Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hannan Republicanism

Our Tory buddy, Daniel Hannan, MEP, has a nice prescription for the American right that is worth pondering.
Hannan: Yes, Europe has swung away from socialism. But it’s important for Americans to realize where Europe is starting from — it is quite normal on this side of the Atlantic for governments to take 45 or 50 percent of GDP in tax. So Europe’s swing to the Right and the U.S. swing to the Left still leave America less socialist than Europe.

None the less, the swing is significant for this reason. Voters are now way ahead of their politicians on the issue of tax and spend. While the political parties dance about trying not to use the word “cuts,” the electorate has clocked that reductions are urgent. The recession is forcing everyone to make economies: every business, every household. Do we really need two cars? Is there a cheaper mobile phone package? Can we get a better deal on insurance? They can see that it is possible — necessary indeed — to cut spending, but that such cuts need not have too deleterious an impact on our quality of life. And they simply can’t understand why the same logic doesn’t apply to the government. It is outrageous to exempt the public sector from the shrinkage of the economy — i.e., to tax the wealth creators even more in order to cushion the rest.

One of the reasons we Tories are leaving the EPP, and forming a new alliance of Euro-skeptic parties, is to make these arguments. We will put together a coalition of Atlanticist, free-market conservative parties that believe in national independence and parliamentary democracy. In doing so, we will break the monopoly in Brussels. Because, I stress this again, the “swing to the Right” was, in many cases, a swing to pantywaist Christian Democrat parties whose politicians, in the U.S., would be bang in the middle of the Democratic Party.

Advice for American conservatives? Only this. The Republican Party’s success depended on its becoming a popular party — that is, a party that was for the people against the governing elites. Half a century ago, it was a party of big business and old money, and it kept losing: it was in permanent opposition in both houses, and tended to win the presidency only when it fielded a non-partisan Ike-type candidate. Then it changed: it embraced localism, small government and states’ rights. It went from being a New England, preppy, country club party to being a Sun Belt, anti-Washington mass movement. And you know what? It started winning.

My worry is that, in recent years, the party has gone into reverse. It has become, as in pre-Goldwater days, the party of federal spending, budget deficits, external protectionism (the steel tariffs), overseas garrisons, the denial of states’ rights (the gay marriage amendment) and, latterly, bailouts and nationalizations.

I speak as someone who has a more uncomplicated loyalty to the GOP than to my own party, and I desperately want it to start winning again. But that means getting back to basics: to the basic idea that informed the U.S. Constitution, namely that decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the people they affect.
Hat Tip Andrew Ian Dodge.

No comments: