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Jewish World Review May 15, 2003/ 13 Iyar, 5763

Larry Elder

Larry Elder
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From Democrat to Independent to Republican

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman, in a Reason magazine interview, called himself both a Republican and a libertarian, "I am a Republican with a capital 'R,' " he said, "and a libertarian with a small 'l.' I have a party membership as a Republican, not because they have any principles. But because that's the way I am the most useful and have the most influence. My philosophy is clearly libertarian."

Despite the influence of my Democratic mother, I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980, and again in 1984, because he campaigned against high taxes, supported limited government, while advancing a tough-minded defense in calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire." His successor, George Bush-41, for whom I also voted, raised taxes, passed the Clean Air Act, passed the Americans With Disabilities Act, re-regulated cable, and railed against falling oil prices.

I felt double-crossed.

My disillusionment with the GOP caused me to register as "Decline to State," which, in California, means independent. Fiscally conservative, but socially liberal on many issues, I support a government that stays out of my wallet and out of my bedroom. The Founding Fathers envisioned a federal government that trusts its people with their money and freedom, outlining this limited, non-intrusive federal government in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, leaving the other powers to people themselves or to the states.

The Republican Party, even under George W. Bush's confidence, character and vision, expanded failed programs like the Department of Education's Title I, expanded Clinton's "volunteer" AmeriCorps, passed protectionist legislation for steel and lumber, passed our nation's largest farm subsidy bill, used taxpayer money for faith-based initiatives, and increased the budget beyond that which is necessary for the war on terror and the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq. On the other hand, most Libertarians opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a position I find increasingly naive and simplistic in a world of mobile biological labs and radiological bombs capable of being carried in suitcases by our nation's enemies.

Sept. 11, 2001, reminds us that self-defense remains job No. 1, and that enemies who hate America cannot simply be sat down and persuaded that non-imperialistic Americans seek only to live in harmony and peace. President George W. Bush deserves applause for the tremendous job in moving public opinion to support not only the war against terrorism, but the military strike against Iraq.

In President Bush, Americans see a man who says what he means, and means what he says. Certainly, politics generally enters the equation, and compromises, however unpleasant, must occur, given the constant indoctrination of "the center" by our educational system, our mainstream media and Hollywood.

We need a judiciary that refuses to bend to political pressure in areas such as "affirmative action" when the University of Michigan defends its program by calling diversity "a compelling state interest"?! The attack on competent, presumably conservative judges like Priscilla Owen, Miguel Estrada and Charles Pickering demonstrates the importance of electing sincere, limited-government Republicans who believe in states' rights, and who reject the notion that the "right to privacy" exists in the "penumbras" of the Constitution. We need Republicans who understand that giving people their hard-earned money back, or better yet, not taking it in the first place, jumpstarts the economy.

Recall former Democratic President John F. Kennedy, in urging a tax cut, " . . . It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low -- and the soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut rates now. . . . Only full employment can balance the budget -- and tax reduction can pave the way to full employment. The purpose of cutting taxes now is not to incur a budgetary deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous expanding economy which will bring a budgetary surplus."

So, after much soul-searching, on Friday, May 9, 2003, I filed to change my voter registration to the Republican Party. Not because I find the party pure -- indeed, many Republicans like Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, talk the talk but fail to walk the walk. Yet, because of my Republican friends such as Congressman David Dreier, R-Calif., writer-director-producer Lionel Chetwynd, and many others, I have a greater understanding of the day-to-day difficulty of moving intransigent Democrats, and some Republicans, in the right direction. I can exercise greater effectiveness cajoling, pushing and advocating on the inside, than nagging as an independent from the outside.

So, to my fellow Republicans: Fight the good fight, explain to the American people the importance of limited government, low taxation, strong self-defense, and trust them to have the maturity and common sense to govern their own personal and financial lives.

Make no mistake: My libertarian principles remain unchanged. But as writer Midge Decter once said, "There comes a time to join the side you're on."

Count me in.

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JWR contributor Larry Elder is the author of, most recently, "Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies and the Special Interests That Divide America." (Proceeds from sales help fund JWR) Let him know what you think of his column by clicking here.

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