If Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) had not gotten sick and resigned his Senate seat, then the title of this article would have been “Will the Republicans Save Us?”
After serving in the Georgia state house and senate, Isakson served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. He was re-elected in 2010 and 2016. Although his Senate term did not expire until January 2023, in August 2019 he announced that because of his Parkinson’s disease and other health challenges, he was resigning his Senate seat effective at the end of 2019. Under Georgia law, the governor — Brian Kemp, a Republican — was allowed to make an appointment to fill the unexpired term until the next regularly scheduled statewide election (November 3, 2020). He selected Republican Kelly Loeffler, the co-owner of the Atlanta Dream of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), who had never held political office. She assumed office in January 2020.
Under Georgia election law, all candidates for a special election, regardless of their political party, compete in a “jungle primary” where every name is on the November general election ballot. If no candidate in what is usually a crowded field receives more than 50 percent of the vote, then a runoff election is conducted in January. All told, there were twenty-one candidates — including a write-in candidate who received seven votes — most of whom received less than 1 percent of the vote. Loeffler finished second in the special election with 25.9 percent of the vote. That is why she was in the January 5 runoff election for the Senate seat she held at the time. But although Loeffler claimed to be the most conservative Republican in the Senate, and was considered to be the richest member of the Senate, she lost in the runoff election to the Democrat Raphael Warnock by the slim margin of 50.8 to 49.2 percent.
It is because of this special election that Georgia was the only state to hold two Senate elections in 2020. In the Senate, the 100 senators are divided into three classes with staggered terms. Thus, only one-third of the Senate seats are contested at any election, and never more than one Senate seat in a state. In the regular Senate race in Georgia, the incumbent Republican David Perdue — the cousin of former Georgia governor and Trump administration Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue — was seeking a second term. But as he received only 49.7 percent of the vote (47.9 percent went for Democrat Jon Ossoff and 2.3 percent went for Libertarian Shane Hazel), Georgia law required a runoff election between the top two candidates. But in the January 5 runoff election, Ossoff defeated Perdue by a margin of 50.4 to 49.6 percent.
Winning these two Georgia Senate seats is how the Democrats wrested control of the Senate from the Republicans, who had controlled the Senate since January 2015. Prior to the Georgia runoff election, there were 50 Republicans in the Senate and 48 Democrats (including the two independent members of the Senate, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, who caucus with the Democrats). So now that the Senate is tied 50-50, the Democratic vice president, the former senator Kamala Harris, gets to cast the tie-breaking vote, effectively giving Democrats control of the Senate.
One-party control of the government is dangerous. Gridlock in the Congress helps prevent one party — whether Democrats or Republicans — from exercising unbridled power. Thus, even if one Georgia Senate seat had been won by a Republican, it could have stopped bad legislation proposed by Democrats from passing (assuming that all of the Senate Republicans voted together). But the reality is that life under Democratic rule will be especially dangerous to privacy, liberty, and property.
Now, we know that the Democratic Party for many years has been the party of liberalism, progressivism, collectivism, socialism, paternalism, statism, environmentalism, “social justice,” economic egalitarianism, organized labor, taxpayer-funded abortion, public education, climate change, affirmative action, welfare, higher taxes on the “rich,” universal single-payer health care, increased government regulation of the economy and society, increased government spending, larger and more-intrusive government, and assorted income-transfer programs and wealth-redistribution schemes. The Democratic solution to every problem, injustice, or crisis — real, imaginary, or contrived — is invariably more government, more government intervention, or more government money.
The Democratic Party is not just going to pick up where it left off at the end of the Obama administration. Democrats in Congress will stop at nothing to achieve their agenda. The Democratic Party of today is even more radical than it was twelve years ago during the first two years of Obama’s first term, which was the last time that Democrats had total control of the federal government (House, Senate, presidency).
What’s on the table
In an episode of “The Libertarian Angle” recorded just two days after the Electoral College vote was certified, Future of Freedom Foundation president Jacob Hornberger and Citadel professor Richard Ebeling examined the question of life under Democratic control and it was not a pretty picture they painted. According to Hornberger and Ebeling, we are going to see massive increases in federal spending, and the debt ceiling rendered totally irrelevant; massive foreign intervention, since Biden is essentially owned by the national-security state; increased focus on official enemies, expansion of the role of the military in American life, expansion of the welfare state, the revitalization of Obamacare, the attempt to implement a full-fledged government health-care system, and the expansion of the war on drugs (a war that Biden supported when he was vice president and Harris supported as a prosecutor); increased federal regulations, massive welfare-state socialism, a more centrally planned economy, massive debauchery of the currency, tax increases, increased anti-trust enforcement, a national increase in the minimum wage, elements of the “green new deal,” and emphasis on equality of outcomes and proportional representation of minorities in all groups; and more money creation by the Fed, increased inflation, wage and price controls to combat inflation, and a more interventionist foreign policy. They concluded that under a Biden administration, everything is on the table that could be a danger to our liberty, privacy, income, wealth, property, and freedom in the marketplace.
