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The Decline and Fall of the Republican Party

Tucker Carlson

hat went wrong with the Republican Party?
That is a really tragic question. I do not actu-
ally consider myself much of a Republican, so
I am not necessarily disappointed. But I am still a little
bit shocked by what has happened in the last 11 years
to this party that had such promise. How did this
administrationwhich is, in the shorthand of the
media, a sort of right-wing, small-government, tear-
it-all-down, cryptolibertarian administrationget
to be, in fact, an administration that is in almost
every single way as liberal as Bill Clintons adminis-
tration? How did that happen?
The first and most obvious explanation of the
problems in the Republican Party is that the presi-
dent, despite everything you hear, is not actually all
that conservative. He is definitely not animated by any
libertarian instincts. Even during his 2000 campaign, he
never claimed to be particularly conservative or libertarian.
Bushs problem, fundamentally, is that he is not an ideologue
in any way. Everyone attacks
ideologues as rigid, but in fact
they govern far more effectively

Tucker Carlson is the host of

MSNBCs The Situation with Tuck-
er Carlson. This is an excerpt from
his remarks at a Cato Institute
City Seminar in New York in De-
because they actually believe something. would give you license to do a lot of
Bush is not a deep thinker. He is not an things I do not think you ought to be
ideological thinker, and he does not think doing. Bushs claims of small government
systematically about politics and the conservatism were a crock.
world. This administration has not stood up
Bushs political philosophy, such as it for the principles of liberty. With a few
is, was all there in the 2000 campaign. If exceptionsthe withdrawal from the
you listened to Bush speak, he repeated Kyoto Treaty and the tax cuts are both
one line in every speech: Prosperity good things we would not have gotten
must have a purpose. Prosperity uncou- under a Democratic presidentthis pres-
pled from purpose is simple materialism. ident has not stood up for small govern-
That is a verbatim quote. Bush said that ment. There was no remark from the

I think I would rather

be poor than take
government money,
just on principle.

in every single stump speech, even to Bush administration of any kind after the
business groups. But most people at those decision in the Kelo eminent domain case.
speeches were not paying close attention. This administration has done virtually
I do not think anybody stopped to ask nothing for school choice. It took the
what he meant. wrong side in the University of Michigan
On a moral level, hes right. But I case on diversity, essentially saying that
2 remember thinking that when it comes to government has an interest in promoting
government, simple materialism is more diversity for its own sakenot as a means
than enough. I am uncomfortable with of redressing past discrimination, but
governments that aspire to a lot more simply because multicolored is better
than simple materialism. That implies than monochromatic. That is almost an
that the government has plans for me. It aesthetic position. Bush signed a cam-
wants to make me a better person. I do paign finance regulation bill that he
not want to be made a better person. If acknowledged was unconstitutional.
that were the goal, the government would Again and again, this administration
have license to do a lot of things I do not has turned down opportunities, even
think it ought to be doing. And that when they were not terribly costly politi-

