Why Do Republicans Hate Government?

Living as I do in Minneapolis, a very, very Democratic city, you tend appreciate the times when you can get together with fellow Republicans and chat.

We complain about specific Democratic policies and of course, believe that we have better answers.

But every so often, I am left with a sense of unease. What bothers me is that some of those gathered (not all, mind you) tend to not just have a healthy suspicion of government, but an outright distrust if not hate.

These chats have made me think a lot about how the GOP has viewed government over the last few decades and how that opinion is going have to change if we want to become a governing party again.

I’ve often disagreed with my liberal friends who think that the government is the answer for everything that ails us as a society. The current President and his mates in Congress seem to believe in the supremacy of the government in handling all of the nation’s problems. From health care to financial aid for college, they see government as the answer.

Being a Republican, I have tended to not see government as the answer. Let me rephrase that: I tend to not look at government as THE answer, but as AN answer. Government can help but it is not the panacea for all our problems. I believe in an effective government, not one that starts getting involved in areas where it should not or, if it does, should have a light touch.

But the governing philosophy of many in the GOP is one where government is not simply an interloper but a monster that will destroy all of society as we know it. While such talk might make the base of the party swoon with delight, it doesn’t appeal to those worried about losing health care, trying to find work, or concerned about global warming. They might not want the Big Government that the Democrats are pushing but they do want their government to address these issues.

Such anti-government fervor is working to our detriment. Take, for example, health care. The Obama plan might very well include a so-called “public plan” that would compete with private plans. Many conservatives rightly fear that such a plan would undercut the private plans. Also, businesses would drop their private plans in an instant and allow their workers to go on the public plan. The end result is a de-facto “single payer” healthcare system, which is not an outcome most Republicans want.

But the opposition to the Obama plan is wrapped up in shooting down other options such as the plan in Massachusetts or the Swiss Health Plan which rely on a combination of the free market and government regulation. The simple fact that these plans still have some goverment involvement has led the GOP to ignore or label them as “single payer” when they are nothing of the sort.

The thing is, when Republicans actually see government in a more positive light, they can come up with innovative ideas to run goverment. In a recent op-ed, Lou Zickar of the Ripon Society points out the fact that Republicans have long been against big government, but have supported better government:

Over the past 30 years, conservatives have successfully branded anyone who supports raising taxes as a liberal.

Now many on the right are trying to do the same with regard to government. In short, if a person supports a government program, that individual is not just a liberal but also a socialist.

The result is that many Republicans have become hesitant to acknowledge one of the most basic obligations of elective office: Lawmakers are hired to run the government, not run away from it.

It hasn’t always been this way, of course. Abraham Lincoln created the Agriculture Department. Teddy Roosevelt regulated the railroads. Dwight Eisenhower poured 45,000 miles of concrete and built the nation’s interstate highway system. No one in his right mind would believe any of them were socialists.

Zickar then goes on to talk about Mitch Daniels, the Republican Governor of Indiana who has a knack for innovation in government.

If Republicans want to compete effectively against the Democrats, they can’t do it by saying they hate government and then ask to be elected to said hated government. Republicans can get elected by trying to make government innovative, to get more bang for the buck.

But that would require a party willing to think again, to devise new ideas for a new day. Are Republicans willing to do that? It remains to be seen.

Cross-posted at Progressive Republicans

         

Author: DENNIS SANDERS

Share This Post On

26 Comments

  1. Excellent thoughts, Dennis. Thank you. Two factors, both false, lead to the current anti-government sentiment among Republicans.

    First is the belief that it is necessary to appeal to the “base”, and that the base would prefer no government to good government. To be sure, there is an element of Americana that is libertarian bordering on anarchist. But this is a small sliver of society, not the bulk of American conservatism, as some Republicans falsely assume.

    Second, true of both parties, is the process of dumbing-down messages. A poignant example on the Republican side is quoting Reagan out of context by invoking his words “Government is not the solution to the problem. Government is the problem.” With Reagan as the gold standard of Republican leadership, quotes (out of context) like this tend to become gospel to the faithful and give credence to the anti-government message of some in the Party.