To this we can certainly add increased deficit spending, further increases in the national debt, unrestricted funding for Planned Parenthood, loosened restrictions on taxpayer-funded abortions, increased enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, expanded gun-control laws, a federal family-leave policy, government-funded child care, increased resources devoted to fighting climate change, increased violation of privacy and civil liberties in response to the coronavirus, fewer welfare-work requirements, and increased promotion of the transgender movement.
On the basis of statements in the 2020 Democratic Party platform, the recommendations in the “Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force Recommendations,” and statements from Biden himself, we can also look forward to extended unemployment benefits, a $15 per hour minimum wage, and more-generous refundable tax credits that give even more Americans tax refunds of money that they never paid in; increased funding for food stamps, WIC, and school-meal programs; greater “investment” in mass transit and transportation public-works projects, “fair” trade policies and deals, expanded farm and housing subsidies, a national goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings and vehicles, and “environmental justice”; increases in corporate tax rates, aggressive attempts to increase the supply of “affordable” housing, increased government efforts to close the racial wealth gap, increased spending on K-12 education, tuition-free college, increased federal education grants, extended student-loan payment suspension, and student-debt relief; and making Washington, D.C., the 51st state, an increased push for a reduction in the use of fossil fuels, the ending of cash bail, the passing of an Equal Rights Amendment, increased condemnation of “hate speech,” the reauthorization and expansion of the Violence Against Women Act, the securing of equal pay for women, and increased funding for arts and culture.
Could the Republicans have saved us from this unprecedented imminent upheaval and destruction of liberty, freedom, wealth, privacy, and property in America? If either Loeffler or Perdue had just received a few thousand more votes and kept the balance of power in the Senate with the Republicans, could the Republicans have saved us from the impending doom we face? Since anything is possible in politics, the answer has to be that, yes, the Republicans could have saved us from the Democrats. No matter what evil legislation the Democratic-controlled House passed, and the Democratic president was eager to sign, the Republican-controlled Senate could have stopped it (assuming that the Republicans had no defectors). Because Republicans are, after all, Republicans, the nature of this “salvation” would certainly have been limited and ephemeral, but at least Americans would have a temporary reprieve from the Democratic debacle that we are facing. But a more important question than “Could the Republicans have saved us” is “Would the Republicans have saved us.”
Unfortunately, the answer is that the Republicans would not have saved us, and for two reasons, one historical and the other philosophical: (1) Republicans have never saved us from the bad policies and programs of Democrats, regardless of whether they had partial or total control of the government and could have done something, and (2) Republicans are philosophically not much different from Democrats, regardless of how often and how loud they recite their conservative mantra about the Constitution, the free market, limited government, federalism, traditional values, free enterprise, a balanced budget, individual freedom, free trade, and property rights.
Republicans failed to save us when they had partial control of the government. After World War II, the first Republican majority in Congress (1947–1949) since the New Deal under Harry Truman authorized millions of American taxpayer dollars to be spent on foreign aid for Greece and billions more for the Marshall Plan. Passing the National Security Act of 1947 that reorganized the military and established the National Security Council (NSC) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was one of the worst things that the Republicans have ever done.
The Republicans had a majority in the Senate during Ronald Reagan’s first six years in office, but never made an attempt to repeal the Great Society. Instead, the budget increased, the deficit exploded, the national debt skyrocketed, the drug war expanded, and Social Security and Medicare tax rates were raised.
During the last six years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, the Republicans had majorities in both houses of Congress. Yet federal spending went up every year and the national debt increased by $1.4 trillion. Republicans expanded the welfare state by increasing the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) every year and creating a new program, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), to provide federally funded health insurance to children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid. No real attempt was ever made to eliminate a major government program or agency.
The 114th Congress of 2015–2017, which met during Barack Obama’s last two years in office, had huge Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. Yet profligate federal spending continued, and the national debt climbed to almost $20 trillion. Donald Trump still had a Republican-controlled Senate his last two years in office, but even before Congress opened wide the spigots of federal spending to combat the coronavirus pandemic, federal spending on the welfare and warfare states continued to climb.
