It's the Personal Liberty, Stupid

After the Republicans' 2008 election wipeout, some conservative pundits and elected Republicans argued that there was no constituency for limited government. Republicans, we were told, had to give up on the notion that the public was averse to an ever larger and more intrusive government. That was then.

Now, as Matt Welch of Reason magazine points out, fear of big government is all the rage -- and is cause for rage. He writes:

This isn't about liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. A majority oppose Obama's policies because they fly in the face of this country's bedrock values of personal liberty and limited government. Robbing Peter to pay Goldman Sachs does violence to that fundamentally American ethos.

And increasingly, Obama administration policy does violence to European values, as well. The continent has for the last two decades been systematically disengaging national governments from domestic industries. Top officials from Sweden, of all places, complained about Washington's auto bailout, tersely announcing that "the Swedish state is not prepared to own car factories."

And while conservatives find it hard to believe that voters didn’t see this coming from the most liberal man in the U.S. Senate, Welch correctly concludes, “Americans didn't vote for big government last November. They voted for a guy who looked like he could keep his cool in the heat of battle. If Obama wants to regain that cool, he needs to rein in the power-grabbers in Washington.”

But that goes for Republicans as well. The pressure to find some middle ground on cap and trade, ObamaCare, financial regulation, and an uber-consumer protection agency will become intense. But the Republicans would be foolish to provide cover for and assist Democrats in pursuit of a goal -- more government -- which is at odds with the wishes of a majority of Americans, including those critical independent voters. And oh yes, it’s never a good idea to vote in ways contrary to your party’s stated core message.

In some sense Obama has been invaluable to libertarians and conservatives. It is one thing to rail against excessive discretionary spending but it is quite another to have the public see how ominous a force (not to mention how expensive) government can be when it seeks to regulate and control the most intimate decisions about one’s family finances and personal health. Who would have thought Obama would have created such a consensus in favor of keeping government’s mitts off private insurance companies, doctor-patient interactions, and end-of-life care?