  2. Dennis,

    As a conservative, I may be able to answer your question.

    We don’t hate government. That is a strawman set up by leftists in order to have a position they can defend. What we hate is bloated, inefficient, uncaring, incompetent, never-ending government that intrudes on every aspect of our lives with programs that magnify whatever social ill it is designed to fix.

    I’m certain that if you check, you’ll find a program, infrastructure, personnel, office space, managers and the rest of our government’s accoutrements for the widows of whaling seamen. As with every government program, it will never die.

    Conservatives look for government to provide for the defense of the country, aid the states in providing common infrastructure and to provide an overall atmosphere for the formation and growth of business. Government should be as non-intrusive as possible while providing for the common good.

    Just as Obama lies continually concerning the stimulus bill, claiming that Republicans advocated doing nothing as opposed to his trillion dollar boondoggle, promoting the notion that the right wants to totally eliminate government doesn’t add to the conversation, it prevents rational discussion.

  3. I agree with the previous comments made regarding the opinions of the right on gov't. It's not that I think gov't is devious is always has some ulterior motives, it has just been (having worked with several state and gov't projects as a contractor) Government is always bigger and more expensive than an alternative private answer. It full of bureaucrats and plain fat-cats who in my experience do little unless they have no choice. Once a new program or initiative is in place IT WILL NEVER GO AWAY.

    There are some issues where gov't is the only entity big enough to provide a solution, but they are very limited (military, post office, IRS)

    To your comment about the health insurance plan in Massachusetts (where I live)….please don't go there (I'm begging everyone). The only thing it has done has made healthcare accessible to some (to it's credit). At the same time, it has created a plethora of government hacks and regulators who “oversee” things. It also has done NOTHING to lower the cost or improve the quality of the system….In fact, the improvements I have seen are due to a shared initiative between the insurers and the providers because they haggle over compensation. But it certainly has not gotten any cheaper for anyone, and I certainly don't want to see it go national. The state seeing a problem or shortcoming in the subsidized segment imposes manadates on the private sector at will (which adds to our out of pocket costs)

  4. and that the base would prefer no government to good government.

    So, tidbits, do you actually have any factual evidence to support that or do you concede you are indulging in hyperbole the same way Sanders projects what 6 guys crammed into an ice-fishing shack on Lake Minnetonka say is representative of 50,000,000 other Republicans?

    Did you ever hear Karl Rove profess a preference for no government……..did you ever hear Limbaugh say that? Whom did you hear say that?

    Do you agree or disagree that for the 5 or 6 Republicans that TMV writers have continually quoted for the last 5 months, who are hyperbolic in their commentary, I can find 600 who are not?

    Do you agree or disagree that it is simply lazy journalism to keep focusing on 5 or 6 people and further, that it is actually dishonest journalism to keep implying it is representative of 50,000,000?

    As a self-identified intellectual independent, I would be interested in your views on these items.

  5. “Many conservatives rightly fear that such a plan would undercut the private plans.”

    So what is the problem? The only objection I've heard the Republicans offer to this is that it would undercut the insurance industry.

    So what? They've been failing us all along. They pay people to deny coverage for legitimate medical needs. Meanwhile, 60% of all personal bankruptcies are attributable to medical bills. Is there a logical objection to keeping Americans from going bankrupt? Is it really necessary to save an industry that has failed all of us?

    Yes, yes. “Canada! Canda!” In the most recent World Health Organization study, Canada's health care was ranked 30th. The US was ranked 37th. Don't try to frighten me with a country that has the worst record in public-provided health care and is still better than ours. It's also interesting that Canada is always the country that is chosen to frighten us. “Where”, to quote Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty (on a different subject), “are all the dead Canadians”, then, if their health care is so awful? Show me the bodies stacked up like wood. And why can't the United States somehow manage to do a better job than the country that is alleged to be the worst? Are we incompetent? After telling us from cradle to grave that we're the greatest country on earth, why are we being told that we're incapable of managing the health care crisis?

    Oh, and that business about “You won't be able to get an MRI” is baloney. As long as the equipment is there, you'll get it. We have a LOT of MRI machines in this country. We aren't Canada. Also, yes, you will be able to chose your own physician. The claim that the government would pick your doctor for you is simply bogus.

