Mickey Edwards makes several valid points in his May 9 Opinion piece about conservatives' abandonment of what had been core principles when the fruits of those principles offend their sensibilities, imperil their financial interests or might cost their candidates votes. Those same conservatives' criticism of the so-called "activist judiciary" is self-serving. Judges do not choose the cases brought before them, and only the higher courts have the limited power to deny an appeal based on errors in law during trial. Examined more objectively, an "activist judge" is one who strikes down laws of which conservatives approve and upholds those of which they disapprove, while a "strict constructionist" does the opposite.
I must point out that, contrary to the term Edwards used so freely, the Constitution is, correctly, the handiwork of the "framers," led by James Madison in 1787, not the "founding fathers," whose actions tore us away from Great Britain's bosom in 1776. The two terms are not perfectly interchangeable. Only six men signed both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Edwards revels in the fact that conservatism has triumphed in the years since Barry Goldwater's defeat but bemoans the fact that many of today's conservatives have strayed from the personal-liberty conservatism he ascribes to Goldwater's followers. He completely ignores the fact that this victory was made possible by the alliance libertarian Republicans made with hard-right social conservatives, Southern racists and others who couldn't care less about constitutional principles. The Pat Robertsons, Rick Santorums and, yes, George W. Bushes of the Republican Party are evangelists masquerading as politicians.
Edwards names Judge Robert Bork as a conservative jurist who ought to know better than to assert that rights are granted by the government rather than reserved to individual citizens. Don't Supreme Court Justices William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas share that belief? Don't they routinely uphold federal government actions against the states and private citizens and state actions against private citizens?
The thing Edwards is most proud of, the triumph of conservatism, is anything but. The country is more evenly divided than it was at any time in the 20th century.
Bravo to Edwards' critique of the political right's hypocrisy in its stance toward the Constitution and states' rights. There is a further point: The Constitution says that only the Congress has the right to declare war. And yet, since the Korean War, administrations have taken the authority to get our country into full-blown wars -- Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Iraq I, the Balkans, and now Iraq II -- all with no declaration of war by the Congress. These were not just small emergency response actions; they were all premeditated attacks on sovereign countries. The one constitutional amendment we should be talking about these days, rather than this marriage amendment idiocy, is to require that America engage in no war without a declaration of war on the part of Congress.
I abandoned the Republican Party 15 years ago in favor of the Libertarian Party. I recently finished a rereading of Goldwater's 1960 book, "The Conscience of a Conservative." Goldwater planted the seed, but it has been clear to me for a long time that this seed -- promising to become a tree of freedom, liberty and responsibility -- is now nothing more than a weed. The right and left have merged ideologies and pocketbooks.
We libertarians have a word for these infidels: Republicrats. There is now only one party ruling the country. This party is fed by greed, corruption and elitism, the results of which have become a direct attack against all that Goldwater wrote about. Government is larger and more consuming than ever; individual liberty has become anachronistic, especially with the new "homeland security" abuses; the notion of individual responsibility is now assumed to be racist or sexist.
The Libertarian Party, though not perfect, is clearly the only party with a platform that reflects the "constitutionalist" spirit that Goldwater and many historical libertarian thinkers like Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Frederick Douglass, John Locke, George Washington, [English writers] John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, Thomas Paine, James Madison, Alexis de Tocqueville, Adam Smith and David Hume would be proud of.