Why are we still calling the GOP the party of freedom?

Look, I realise that none of these insights are particular novel but I’m been fuming for months so let me just have this one, please: Why are we calling the GOP the party of freedom? Why have Republicans capitalised upon this notion that they are protecting individual liberties, rights, and freedom in the United States when in fact their party is effectively standing for the exact opposite? I don’t even mean ‘freedom in the sense that liberals think of freedom’ but freedom in the sense of the actual rhetoric used by the party?

We hear that Republicans believe passionately in states’ rights, and that the federal government is too interfering. Instead, states should be allowed to make decisions about a variety of policy issues, because the power to do so is not directly delegated to the federal government in the Constitution. Okay, fine. States’ rights yay! Then why is Congress repeatedly passing laws that restrict the rights of individual states to make policy decisions? Why is the president issuing executive orders that hamper state liberties? Why are government agencies issuing rules and regulations that, again, interfere with what states can and cannot do?

It seems like states should only be accorded rights when they are engaging in activities that the GOP supports. Thus, discriminating against trans people is definitely a states’ rights issue, but setting pollution standards is something the federal government should be doing. Making policies about adoption is a power that should be left to the states. Marijuana policy? Federal issue. Can we really cherrypick like this? Like do people not realise that they are engaging in rank, obvious, transparent hypocrisy?

We also hear that they are the party of jobs, of getting government regulations out of the workplace and allowing companies to operate on a free market. So why do so many GOP initiatives in Congress include pork for Republican companies, creating subsidies that very much ensure this is not a free market? Why did the American Health Care Act include provisions that effectively told insurance companies how to run their businesses? Why is the GOP always eager to distribute handouts to ‘save Americans jobs’ by putting money into the hands of factory bosses?

If you genuinely believe in a free market, let the market be free (and enjoy the freefall). And if you think the government should get out of the business of regulating what companies do and don’t do, then take your own advice. Don’t tell insurers they shouldn’t cover abortion, or craft policy that denies subsidies and benefits to companies with inclusive corporate cultures. Just let the market do whatever it wants. It will stabilise, right?

I don’t think we even need to get into the GOP’s flawed thinking on ‘individual liberty,’ given the fact that Republicans are more or less constantly pushing for legislation that restricts the individual liberties of Americans. Likewise with ‘religious freedom,’ which evidently only applies to people of one religion, and preferably certain sects of that religion. Free speech? Again, only for those engaging in speech that Republicans like — the rest can go hang.

There are a lot of sharp, smart thinkers on the American right, and I have interesting conversations with them. We actually agree on a lot of issues, sometimes in surprising areas — perhaps particularly when it comes to Libertarians. The polarised nature of US politics has meant that the GOP can thrive despite the fact that it’s not actually living up to its values, and is at times working against the very things it claims to stand for, as the leadership seem confident that they’ll remain unchallenged.

I’ve spent a long time genuinely trying to understand the Republican leadership and the priorities they set for their party, because their work seems at odds with the stated interests of the party, but also with individual Republicans. Most of my Republican friends are moderates, and we’ve had a lot of perplexed conversations in recent years as they find the party more and more abstracted from the one they joined. They’re confused about what the party is doing and why it’s doing it, and this is the consequence of allowing some radicalised members effectively completely control the conversation. Somehow the Freedom Caucus and the Tea Party have cheerfully gained control and they’re not letting go.

I find myself wondering if the GOP is drifting in the direction of party realignment, which again is not exactly an earthshattering observation. It seems obvious that those who are more moderate are being driven out of the party, and some seem to think that this means they will end up in the arms of the Democrats, but the growing numbers of independent voters would suggest that it’s not as simple as Democrats versus Republicans anymore, and a smart moderate party could potentially gain ground by moving at the right moment.

I’m hoping for many, many things out of the current political landscape, but a viable third party is definitely among them. There’s no reason people should feel torn between two terrible choices when there could be other options available, and it could change the face of federal politics. There’s no reason that the GOP should be allowed to claim it has a monopoly on freedom when it’s doing nothing to actually advance true freedom for all.

Image: Freedom, Osajus, Flickr