    Okay, so getting back to my question, what is the harm in a public plan that has no trigger option and can negotiate lower prices?

  6. Oh, and that business about “You won't be able to get an MRI” is baloney. As long as the equipment is there, you'll get it. We have a LOT of MRI machines in this country. We aren't Canada. Also, yes, you will be able to chose your own physician. The claim that the government would pick your doctor for you is simply bogus.

    And why do we have more MRI machines than Canada does? Oh, yeah, because a private health care system, while expensive, does promote new technology and research. So what happens when the next advance comes along in imaging or other biotechnologies, and we no longer have a privatized health care system?

    As for doctors, the main issue there is that many physicians will walk away if they don't have the incentives offered by current compensation- and fewer people will choose to invest the enormous amount of time and money to go to medical school. That will compound the shortage which we already face (we're verging on a critical shortage of primary care providers right now) and when more people enter the health care system by virtue of gaining government subsidized insurance, the shortage will reach critical mass. How will the government then allocate the scarce resources in order to make sure everyone has access and choice of medical care providers?

  7. dbk,

    The actual conversation was about leftists quoting mythical republicans, saying things that made wild-eyed liberals seem reasonable.

    To apply this to healthcare, the Obama administration is now in bed with the insurers, tossing your beloved single-payer out the window. You seem convinced that a government bureaucrat being in control of your medical decisions is far preferable to an insurance company employee performing the same function.

    For myself, I believed that George Bush’s proposal for individual healthcare accounts (with the government supplementing low income individuals) gave full control to the individual. It was backed up by either catastrophic insurance or a government supplement to Medicare for expensive procedures and long term care.

    Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid declined to discuss healthcare if this proposal was part of the conversation.

    Let me say that another way.

    Pelosi and Reid refused to even come to the table to talk if one of the proposals was individual healthcare accounts.

    If there was truly justice in the U.S., these two would have been convicted of gross neglect of their duties and thrown out long ago.

  8. On the subject of the post, my take on it as a conservative is that the government certainly has a role to play but we should always have a healthy skepticism of it. Government is a highly corruptible human institution, and power given over it is seldom gained back. When you read the writings of the founders, it's clear that they had that sense of concern.

    So like you, Dennis, I think that government is sometimes the solution but there are a variety of other solutions to problems that should be explored first. There's always a tradeoff of liberty when we put the government in charge of a problem- and sometimes that tradeoff may be worthwhile but I feel we should always stop to count that cost first, and consider whether or not there are any other options that might better balance freedom and other needs.

  9. CO – You and I are saying the same thing. My third sentence refers to two factors…”both false”. Do not interpret, from the fact that I refer to those factors, that I believe them to be anything but what I identified them to be…false. The pretense that 50,000,000 believe in no government is obviously inaccurate, as I point out when I say “this is not the bulk of American conservatism” and point out that the anarchists are only “a small sliver” of the population. My reference is to false perceptions, not reality.

    Where we probably disagree (feel free to correct me), is my belief that certain people in the Republican Party pander to and, to some extent, foment anti-government views. Those people do not represent mainstream Republican or conservative thinking nor did I suggest they do. The use of the Reagan quote is particularly annoying in this regard. As I'm sure you know, but many do not, Reagan was referring to a particular policy when he said “Government is the problem”; he was not referring to government as a whole. Yet it is often presented, even by Republicans and conservatives, as a universal statement rather than being put into context. The question then becomes how does the average unsophisticated and uninformed listener respond when hearing someone of apparent authority in the Party supposedly “quote” Reagan as saying ” Government is the problem?”

    Finally, politics is all about perception. If 5 or 6 people, speaking falsely, are the 5 or 6 being heard, the view they espouse will have weight beyond the percentage of the “50,000,00″ whose views they actually represent, which might be closer to 10,000 (my “small sliver” reference).

  10. I guess the distinction between “government is incompetent” and “government is the problem” is escaping me.

    dbk: “So what is the problem? The only objection I've heard the Republicans offer to this is that it would undercut the insurance industry.”

