Monday, August 30, 2004

Democrat, Republican ... Theyre the Same

August 5, 2004
by Joe Sobran

I recently quoted G.K. Chesterton on the flaw in a
two-party system: "The democracy has the right to answer
questions, but it has no right to ask them. It is still
the political aristocracy that asks the questions. And we
shall not be unreasonably cynical if we suppose that the
political aristocracy will always be rather careful what
questions it asks."

In fact, the two big parties always ask the same
irksome question: Which of us do you prefer? If your
reply is "neither," you may, like half the electorate,
stay home on election day.

The proof that both parties are really the same
party is simple: Neither wants to repeal much of what the
other party has achieved. The Republicans now promise to
preserve and even aggrandize all the Democratic programs
and agencies they used to oppose. One "neoconservative"
journalist, Fred Barnes, approvingly calls President Bush
a "big-government conservative."

Actually, the phrase is slightly misleading, even
apart from being a contradiction in terms. Bush is a
bigger-government conservative, or rather a
much-bigger-government conservative, for whom there are
no limits on the size and scope of government. You might
as well call him a totalitarian conservative.

So our "choices" are liberal and conservative
totalitarianism. Both parties are one in seeking an
indefinite, irreversible accumulation of power by
government. They differ slightly on the immediate
direction this growth should take, but there is no debate
on the shared premise that government should just keep
growing. When they promise "change," they always mean
more government; never that the premise itself will

Those who want to choose "neither" but don't want to
stay home on November 2 may want to consider Michael
Anthony Peroutka of the Constitution Party. Peroutka is a
pleasant, good-humored Maryland lawyer who sings and
plays the guitar at his campaign rallies. No extravagant
claims should be made for his singing and strumming, but
his campaign theme may be sweet music to your ears:
finite government.

Peroutka doesn't just want to halt government
growth; he wants to prune away most of the jungle of laws
that has already grown. The Constitution Party is
dedicated to repealing the vast body of legislation,
including overweening judicial rulings, that isn't
authorized by the U.S. Constitution. It wants to change
the two parties' premise.

It's a sign of the times that a party that stands
for recognizing the limits imposed by the Constitution is
regarded as extremist, unelectable, radical, outside the
mainstream. This is a phase new political movements
always have to endure, as the "political aristocracy"
tries to keep them good and marginalized. It happened to
the Goldwater/Reagan movement.

Peroutka denies that he's a "spoiler" hoping to move
the Republican Party rightward. He's not trying to spoil
anything; he's trying to restore something. And, like
most members of his party, he has long since given up
hope that the Republicans will ever restore it.

Everything old becomes new again, and the
constitutional paradigm Peroutka wants to bring back
would by now seem like a novelty. Only serious students
of American history are aware that it once existed. Not
only did it exist, it worked far better than most other
forms of government, despite all pressures to change.

As Chesterton also wrote, "It is futile to discuss
reform without reference to form." For Peroutka, reform
means a return to form. And the form lies close at hand:
in the Constitution. The two parties pretend to honor it,
take oaths to uphold it, and ignore it. The Republicans
sometimes try, in their gauche manner, to amend it, but
the Democrats have long since learned to circumvent it
(especially through the judiciary) by inflating a few
passages and forgetting the rest -- the "living document"
approach, which denies that words have objective meaning.

But no real rule of law can emerge from subjectivist
interpretation, by either legislators or judges. So in a
sense, Peroutka isn't just running for office; he's
fighting for an honest political language that has become
almost extinct among us. The Constitution presupposes
that words do have objective meaning, and that a shared
and reliable political language is one of the deepest
preconditions of a free society. If you doubt that fuzzy
language can lead to tyranny, look around you.

Michael Peroutka doesn't expect to win this year.
But he is confident that in the end, the truth is never
offered in vain.