Republicans failed to save us even when they had total control of the government. That has happened three times since World War II. During the 83rd Congress of 1953–1955, when the Republicans had absolute control of the government during the first two years of Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency, they could have repealed the New Deal in its entirety. They, of course, failed to do anything. And Eisenhower even wrote in a letter,
Now it is true that I believe this country is following a dangerous trend when it permits too great a degree of centralization of governmental functions…. But to attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything — even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon “moderation” in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things…. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.
The second time the Republicans had total control of the government was when they had a majority in Congress for more than four years under George W. Bush. Republicans effectively controlled both houses of the 107th Congress from January to May 2001 (the Senate was split 50/50 with the Republican vice president having the deciding vote), and had actual control of the entire 108th Congress from 2003 to 2007. But instead of repealing the Great Society, they almost doubled the budget and the national debt, created the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA, greatly expanded the Department of Education, instituted Bushcare (the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act), passed the USA PATRIOT Act, began letting the NSA spy on all Americans, and started two senseless wars — which led to indefinite detention, indiscriminate drone strikes, kangaroo military tribunals, Gitmo, torture, assassinations, and secret prisons, all to keep us safe, of course.
The third time the Republicans had total control of the government was when they had majorities in both Houses of the 115th Congress (2017–2019) during the first two years of Trump’s presidency. But again, more failure. The Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare, failed to cut federal spending, failed to balance the budget, failed to lower the national debt, failed to end the welfare state, failed to end federal control over local education, failed to reduce the size and scope of the federal government, failed to end the foreign wars, failed to close overseas military bases, failed to bring any troops home, and failed to end the national-security/police state. About the only thing that the Republicans succeeded in doing was increasing military spending, which of course, is not a good thing.
Republicans are philosophically not much different from Democrats. George Wallace famously said during his third-party bid for president in 1968, “There is not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties.” But if one ignores the conservative mantra and the libertarian rhetoric that comes out of the mouths of Republicans, and instead looks at their actual proposals and actions, no other conclusion is possible. Here are just a few examples.
Although Republicans used to call for the elimination of the federal Department of Education, they, like Democrats, fully support federal involvement in all facets of education: Pell grants, student loans, accreditation, mandates, research grants, and school breakfast and lunch programs.
Republicans, like Democrats, believe that some Americans should be forced to pay for the health care of other Americans through Medicare and Medicaid.
Republicans, like Democrats, have always supported refundable tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that give some Americans tax refunds of money that they never paid in. And they not only supported their existence, they regularly increased their payouts when they controlled the Congress.
Republicans, like Democrats, are big believers in federal subsidies to certain occupations and sectors of society: agriculture, the arts, cultural organizations, scientific and medical researchers, low-income renters. And in spite of their professed opposition to abortion, Republicans in Congress have regularly funded Planned Parenthood — America’s largest abortion provider.
Republicans, like Democrats, think it is perfectly acceptable for the federal government to take money from hard-working Americans and give it to foreign countries with authoritarian governments and corrupt regimes that regularly violate the human rights of their citizens — countries that many Americans couldn’t locate on a map or haven’t ever heard of.
Republicans, like Democrats, believe in an interventionist foreign policy. Trump and congressional Republicans continued military actions against the very same countries that Obama and congressional Democrats did.
Republicans, like Democrats, have no philosophical objection to any government program. They just prefer that it looks as though it is run efficiently, doesn’t appear to waste too many taxpayer dollars, doesn’t have too much fraud, or furthers some right-wing agenda such as sex-abstinence education or school vouchers.
Republicans, like Democrats, fully support federal anti-discrimination laws that violate the rights of private property and free association.
Although Republicans, like Democrats, rail against socialism, they are huge supporters of the largest social socialist program in the United States: Social Security — an intergenerational wealth-redistribution scheme that takes money from those who work and gives it to those who don’t. In fact, both parties strive to convince Americans that they will “save” Social Security for future generations.
Republicans (no matter how “conservative” they claim to be at election time), are statists just like Democrats. They believe that the federal government should take money from some Americans and redistribute it to other Americans: individuals, groups, organizations, and businesses — after it is filtered through a massive government bureaucracy — in the form of subsidies, vouchers, loans, EBT cards, grants, and cash payments.
Democrats are setting the stage for a massive crackdown on civil liberties in the name of fighting domestic terrorism. For this they have a good example — Republicans after the 9/11 attacks. When South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond officially left the Democratic Party in September 1964 and joined the Republican Party, he declared that the Democratic Party was “leading the evolution of our nation to a socialistic dictatorship.” That day is now here. And not only would the Republicans not have saved us from it, they have actually hastened its arrival.
This article was originally published in the April 2021 edition of Future of Freedom.