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Monday, December 12, 2011

A Roosevelt Republican?

The sound bites have been coming fast and furious this week after Glenn Beck compared Newt Gingrich to Barack Obama. Conservatives who support the former Speaker are furious that Beck doesn't see the obvious differences between the two over issues such as Dodd-Frank. While there are other examples of policy differences between the two, how deep is the chasm between the two of them really?

The answer, to those who were listening, came directly from the horse's mouth just last week, when Gingrich identified himself as a "Theodore Roosevelt Republican." Which begs the question: what *is* a Theodore Roosevelt Republican? And how *exactly* is it different from a Theodore Roosevelt Democrat?

First, I would suggest that by today's standards, Teddy Roosevelt would be what we call a RINO (Republican In Name Only), a moderate-to-liberal progressive who then uses the bait-and-switch method on the unsuspecting citizens who voted for him. He baits them on conservative-to-moderate smaller government principles, and then once elected he pulls the switch, offering instead big government solutions.

President Obama sets himself up to be the quintessential Theodore Roosevelt Democrat by effectively parroting the famous "New Nationalism" speech given in 1910 in the very same location.
"We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community."                       - T. Roosevelt, 1910
"It's not a view that says we should punish profit or success or pretend that government knows how to fix all society's problems. It's a view that says in America, we are greater together -- when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share." - Barack Obama, 2011
If that is what a Theodore Roosevelt Democrat looks like, what exactly is Newt Gingrich picturing when he claims to be a Theodore Roosevelt Republican? 

  • His votes for Medicare Part D and his original support of the individual mandate (which he walked back when it became exceedingly unpopular) align well with Roosevelt's progressive plan to implement a National Health Service and Social Insurance.
  • His support of legislation like TARP is necessitated by Roosevelt's antitrust laws which removed the "bailout/buyout" power from the private sector because people like J.P. Morgan had "made enough money."
  • His vote for progressive social programs such as "No Child Left Behind" betray a belief in the need for "social justice" that Roosevelt claimed could only be enforced by a powerful federal government.
  • The powerful federal government the Theodore Roosevelt helped to create allowed Gingrich to stand with Nancy Pelosi to pass the "Criminal Safezones Act," which served to do nothing but limit the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.
So as a Theodore Roosevelt Republican, Gingrich allies himself with the opposition more often than not. He proposes big government solutions to problems that can only be solved by a reduction of government interference. 

In the 1904 election, Theodore Roosevelt faced off with Democratic challenger Alton B. Parker. On the issues the two men were nearly in lock step, and the election came down to charisma. This suggests that Theodore Roosevelt, the first genuine "Theodore Roosevelt Republican," would have been perfectly happy to have been a democrat. Given the indisputable brilliance of the former Speaker, it is not likely that Gingrich was unaware of the implications when he drew himself into the parallel.

So, Roosevelt Republican vs Roosevelt Democrat? To-may-to, to-mah-to.

Can we get a real conservative candidate to step in and call the whole thing off?

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