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HOWARD BUFFETT, An Opportunity for the Republican Party - Ralph Raico, New Individualist Review 
New Individualist Review, editor-in-chief Ralph Raico, introduction by Milton Friedman (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981).
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An Opportunity for the Republican Party
THE ARENA WAS filled to overflowing. At the microphone the carefully-coached candidate was rolling out pleasant-sounding generalities. At each pause for breath, the crowd would respond with roof-raising cheers and stamping of feet.
At the back of the hall, two Yankees—visitors from the country-side—watched quietly. Finally one, puzzled by the performance, turned to his companion and demanded:
“What’s he talking about?”
“He don’t say,” the friend replied, starting for an exit.
The humbug portrayed in the foregoing anecdote is standard performance today for both the New Frontier and the modern GOP. The result is that millions of voters are as puzzled and disgusted as the two Yankees who walked out.
At this moment in national affairs this conclusion may sound unwarranted. Recent months have recorded several striking conservative victories in Washington. Nevertheless, the bitter truth is this: that for 30 years we have been marched towards collectivism despite occasional repulses by conservative forces.
Why has this happened? For freedom-loving Americans the answer to this question transcends all other issues. The answer is not hard to discover once we recognize two political realities:
(1) Despite a sizable dissenting element, the Democratic Party has a definite political faith. That faith is collectivism—the Welfare State. Every measure that Party promotes is designed to give the government more power and contrary-wise to shrink the area of individual freedom.
(2) Since the ’thirties the Republican Party has had no coherent or recognizable political faith. When out of power it has occasionally brilliantly resisted the collectivist drive. But mostly it has collaborated with the Democrats in diminishing individual freedom, calling such action bi-partisan. Foreign Aid and Military Conscription are examples.
During the recent eight-year GOP administration the New Deal remained intact. While elements in the GOP stood for the principles of free individualism, the Party followed a me-too policy. This political perversion started many years ago. It first became evident when Wendell Willkie, a Democrat switch-over, was made GOP presidential nominee in 1940. In that campaign, both candidates, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie, promised to keep us out of foreign wars. Yet both supported actions that would get us into the European war already raging. Me-tooism became the pattern of the Republican Party. Control of the GOP had been quietly seized by Eastern Internationalists who hold it to this day. In the two decades that followed 1940, political sterility characterized the Republican Party. Many factors contributed. The most obvious causes were global intervention and the gigantic expansion of government expenditures. This strategy enabled the Democrats to pose as world-saviors and at the same time scatter political or financial rewards to all who would become their lackeys—Repubican or Democrat.
By 1952 the Republican Party had been out of power twenty years. Desperate, it was determined to win at any price. What happened?
The GOP discarded their great leader of the difficult war and post-war years—Senator Robert A. Taft. Instead, they nominated General Dwight D. Eisenhower, candidate of the powerful Internationalists. He was elected President like war hero candidates before him—Zachary Taylor and Ulysses S. Grant. Freedom-loving Americans were assured collectivism would be halted—that swollen governmental power would be whittled down.
The 1952 GOP platform declared: “We charge that they (the Democrats) have arrogantly deprived our citizens of precious liberties by seizing powers never granted.”
What happened? As Al Smith used to say, “Let’s look at the record.” In its first months the Eisenhower administration did achieve one commendable change. The sickening and senseless slaughter of American boys in Korea was halted. But in domestic affairs no serious effort was made to repeal a single New Deal measure.
By 1957, Norman Thomas, frequent Socialist candidate for President, was boasting:
The United States is making greater strides toward Socialism under Eisenhower than even under Roosevelt, particularly in the fields of federal spending and welfare legislation.
This program can be credited to President Eisenhower and is particularly significant because it is being done by a Republican administration.
In the 1958 elections, despite a GOP administration in the White House, Republican Congressional strength was thinned down to its minority status of the 1930’s.
The 1960 election is probably fresh in your mind. Both platforms were full of bromides and pious platitudes. Both candidates had the okay of the Eastern Internationalists. Their debates showed their views were close together. The election of either was to advance collectivism, but the GOP would not collectivize the country as fast as the Democrats. Conservative Americans generally voted for Nixon. That was about the only way to protest the continuing socialist drive of the Democrats.
The foregoing is history. The question now is: Where do we go from here?
Three possibilities exist. (1) The GOP will be rebuilt into a genuine and respected party; (2) a new party will be formed and become effective; and (3) the forces favoring a totalitarian state will have only intra-party opposition.
Those are the alternatives.
The difficulties are sobering. But the American people can solve them if competent leadership is found. The primary requirement is an aroused people—determined to be true both to their heritage and to their children. They can make either alternative (1) or (2) come into reality. The preferable solution would seem to be a massive reformation by the GOP.
Both parties still give lip service to freedom. Consider these recent utterances:
“I am here to promote the freedom doctrine,” declared President Kennedy in one of his first messages to Congress.
“THE GREAT ISSUE OF 1962—[is] . . . which party acts more effectively to preserve and enlarge human freedom?” declared a statement of Republican principles issued in June 1962.
