The spirit of ’64 seems alive and well in the Republican Party. No, not the 1864 re-election of Abraham Lincoln, but 1964, when political infighting over the ideological direction of the party helped drive Republicans to one of their most humiliating defeats in half a century.
New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, speaking at the convention, warned “of the extremist threat, its danger to the party and its danger to the nation” that the conservative Barry Goldwater represented and, along with other Northeast Republicans, he refused to support the Arizona senator’s White House bid.
Goldwater went on to carry only six states, receiving less than 39 percent of the popular vote and just 52 electoral votes.
Fast-forward to the modern day: Northeast Republicans again are attempting to flush out supposedly dangerous extremism from the all-but-official 2016 Republican field after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the libertarian-leaning Kentucky senator, Rand Paul, got into a dustup last week over national security policy.
“This strain of libertarianism that’s going through parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought,” Gov. Christie was quoted in the New York Times.
And Sen. Paul’s dangerous thought? He suggested that, perhaps, in our quest for security over liberty, we have overstepped our constitutional boundaries since 9/11.
It is a debate, we feel, worth having, and Sen. Paul’s view is shared by most Americans, as a new Pew Research poll suggests. It found that, while a slim majority of Americans are supportive overall of the NSA spying program, they felt the program was too expansive and without adequate legal limits.
But Gov. Christie remained dismissive of the merits of such a debate about the surveillance state, calling it nothing more than “esoteric” and “intellectual,” preferring that Sen. Paul justify his stance to 9/11 victims’ families instead.
So, while it seems most Americans would welcome a much-needed national debate on our creeping surveillance state conducted between the wings of a reforming Republican Party, security hawks find a conversation on our civil liberties as nothing more than fodder for a “fringe,” who are not much different from Hitler appeasers, as another possible presidential contender, New York Rep. Peter King, told Wolf Blitzer on CNN.
“This is a fringe. This is an isolationist wing of the party, which I thought that we rejected with Charles Lindbergh back in the late 1930s and early ’40s,” Rep. King said.
Americans should find these dismissive views as disconcerting as we on the Register’s Editorial Board do if they believe their civil liberties are fundamental to the continuation of our free society and as a majority of Americans do grow increasingly weary of the national security apparatus, we hope the security hawks are the ones that come to be rejected by the American electorate.
In this new time for choosing, where big government seems to have returned, we hope the Republican Party can solidify around liberty.
From the Orange County Register