Robert Reich: Whatever Happened To The Republican Party That Stood For Limited Government? – OpEd


I’m old enough to remember when the Republican Party stood for limited government – when Ronald Reagan thundered “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.“

Today’s Republican Party, while still claiming to stand for limited government, is practicing just the opposite: government intrusion everywhere.

Republican states are on the way to outlawing abortions. Texas has just banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they’re pregnant. Other Republican states are considering similar measures.

Republican lawmakers are stopping schools from requiring students wear masks. Iowa, Tennessee, Utah, TexasFloridaArkansasOklahomaArizona and South Carolina have ordered public schools not to demand them.

Republican lawmakers are forbidding teachers from telling students about America’s racist past. State legislatures from Tennessee to Idaho are barring all references to racism in the classroom.  

Republican legislators are forcing transgender students to play sports and use bathrooms according to their assigned gender at birth. Thirty-three states have introduced more than 100 bills aiming to curb the rights of transgender people across the country.

Republican lawmakers are making it harder for people to vote. So far, they’ve enacted more than 30 laws that reduce access to polling places, number of days for voting, and availability of absentee voting.

This is not limited government, folks. To the contrary, these Republican lawmakers have a particular ideology, and they are now imposing those views and values on citizens holding different views and values.

This is big government on steroids.  

Many Republican lawmakers use the word “freedom” to justify what they’re doing, but that’s bogus. What they’re really doing is denying people their freedom – freedom to be safe from COVID, freedom over their own bodies, freedom to learn, freedom to vote and participate in our democracy.

Years ago, the Republican Party had a coherent idea about limiting the role of government and protecting the rights of the individual. I disagreed with it, as did much of the rest of America. But at least it was honest, reasoned, and consistent. As such, Republicans played an important part in a debate over what we wanted for ourselves and for America.

Today, Republican politicians have no coherent view. They want only to be reelected, even if that means misusing government to advance a narrow and increasing anachronistic set of values – intruding on the most intimate aspects of life, interfering in what can be taught and learned, risking the public’s health, banning what’s necessary for people to exercise their most basic freedoms.

This is not mere hypocrisy. The Republican Party now poses a clear and present threat even to the values it once espoused.

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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