Friday, November 7, 2008

Enabling Tyranny: An Open Letter to Conservative Republicans

In the days leading up to Election 2008, the fear among conservative Republicans was palpable. It hung over conservative websites and mailing lists and talk radio, and particularly over fundamental and evangelical churches, like an amber haze on a muggy summer day; the kind of day when you feel as if you could take the air in your hands and wring it out like a wet rag. The anti-Obama emails flew fast and thick. Churches held prayer vigils the likes of which I can’t remember seeing before. Nor was this the usual type of partisanship and rancor we see every major election year; the fear was real and it ran deep. Obama was dangerous, and, to make things worse, he was also young, energetic, and fantastically popular (like Lincoln, FDR, JFK and Elvis, all rolled into one). By contrast, John McCain looked exactly like what he was: an angry old man, the aged standard-bearer for a besieged army that could already smell defeat. In a desperate move, the GOP threw Sarah Palin into the mix, apparently hoping that she might rally the base like a modern day Joan of Arc. But the GOP leadership isn’t exactly famous for its grasp of history. They didn’t realize that things went rather badly for poor Joan in the end. The media knew all about it though, and did its best to stage a re-enactment.

And now that the dust is settling, the general attitude among conservative Republicans – again, especially religious conservatives – reminds me of the behavior of a dog that expects to be kicked. The shadow of Obama looms large.

To those who feel this way, I sympathize with you. I truly do. Backed by a Democratic congress, Obama is set up to cause all kinds of harm to this country and the cause of freedom in general. There may be some hope for us, though. Judge Andrew Napolitano feels that Obama may be better on civil liberties than Bush ever was. Additionally, Obama strikes me as being wishy-washy, meaning that he may get so bogged down in trying to please all of his party’s various constituencies that he might not make much headway. Time alone will tell (or maybe Joe Biden will slip up again and be honest with us).

In the meantime, while the GOP is busily rubbing at that boot-print on its rear end and wondering what to do next, let me ask you conservative Republicans out there a question:

Do you realize that what scares you the most about Obama and his democratic allies is largely your own fault?

I’m not talking about a failure to get the vote out for McCain (God help us), or the general ins and outs of campaign strategy. Rather, I’m talking about the powers that you have allowed Washington DC to consolidate, particularly during the last seven-and-a-half years.

You couldn’t see the wolf in Republican clothing. You trusted George W. Bush and his congressional allies because they had that all-important R behind their names. So you looked the other way while they tore the Constitution to shreds and stomped on it. You excused the abuses of power, the torture, the signing statements, the “unitary executive” rhetoric, the wars waged against populations that had done us no harm, the raids against war protestors and other suspicious characters, the destruction of the dollar, the increased federal control in everything from education to healthcare; and just because the “good guys” were doing it, you thought everything would work out fine. You handed government a sword because you trusted the hand that would wield it, and because it had that good ‘ole “Made in the U.S.A.” label on it. And now that a new hand is reaching for it, you fear that you may soon find the edge of that sword pressed to your own throat.

Shame on you, conservative Republicans! You had a chance to roll back the big government agenda. You had a chance to oppose unnecessary warfare. You had a chance to rein-in a runaway presidency. You had a chance to hold your representatives accountable. You had a chance to demand respect for the laws that defend our most sacred liberties. And in the end, you even had a chance to redeem yourselves by choosing a presidential candidate who could have halted or even reversed much of the damage caused by Bush and company. You had a chance to weaken the federal establishment so that it could not become a threat to you, your children, or the world in general. You had a chance to restore the Republic. But, again, you chose to see nothing but that all-important party label. You enabled the tyranny you now dread. You created a monster because you thought that you could control it, and now that control of that monster will soon go over to the other side, you’re starting to see it for the evil thing that it is.

Well, you’ve made your bed of nails, and now we’ll all have to lie in it for at least awhile. How long that lasts depends on how many of you determine to go from “party first” to “freedom first.” To be fair, some of you did speak up against the outrages committed by George W. Bush and his congressional and judicial collaborators, but most of you did not. Most of you looked the other way. Many of you actually applauded. Be that as it may. You know who you are. The question of the hour is: what will you do now? Will you fight to take the sword out of Washington’s hands? Will you work to dismantle the monster you helped to build?

Or will you just bide your time until you think you’ve got a good chance to get control of them again? Is tyranny acceptable, as long as it’s a tyranny you approve of? And one under which you, theoretically, will not become “the enemy”?

Think about it over the next four years.

Robert Hawes is the author of One Nation, Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution. This article, along with his past writings, can be found on his blog. He lives in South Carolina with his family, and is working on a career as a freelance writer.