V O LU M E 4 N U M B E R 2

cally, to stand on principle. It has acted

against its own best interest, alienating
the very people who voted for Bush. Send
Why? Because, as the brilliant Rick
Brookhiser once said about Republicans: Catos
in their hearts, they know they are
wrong. Letter
I covered political campaigns for
10 years. When I interviewed liberal to a
candidates, I always got the feeling
that they really believed in what they To give free gift subscriptions to
were working toward. I got the friends who would enjoy receiving
opposite feeling when I interviewed a Catos Letter, please fill in the at-
Republican candidate and his staff. I tached subscription form or enclose a
talked to Republican staffers, and I list of individuals (holiday card list,
always got the feeling that they liked their etc.) in the envelope. Or visit
candidate well enough. Their candidate and click on the sub-
was a better guy than the other guy; the scriptions tab.
other guy was a pretty bad guy. Of
course, they all had plans to go join a lob-
bying shop in Washington if their guy convincing people to let us run the gov-
didnt win, but in the meantime, they ernment.
were solidly behind their guy. This president does not have beliefs
When I went over to the other side of that are strong enough to stand up to the
the room to talk to the liberal staffers political instincts of his advisers. They
clustered around the liberal candidate, understand that ordinary people, even
they believed that their guy was a great those who claim at cocktail parties to be
guy with terrific ideas. Not only was the sympathetic to libertarianism, do not
other guy a very bad guy, his ideas were mean it. People like government pro-
terrible ideas, and if he were to beat their grams. Real libertarians do not. I cer-
guy, the Republic would fall. If their guy tainly do not. I think I would rather be
won, he would improve not simply the poor than take government money, just
quality of life for every American but on principle. But most people do not feel
human nature itself. that way. They want their Social Security. 3
The Left believes in politics in a way And Karl Rove understands that. So,
that the Right does not. The average con- actually, as Clinton proved for eight
servative, certainly the average libertar- years, pandering to the middle class with
ian, genuinely wants to be left alone to do government programs works very well
his own thing. That is a huge disadvan- indeed. The Bush people know that,
tage when it comes to governing, because which is one of the reasons this president
it implies that the enterprise we are has not vetoed anything.
devoting our lives to isnt all that worthy. If you are president, what constitu-
If the best we can do is keep government tional powers do you have? You really
at bay, its no wonder we have problems have three. You have the power to declare
war, or at least the power to send our Democrats, they wouldnt have gotten
troops into war. And that obviously has away with the bridge to nowhere. But
been exercised by this president. You have they are Republicans, so the president
the ability to veto things Congress does. said nothing because saying something
This president has never done that. And would be too costly politically.
you have your position in the White In a Congress that is so closely
House from which to convince the public divided, a small group of 25 or 30 liberal
and Congress to enact your programs. Republicans, big-government Republi-
President Bush is not very good at that. cans, essentially control the place. These
He is a man who distrusts rhetoric and Republicans are far more liberal than a
who is obviously not a great public lot of Democrats in the body. They
speaker. As a friend of mine once said, empower the swing vote, just like a close
watching Bush give a speech is like election empowers people who didnt
watching a drunk man cross an icy street. know a week before Election Day whom
You really want him to get to the other they wanted to vote for. As a result of
side, but its clear he wont be able to that, were seeing case after case where
make it without a lot of stumbling. these influential politicians are able to
This administration has also had a pass ludicrous unnecessary spending
problem with Congress. The problem is packages.
that it is a Republican Congress. Now, I People like me who critique Republi-
am not looking forward to what I suspect cans from the Right like to believe that
will be a Democrat-controlled Congress these policies have doomed the Republi-
11 months from now. However, there is can Party. Republicans are no longer
an important argument for divided gov- committed to small government, there-
ernment: it works better. The Founders fore they are going to lose. The sad truth
designed our government to move really is that big-government policies dont hurt
slowly. Gridlock is good. They set it up a party at the ballot box. Democrats con-
so we would have gridlock a lot of the trolled Congress for many years, through
time. I love gridlock. It means bad things
are not happening. And in a divided Con-
gress, you get gridlock. The problem
with the presidents relationship

with Congress is that he is deal-
ing with his own side. He
Join us at
does not dare say no to his
own people.
Cato University
If Congress, even just This years topic:
one chamber, had been
controlled by Democ- Cornerstone of Liberty:
rats for the past five Property Rights in
years, we wouldnt have
21st Century America
had the transportation
bill we just got. If the July 2630, 2006
Alaska delegation, all Don CeSar Beach Resort
three of them, were St. Pete Beach, Florida
For details and registration:

V O LU M E 4 N U M B E R 2

depression and prosperity, and they were were mad because they thought the
always committed to big government. Democrats were just sitting around wal-
The reason I believe Republicans are lowing in the perks of power.
in for a very rough time in the midterm Those few of you who read the Con-
elections has nothing to do with their tract with America will remember that
betrayal of their own ideology. There is a the Republicans promised, upon taking
growing perception among the American power, to enact eight changes immedi-
people that the Republicans have become ately. Not one of those changes had any-
corrupt. I went back and reread the thing to do with making government
Contract with America the other day. smaller, or the military stronger, or the

I am uncomfortable with
governments that aspire
to a lot more than simple
materialism. That implies
that the government has
plans for me.

Virtually no one read the Contract with family stronger, whatever that means.
America when it was published over a Instead, all eight were procedural
decade ago. First of all, it wasnt widely changes designed to respond to the per-
published. But, second, most smart peo- ception that the Democrats were a
ple dismissed it out of hand as a market- bloated, corrupt party.
ing ploy aimed at dumb people, which is Why is that significant? Because peo-
not far off. But it is still instructive as a ple hate corruption most of all, even
historical document. minor corruption. They hate people who
The Contract with America is inter- cut in line, who do not wait their turn.
esting because it was not always an ideo- And they perceived the Democrats as a 5
logical document. Nor was the party full of people who cut in line and
Republican takeover in 1994much as I take more than their fair share. They had
thought otherwise at the time and wish it visions of politicians stealing stamps from
had been otherwise nowan ideological the House post office, and that made
revolution so much as it was a reaction them mad enough to kick those politi-
against the perceived corruption of cians out of office. Elected officials could
Democrats. Republican strategists at the build a bridge from Nome to the Bering
time knew that people werent mad at the Sea and the American people probably
Democrats because they were liberal wouldnt care. That is far away. But if they
though I and a lot of others were think that politicians are arrogant and
annoyed at that. Most ordinary people power drunk and eating at La Colline
every day and charging it somehow to the course the pigs wind up becoming the
taxpayers, they get really angry. Angry masters in the final scene, wearing the old
enough to spark a revolution. masters clothes and swilling his liquor.
Scandal will have a powerful effect on All the dumb animals, the kind of sweet,
the 2006 midterm election. Most mem- credulous animalsthe horses, the
bers of Congress are not corrupt, but hounds, the haresare peering through

6 people will remember the ones who are.

