What happened to the party of limited government?

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, stands for government intrusion everywhere:

Republican governors ban masks in schools.

Republican states outlaw abortions.

Republican lawmakers prohibit teachers from teaching about America’s racist past.

Republican legislators force transgender students to play sports and use bathrooms according to their assigned gender at birth.

And across the country, Republican lawmakers are making it harder for people to vote.

This is not limited government, folks. This is social control. Republicans have a particular ideology and are determined to impose that ideology on citizens holding different views and values.

This is not about freedom, either. Just the opposite: It’s Republicans denying people their freedoms: The freedom to be safe from COVID. Freedom over their own bodies. The freedom to learn the truth about our history. The freedom to vote and participate in our democracy.

Once, Republicans had a coherent view about individual liberties and limiting the role of government. That’s not to say this ideology was beneficial to the country—far from it. But it was coherent, and they were committed to it.
Now, they only want to get reelected.

They are misusing government to advance a narrow and restrictive set of values—intruding on the most intimate acts, and 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.

This post originally appeared at RobertReich.org.

Robert B. Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and former secretary of labor under the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His film, Inequality for All, was released in 2013. Follow him on Twitter: @RBReich.

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