As the presidential inauguration comes upon us today, I can’t help but think that we’re seeing Bush’s fourth term. Barack Obama, while talking up a good liberal game on international peace and social issues, is really quite similar to his Republican predecessor. He has widely broadened the use of drones pioneered with Bush 43. His signing of the NDAA act authorizing indefinite detention is merely a sequel to the PATRIOT Act Bush signed in 2001. And his recent executive orders on guns have elicited much the same outrage from conservatives that liberals had over Bush’s signing statements.
Combined with staying the course on military spending, staying the course on not making any significant reforms to entitlements, staying the course on the War on Drugs, and staying the course on corporate bailouts…
…and I’m wondering if George W. Bush ever left.
Certainly, there are differences. George W. Bush championed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman, while the Obama Administration has just given up on defending the Defense of Marriage Act. Obama is also far more supportive of a woman’s right to choose, while George W. Bush was pro-life (mostly). But on nearly all other issues, ranging from torture, to war, to government spending, our 44th president is little more than an “expansion pack” to our 43rd — doing the same things, only worse.
I believe this comes down to both liberals and conservatives losing their way in the trenches of hyper-polarization. The antiwar groups fervently protested the Bush Administration, yet packed up and left town immediately just four years ago, despite Obama getting us involved in more wars and killing more innocents. The Heritage Foundation was an enthusiastic supporter of the government’s military stances during the Bush era, but since Obama came here four years ago, they have done nothing but complain about possible defense cuts—even though military spending has increased since Bush left. Ironically, as partisanship has increased and the throats on either side of the aisle get more raw with the rising volume of denunciations and war cries, the two sides have come together in unconscious, silent agreement.
The government will be expanded. The people’s liberties will be infringed. The wars will continue. The debt will accumulate. Nothing will change.
We should really stop using the terms “liberal” and “conservative” now. Aside from some social issues, there is no difference. There is no ideology. There are no ideas. It’s just one loud shouting match where everyone has forgotten what the heck they’re even talking about. This is not politics. This is not governance. This is a marital spat. (I’ll leave it up to you to determine who is the wife and who is the husband, but rest assured, it’s the American citizens who are the children stuck in the middle.)
It seems clearer to me than ever that this country will depend on libertarians. Only libertarians are serious about civil rights. Only libertarians are genuine about cutting government spending. Only libertarians care about those in other nations as they push against war no matter who is in office. And it is only libertarians who are offering actual, bona fide solutions to our country’s problems, rather than trying to “score points” against the other side. We’re not looking for that, because we actually care about what’s going on. We don’t want power. We don’t want control. We don’t want to make the other side look like crap. All we want is sanity and freedom.
And that’s why I’m ultimately optimistic. Because right now, liberals and conservatives are collapsing around us. Sure, they talk a good game, but despite their best efforts, they’re failing. More Americans than ever are registered as independents, desperately hoping for an alternative to the Republican-Democrat duopoly. A majority of Americans think the government does way too much. And most importantly, the self-appointed gatekeepers of public information for almost a hundred years, the mainstream media, is crumbling, being replaced by the more direct and honest blogs and new media. More people are being exposed to alternative ideas, particularly free market ones, and realize that there are different paths. And the more that happens, the less the current duopoly turns to ideas and more it turns to inflammatory rhetoric, because it knows it can’t compete with us on the intellectual level.
Soon, it won’t be able to compete with us on the emotional one either, because people want freedom.
So as Bush’s fourth term—er, Obama’s second term—begins, it’s clear we’re going to face some short term pain, but we’re going to make some long term gain. So as the storm clouds coalesce on the horizon, keep your chin up, don’t wipe that smile off your face, and keep marching. Because we are going to win this.