Duke Cunningham clearly just went
the farmhouse window on the crisp night,
and inside the pigs are sitting with the
completely insane, and that is anomalous, neighboring farmers playing poker and
but people will remember. The Jack getting loaded. And the animals outside
Abramoff scandal, which is very compli- could not tell who were the pigs and who
cated and very interesting, will be a were the masters. They all looked the
major issue in the election. People will same. The revolution had come full circle.
remember that Jack Abramoff was a close To an average voter, it looks like the
associate of Tom DeLay, and that con- Republicans have put on Democrats
nection will be more devastating than the clothes and are sitting around playing
Valerie Plame leak or the war in Iraq. I poker in Congress. Republicans will be
think it signals to voters that Republican punished for what they have done, but
politics has turned into Animal Farm. for all the wrong reasons. The election
In the last scene of Animal Farm, the this fall will be bittersweet no matter
animals throw off the master. But of what happens.

Making the Case for Your Freedom in Washington

he need for a voice of reason and a
commitment to principle in the
face of runaway federal spending
and an almost casual abuse of civil liber-
ties is greater now than ever. In the
midst of the increased dangers to our
heritage of liberty, the Cato Institute
stands tall in the nations capital behold-
en to no person or political partyonly
to the principles of individual liberty.
Little wonder that the Times of London
wrote recently, The Cato Institute [is]
Washingtons think tank powerhouse.
Cato is your leading advocate in
Washington, promoting liberty for the
individual and limitations on government
power. Americas Founders pledged their
lives, their fortunes, and their sacred
honor to the cause of liberty.
Freedom called for financial support
then. It still does today. form attached to the business reply enve-
Please accept this invitation to become lope on the back of this issue, and return it
a Cato Sponsor and join us in the battle with your contribution. You may also con-
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V O LU M E 4 N U M B E R 2

Cato Scholar Profile: Andrew Coulson

n an effort to better inform you about the mans Voucher Idea at
work of the Cato Institute, in this issue of Fifty, which reevalu-
Catos Letter we begin a series of profiles of ates Friedmans
Cato policy experts. 1955 essay that
In 1976 Microsoft founder Bill Gates sparked the modern
dropped out of school to devote himself American school
full-time to his revolutionary computer choice movement.
company. In 1994 software engineer An- What recent success-
drew Coulson quit his job at Microsoft to es will we be able to build on?
devote himself to revolutionizing Ameri-
The prospective expansion of the Mil-
cas schools. Coulson is director of Catos
waukee school voucher program from a
Center for Educational Freedom.
cap of 15,000 students to 22,500 is an
How did you become involved in the educa-
exciting development. But even more
tion reform movement?
promising is the proliferation of new
While I was considering leaving school choice bills and laws around the
Microsoft to work in public policy, Ore- country. Market-inspired policies are being
gon was having a ballot initiative debate proposed and passed in more states than
over school vouchers. Naively, I imagined ever before. Momentum is building. So far,
that it would win in a landslide; I thought none of these programs has been strong
people would jump at the chance to take enough to create a real free market in edu-
more control over their own tax dollars. I cation, but as soon as such a market is cre-
couldnt have been more wrong. When ated in a single state, the others will follow
the initiative went down in flames, my like dominos.
tendency toward obsessive research kicked
What are the biggest challenges ahead for ad-
in, and within a year I had left Microsoft
vocates of educational freedom and choice?
to begin work on my book, Market Educa-
We continue to face entrenched,
tion: The Unknown History.
relentless opposition from well-organized
What do you have planned for the Center for
special interests that benefit from the sta-
Educational Freedom in the coming months?
tus quo government school monopoly. We
I think a multipronged strategy is have to fight for market reforms at the
called for. Were planning new empirical
research, such as a state-by-state survey of
K-12 level and also against state and fed-
eral government encroachment at the pre-
private schools that will dispel misconcep- school and university levels. Perhaps most
tions about independent education. To important, we have to overcome some
help people distinguish between effective common public misconceptions about
and ineffective policies, were developing state schooling and free education mar-
a policy tool that rates school reforms and kets. For instance, very few Americans
school systems on the basis of how close know that private schools spend thousands
they are to free markets. A lot of reforms of dollars less per pupil than do govern-
that go under the heading school choice ment schools, or that the academic
are too weak to do much good. Were also achievement of applicants is not an impor-
planning some less technical articles that tant criterion for admissions to most inde-
reach out directly to the general public, pendent schools. Well be getting those
and we have a great book in the works for messages out through our publications,
this fall: Liberty and Learning: Milton Fried- media outreach efforts, and legal battles.
New and Forthcoming
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Governments and businesses have increased their demands for identification since 9/11, believ-
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