    Then listen harder. The objection is not that private insurance is good. Indeed it's terrible, because it's been pushed away from providing insurance to become the gatekeeper-in-chief of all medical treatment. It's failing at that role and needs to be scaled back.

    But the government has a track record of failure too, so it's not a credible alternative. Medicare is a Ponzi scheme that has been just as ineffective at controlling costs and driving efficiency into a massively complicated industry. Meanwhile it's stacking up trillions of unfunded liabilities that our grandchildren will need to find a way to pay off, an abuse simply unconscionable in the private sector. It has proved itself unqualified to be gatekeeper.

    We need to return power to the people. Only the patient has a genuine stake in the value of care he receives, so it's the patient who should be in ultimate control of the purse strings.

  11. OK, apologies, tidbits…….yes, I glanced past your lead in sentence.

    I also agree about the perception thing…….5 or 6 voices heard can be misleading.

    Thus, I realize the obvious motivation of the TMV authors here to replay the 5 or 6 voices repetitively, but Sanders, albeit he relegated to a mere token to political balance here, ought to be doing a bit more critical thinking than using “Republican anarchy” as his rhetorical springboard.

  12. Only the patient has a genuine stake in the value of care he receives, so it's the patient who should be in ultimate control of the purse strings.

    In which case the patient is going to die very poor and very young! Most people don't have the financial wherewithal to handle a mild accident or modest disease.

  13. I think we need a top-level post on “Why do Democrats hate Freedom”, or maybe “Why are all Democrats crooks”.

    Equally valid topics.

  14. But every so often, I am left with a sense of unease. What bothers me is that some of those gathered (not all, mind you) tend to not just have a healthy suspicion of government, but an outright distrust if not hate.

    That's because you have three basic groups in the Republican Party:

    Group 1. I have so much money that there is very little that the Government can do for me other than enforce contracts and force other countries Government to do my bidding, but a well run & efficient Government could prevent me from fleecing the sheeple.

    Group 2. People who barely have a pot to piss in but think they believe that they belong in group 1.

    Group 3. People who would rather eat Sh*t rather than give a nickel to a n***er / sp** /g**k.

  15. “In which case the patient is going to die very poor and very young! Most people don't have the financial wherewithal to handle a mild accident or modest disease.”

    Great, then let's make them cover everyone else's health care too by taxing them to fund a national plan.

  16. Great, then let's make them cover everyone else's health care too by taxing them to fund a national plan.

    And that my good man is the point of insurance…

    You have jut described a single payer healthcare system and amazingly enough, Countries that use such a system have longuer life expectancies and lower infant mortality rates than the US does for substantially less money than the US spends.

  17. No, my good man, insurance covers expensive but unlikely events. A single payer health care system covers everything. Countries that have them also have lower cancer survival rates than we do.

  18. Countries that have them also have lower cancer survival rates than we do.

    Stats? Please…

  19. Sure, here you go.

    The age-adjusted 5-year survival rates for all cancers combined was 47.3% for men and 55.8% for women, which is significantly lower than the estimates of 66.3% for men and 62.9% for women from the US Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program ( P < .001).

    Survival was significantly higher in the United States for all solid tumors, except testicular, stomach, and soft-tissue cancer, the authors report. The greatest differences were seen in the major cancer sites: colon and rectum (56.2% in Europe vs 65.5% in the United States), breast (79.0% vs 90.1%), and prostate cancer (77.5% vs 99.3%), and this “probably represents differences in the timeliness of diagnosis,” they comment. That in turn stems from the more intensive screening for cancer carried out in the United States, where a reported 70% of women aged 50 to 70 years have undergone a mammogram in the past 2 years, one-third of people have had sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy in the past 5 years, and more than 80% of men aged 65 years or more have had a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. In fact, it is this PSA testing that probably accounts for the very high survival from prostate cancer seen in the United States, the authors comment.

  20. The lower infant mortality rates have been debunked also.
    http://deanesmay.com/2009/05/15/the-myth-of-com
    Which also takes a big chunk out of the longuer life expectancies.
    And lets not forget that a lot of the being able to get by with less money is because of the US spending what it does.

