The American Right and Left are each comprised of disparate groups, with a variety of priorities and objectives. What draws them together, into the Left and the Right? My friend Grover Norquist has developed a fairly convincing theory that’s at once obvious and obfuscated. In the title of his new book, “Leave Us Alone,” Grover provides what does, or should, unify the American center-right.
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The Left, Grover has said, is ultimately concerned with living off others – using the force of government to achieve their ends, enforce their views, provide for their needs, and derive their happiness.
The Right, he suggests, is unified around the title of his book. At the base of each component group on the Right is a basic desire to be left alone by government.
The gun rights groups don’t want to force you to have gun, they just want to be left alone with their guns. Homeschoolers don’t want to force you to do likewise with your kids, they just want to be allowed to do education their way. Entrepreneurs want to be free to risk the shirt off their own back for a new idea, not make you give up yours. Property rights devotees won’t force you to own a plot of land, they just don’t want us to take their land away. And so on.
Some might argue that this is a recipe for selfish indulgence where every man is an island. On the contrary, it creates a more vibrant marketplace of ideas where it is the value of the issue that converts not the force of government. Religious conservatives can proselytize all they want – just without government mandates compelling worship. A gun owner might try to show you why private firearm possession deters crime, but he also cannot force you to pay for his gun or fire one yourself.
Grover has for more than a decade successfully cobbled together such a coalition in Washington, DC. His fabled Wednesday meetings isn’t a group of right-wing conspirators, but rather a collection of right-leaning interests willing to cover each other’s backs in stopping government intrusion into their lives, businesses and issues.
Does it always work? Of course not. There are some gun owners who hate the idea of homeschooling. And some business guys are willing to use government to regulate away their competition.
Look at the Left; they teeter a victory away from impulsion and anarchy. They might be convenient co-belligerents, but they aren’t – and cannot be – long-term allies. If their team wins, though, the union assembly-line worker is ticked when his job disappears after SUVs are banned. The gay couple likes the security of the handgun in the closet. The environmentalist resents sending their kid to a school that wasn’t constructed from recycled hemp.
But they all want – demand – government empowerment. A bigger, stronger, more invasive government. That they only want bigger government for THEIR cause isn’t sufficient to protect them. As Thomas Jefferson said, a government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.
On the Right, if we agree to making government smaller on our issue, and keeping it small for our allies, we can ensure long term victory and success through the empowerment of people.