically ambivalent stance that promises to disappoint both human rights and free trade advocates: Don’t actively kick “illegals” out, but if they get caught, send them back.

Huckabee’s advocacy of the culture of life also lends itself to socialism. After all, if one believes it’s the government’s right to protect “sacred” life, then it’s no stretch of the imagination to adopt policies that provide subsidies to protect life, too.

This mentality is culminated in ARKids, Arkansas children’s health insurance program, which Huckabee signed into law. ARKids actively discounts adverse social carrots: People will be encouraged to have children they can’t afford if they assume basic services will be paid for by a benefactor. There’s also the ethical question: Why should an individual be forced to pay for the health care of someone else’s child?

Though Brownback and Huckabee are hardly the only candidates for the Republican ticket, their attitudes, specifically their desire to impose social norms on their constituents, ring true throughout Republican leadership.

Whether America is predominately pro-life, as Brownback is, the citizenry of America is rooted in constitutional protections, which are stronger than the masses’ call for state-imposed Puritanism. And until both parties – especially Republicans – stop scrambling for the cheap ease of fundamentalist voters, America will be worse off, new president or not.

Victoria Bekiempis is a sophomore majoring in history and French.