Recently a writer claimed that this election is a choice between a party that is for larger government and less freedom and one that is for less government and more freedom. But in a democracy, it is government that protects and enlarges your freedom, unless you are the meanest beast in the jungle.
Our government must be strong to protect each citizen’s civil rights and civil liberties. Government ensures economic freedom by sustaining an opportunity structure for entrepreneurs. Government is necessary to protect the health, welfare and safety of the individual citizen who, by herself, cannot guarantee these freedoms.
Government ensures an equal chance in life by providing public education, and it makes our country more competitive through good public universities, and by funding scientific and other academic research. Government ensures a just society with a body of laws and a fair and impartial judicial system. Government fights crime and provides disaster relief. Government provides parks and other public lands, along with fair regulations for access. These things are all about living free.
Government provides a strong military to protect our freedoms, and V.A. hospitals and other programs to provide the care and opportunities our veterans deserve.
It is NOT a democratically elected government that is poised to take away our guns. Rather, government acts to prevent criminals, thugs, militiamen and assorted lunatics from abusing the 2nd Amendment privilege, as it protects that privilege for law-abiding sportsmen and other citizens.
Our government ensures the free exercise of religion, but also the prohibition of any official religion (yes, even Christianity). Without a strong government protecting these principles, our freedom could be threatened with theocratic rule, as in Iran.
What divides today’s parties is what they wish government to do. Democrats see government as essential to the elements of social justice outlined above. Today’s Republican Party is more focused on social control – on regulating our sex lives, for example, from contraception to whom we may love.
As distinguished from real Republicans, today’s Republican Party is working hard in various states to suppress the vote of those groups that traditionally vote for Democrats. These small-government advocates are waging war not only against science and the rights of women, but also against such freedoms as privacy and fair elections.
This conservative war against social and economic freedom is reflected in the evident objective of Republicans in Congress to wage economic sabotage. The have largely succeeded in blocking Obama’s measures to rescue our economy.
Their transparent (and unpatriotic) hope has been that through obstruction they could facilitate economic collapse, which would defeat the president in his bid for re-election.
Our politics have devolved to where the small-government party is interested primarily in the freedom of economic predation, the freedom to intimidate fellow citizens, and the freedom to sell the government to corporations and the very wealthy.
I prefer the party of strong government to protect the human freedoms of all Americans. I have never before been this partisan, but in 2012 I will vote Democratic from the White House to the courthouse. Our American democracy is at stake.
Lawrence K. Pettit is a former political science professor and university president who is retired and lives in Helena.