  21. One thing lacking on both sides of this discussion: law.

    Americans now feel–they don't know, they just “feel”–that government is just a matter of opinion. Whenever any question comes up, or is made to come up, the debate is about one side's feeling that government should do this and the other side's feeling that government should not.

    Nobody considers that the law, the written Constitution, determines what government can do and, by omission as forcefully as by prohibition, what the government cannot do.

    Since 1860, those in power have done whatever they've wanted to do, with absolutely no restraint in law. That's the problem here. Not whether the government should do something or not, but whether the government can do something or not.

  22. Nobody considers that the law, the written Constitution, determines what government can do and, by omission as forcefully as by prohibition, what the government cannot do.

    Amusing how the law is only an issue when it's time to discuss social benefits & welfare programs, but never an issue when it's time to start a war, torture people, wiretap telephones, to bomb some third world rat-hole to smithereens, or to maintain the largest Military in the world.

  23. Thank You.

    Sounds like they need to improve their screening programs more than any thing else.

    Cancer Survival Rates Vary by Country – Study Shows U.S., Japan, and France Have Highest Cancer Survival Rates

    The highest survival rates were found in the U.S. for breast and prostate cancer, in Japan for colon and rectal cancers in men, and in France for colon and rectal cancers in women, Coleman's team reports.

    In Canada and Australia, survival was also high for most cancers.

    Cancer Survival: A Closer Look at the U.S.

    Survival rates varied among the 16 states and six metropolitan areas included in the study.

    Idaho had the best survival rates for rectal cancer in men and Seattle was highest for rectal cancer in women. Patients in Seattle also had the best survival rates for prostate cancer. For all other cancers studied, patients in Hawaii had the highest survival rates.

    Patients in New York City had the lowest survival rates for all four cancers except rectal cancer in both men and women. For those, patients in Wyoming had the lowest survival rate.

    A racial gap in survival was evident, with white patients more likely than blacks to survive, especially breast cancer. “The comparison is confirmed right across the USA, in all 16 states,” Coleman says of the racial gap.

    For the study, the researchers estimated relative survival, adjusting for such factors as wide differences in death rates from country to country and for age.

  24. As Jon Stewart of the Daily Show once put it, Republicans don't hate government. They just hate government they themselves are not controlling. They had absolutely no problem in growing the size of government, both in terms of domestic spending and foreign spending back when it was a Republican in the White House.

    Jwest is absolutely right them Democrats cite the talking point “Republicans hate government” as a strawman, but Democrats don't seem to get is that from a fiscal conservative point of view, that criticism is actually quite a compliment, and wholely underserved to today's Republican Party.

    What the whole “Republicans hate government” really says to me is how much both Democrats and Republicans are willing to lie in order to win over voters. Ironically, both Democrats and Republicans are actually telling the same lie (that Republicans are extremely fiscally conservative) but are trying spin the lie completely different ways (for Democrats, it's distorting Republican views in order to pander to fiscally populist voters, and for Republicans, it's distorting their own views in order to pander to fiscally conservative voters).

    In other words, when it comes to growing the size of government, Democratic politicians tend to be fear mongers while Republican politicians tend to be hypocrites.

    I can do without both.

  25. “Sounds like they need to improve their screening programs more than any thing else.”

    Right, just a tiny tweak. Barely worth mentioning, really, except that it kills a bunch of people. Let's just ignore it and get back to moaning about how much better socialized systems are.

    Really what they need to do is cure cancer. So do we.

  26. It's not just that government frequently is inferior to the private sector (among other reasons for having different motives and objectives), or does harm. It's even broader than that when looking at government from the standard American libertarian point of view (which we inherited from England), and ironically is more powerful as well as truthful and serious than any childish equivalent held by the radicalism in the Left. That is, there is a problem with authority. Authority, power over people, is a powerful thing, and is often subject to abuse. There is no limit to what harm can be wrought when it is abused (even if for the most unrealistic but best-intended reasons by people who are elitist, or arrogant or conceited, and believe they know what's best for everyone, or at least for everyone else but themselves). Americans are rightly skeptical and wary of authority, of power over people (other people than those in government), and the harm it can do, and often has done.

Submit a Comment