The fact is that the lamps of American liberty have been going out, one by one. A recent tabulation shows nine important American freedoms have been wholly or partially lost in the thirty years between 1931 and 1961.
Not one of these freedoms was abridged by consent of the people. These freedoms were destroyed in Washington without resistance from either major party. Me-tooism reigned.
Yet the Republican Party was born and nourished to greatness on action for freedom. Organized in 1854, the GOP nominated their first presidential candidate in 1856, John C. Fremont. He lost. But something important happened in 1856. Consider these stirring words:
The battle of freedom is to be fought out on principle. Slavery is a violation of the eternal right. We have temporized with it from the necessities of our condition, but as sure as God reigns and school children read, that black foul lie can never be consecrated into God’s hallowed truth.1
This stand for freedom marked Abraham Lincoln’s speech as he joined the Republican Party in 1856—and broke with the Whig Party that had elected him to Congress and other offices.
The Republican Party stood firm against the spread of slavery. Was that highly controversial action politically unwise and impractical? “Yes,” declared the experienced Whigs. A few years later, the Whig Party was only an unmourned memory.
The new-born Republican Party, with Lincoln at the helm, won the next presidential election—1860. That victory was repeated in 10 out of 12 presidential elections in the half-century that followed—a record never equaled in American history. Taking a stand for freedom was not simply a righteous move—it was dynamic political action.
AMAZINGLY, AN ISSUE of actual physical freedom, as vital and fundamental as the infamous Negro slavery, exists in America today. Its abolition awaits a political party courageous enough to champion liberty as the Republicans did a century ago. I refer, of course, to the Old World evil of conscription, carried out here under the soothing label of Selective Service.
Today, all American boys, at eighteen, are registered into military conscription and become subject to physical bondage by the government. This occurs even before these boys are of age.
The grim aspects of this law have been obscured. But their awesome meaning has been spelled out by a long-revered scholar of the Constitution, the late Professor John W. Burgess of Columbia University:
The power in the government to raise and employ conscript armies for, and in, foreign war . . . is the most despotic power which government can exercise. It can be so exercised, at any moment and on occasion created by government itself, as to sweep every vestige of individual liberty and put the last drop of blood of every man, woman and child in the country at the arbitrary disposal of the government2
Sobering details of the Conscription Law are reported by Lewis B. Hershey, Director of Selective Service:
Every young man must register with a local board of the Selective Service System on his eighteenth birthday or within five days thereafter. . . . A registrant who fails to comply with all his selective service obligations because he leaves the United States after his registration . . . becomes a violator of the Act and is subject to severe penalties prescribed in the Act.
The meaning of Hershey’s statement is that every American boy, as he reaches the age of eighteen, goes into bondage. He must not leave the jurisdiction of U. S. military authorities except by their permission. In some respects, he may seem like a free person. He may be permitted to go to school, work, or loaf, but he is actually a captive in that his person and services are subject to military control for a period of years.
If his parents should emigrate to Canada, England or some other land, no law stops them. But their eighteen-year-old son cannot get out. He cannot leave America until the U. S. military is through with him. Then, if he is still alive, he becomes free.
Many objections can be advanced against the GOP facing up to this situation. Similar arguments were raised against Lincoln and the Republican Party when they talked against Negro slavery.
In its abolition of freedom, peacetime conscription overshadows all other collectivism and regimentation. When the American government conscripts a boy to go 10,000 miles to the jungles of Asia without a declaration of war by Congress (as required by the Constitution) what freedom is safe at home? Surely, profits of U. S. Steel or your private property are not more sacred than a young man’s right to life.
By a stand against the peacetime conscription of American youth, the Republican Party could again become the party of freedom. Without this action, pledges in other areas of American life have little significance.
Will the Republican Party seize this opportunity? Who knows? It would seem to be the GOP’s best, if not only, hope for the future. The Democratic Party has preempted and permanently occupied the socialistic and collectivist position in American politics.
If America is again to have government “by consent of the governed,” one party must offer the alternative position. That alternative is, of course, individual freedom and private enterprise. Lacking that choice, America will end up in socialism without a single, genuine, ballot-box opportunity to reject it. Remembering the glorious history of our political system and its fruits, a greater tragedy to the world is hard to envision.
All this is not to say that otherwise the GOP will be counted out immediately. Suppose it continues to dodge action for freedom? The stock market crash and the economic effects it portends may bring GOP gains this fall. But that respite would only postpone its last rites if the me-too pattern of the last 30 years continues.
A return to faith in freedom by the GOP would not solve all its problems. But that action is the decisive step to assure its future. Then, as it was for Lincoln and the GOP in 1856, victory and a rebirth of freedom would come into sight.
For political action that sets men free has proven the most dynamic force in all history.
In turn, the rededication of America to freedom could reverse the totalitarian tide now sweeping over the world.
[* ] The Hon. Howard Buffett is a former Republican Congressman from Nebraska. In 1952 he served as campaign manager for Senator Robert A. Taft.
[1 ] Spoken at Bloomington, Illinois, May 29, 1856.
[2 ] John W. Burgess, Recent Changes in American Constitutional Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 1923).