Rand Paul’s filibuster last week to smoke out the Obama administration’s position about using drones on U.S. soil was a principled act. — He was defending Americans’ right to due process of law in face of the sovereign monopoly on the use of force. Yet, the episode demonstrated why Republicans face difficulties establishing their party as a defender of personal liberty and wining national elections.
The Obama administration could offer no justification, other than expediency, for why Americans on U.S. soil, who may be illegally conspiring with terrorists but posing no eminent threat, should not be arrested and tried in a court of law instead of being killed by executive order through a robotic device.
Yet, Republican Senators McCain and Lindsey Graham, without offering any better reason,chided Senator Paul and denied Republicans the opportunity to establish the GOP as the assured defender of every American’s right to security of person and protection from arbitrary government violence—something President Obama and Attorney Holder seem hesitant to embrace or understand.
On immigration, contraception, gay rights and other social issues, President Obama’s positions are also premised on expediency—maintaining a Democratic coalition of minorities, women and gays—with little respect for the rule of law or constitutionally guaranteed liberties. Yet, over and over again, Republicans come up short and fragmented in their responses.
Some plan must be devised to deal with the 11 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States. Deporting all or most of them would cripple the U.S. economy after countenancing their presence and practical contributions to our society for so many years. And failing to offer some pathway to legitimacy and forcing them permanently into the shadows and denying them legal protections violates the basic human rights the United States has espoused and defended at home and abroad for generations.
Senator Marco Rubio and other Republicans are correct to condition enactment of such a naturalization process to finally securing U.S. borders. President Obama’s opposition to guaranteed border security in exchange for a pathway to citizenship is nothing less than political expediency in his quest for Hispanic votes—this at the expense of restoring rule of law to U.S. immigration policy, protecting American workers from unfair competition from illegal immigrants working in exploitive conditions, and ensuring the problem of millions of illegal immigrants does not reemerge 10 or 20 years from now.
When conservative Republicans oppose any naturalization process, because desperate people illegally snuck across the border while most Americans looked the other way and profited from their presence, or merely embrace naturalization out of political necessity, they permit liberal pundits to tag the GOP as the “White Guys Club.”
The ObamaCare requirement that church-related organizations offer employees health insurance and provide contraceptive drugs and devices—even though those are widely and inexpensively available—is not about a woman’s right to choose. Rather, it is about the federal government negating religious freedom by forcing one person to pay for another person’s birth control choices.
Yet, the opposition of many Republicans to any government support for contraception, even for poor women, is an equal affront to religious personal choices, and permits liberals in the media to characterize their posture as a “Republican War on Women.”
On gay rights, Republicans should simply heed former New York Mayor Giuliani’s admonition to stay out of people’s bedrooms. Moderate voters—who determine the outcome of elections—have quite widely varying views about homosexuality, but generally they believe that the government has no right to interfere with personal sexual choices that do not impact on others.
To win elections, Republicans must embrace limited government, beyond how much the government taxes and spends, to situations they find discomforting—the choices most Americans have already made about the rights of illegal immigrants, poor women, gays, and whoever else may violate their private sensibilities.
Peter Morici served as Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission from 1993 to 1995. He is an economist and professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland.