For as long as I’ve been paying attention to politics, Republicans have always the party of smaller government, reduced spending and local control while Democrats believed in using government as a tool to improve the social order. But in the past two years it seems as if the Republicans have changed their mind about small government and reduced spending. This piece in the op-ed page of yesterday’s Post describes the change better than I can.
It’s a far cry from the less-government, "leave us alone" conservatism of Ronald Reagan. Conservatives used to believe that the U.S. Constitution set up a government of strictly limited powers. It was supposed to protect us from foreign threats and deliver the mail, leaving other matters to the states or to the private sector — individuals, families, churches, charities and businesses.
But that’s not what voters got. Leave aside defense spending and even entitlements spending: In Bush’s first three years, nondefense discretionary spending — which fell by 13.5 percent under Ronald Reagan — has soared by 20.8 percent. His more libertarian-minded voters are taken aback to discover that "compassionate conservatism" turned out to mean social conservatism — a stepped-up drug war, restrictions on medical research, antigay policies, federal subsidies for marriage and religion — and big-spending liberalism justified as "compassion."
It’s no wonder that so many people in this country don’t trust anyone involved in government, Republican or Democrat.