An Open Letter to Mr. Ken Mehlman
Alexander S. Peak
2 February 2005
I’m sure my comments will not be among those shared [on the GOP website] as they are deﬁnitely not going to propel the party line, but I wish for you to read them nonetheless, Mr. Mehlman.
I see many problems with the Republican Party today. It is not the motley crew of libertarians that this letter [I received from the GOP] makes it out to be.
Let’s begin with Lincoln, since the historical revisionists have made him out to be a God among leaders. Lincoln was a tyrant, and both the Union and the Confederacy took positions so offensive to Liberty that it is impossible to support either side.
We all know the South’s sin against Liberty: the institution of slavery. There are also other stories about unnecessarily cruel conduct during the war, but I’m sure I need not convince you that the Confederacy was indefensible.
What I’ve yet to convince you is that the Union’s position was also indefensible. First we must note that the secession occurred primarily over tariffs. At the time, the Union had raised tariffs so high that Southerners had little choice buy to products from the North, products that were exorbitant in cost. This did well for the North’s economy, but severely hurt the South.
So, the South seceded, and became the Confederate States of America—a separate, sovereign nation. Their authority to do this can be found in the tenth amendment. From this point on, the Union armies were occupying the Confederacy, and war broke out.
You make the claim that “[s]ince Abraham Lincoln, Republicans have been the party of freedom and reform.” I would counter by pointing out that Lincoln was a tyrant who suspended Habeas Corpus, jailed dissidenters for speaking out against his presidency and his war, and initiated for the ﬁrst time in American history a form of slavery called conscription.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I applaud the Republican Party on its position that the institution of slavery should not spread to any new states, but this does not dismiss the fact that Lincoln was, at best, a moderate on the issue of slavery. Your party chose him because they knew they needed to get a number of Southern states to win the election, and a hardcore abolitionist would not likely get elected.
The Liberty Party had ran hardcore abolitionists, and never made a dent in the Democratic South. The Free Soil Party also opposed slavery, and did a little better than did the Liberty Party, but to mostly the same result.
I claimed that Lincoln was, at best, a moderate on the issue of slavery. It should be noted that slavery had not become a theme for the Union’s ﬁght against the Confederacy until the third year of the war, when it became expedient for them to note this. In fact, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation didn’t actually free a single slave. Instead, it offered to the Confederacy that any State that wished to rejoin the Union would be free to keep the institution of slavery. Since Lincoln had no power in the Confederacy at the time, he had no means to enforce an emancipation of the slaves there. Further, he chose not to free any of the slaves in any of the areas that the Union actually did have control over.
Slavery wasn’t legally abolished until the radical Republicans (God bless them) in Congress passed the thirteenth amendment.
Unfortunately, as a result of the war, about 560,000 people died. Why? Not to free the slaves, as that was just a coincidental positive outcome, but rather to keep the Union together—a goal that, if you ask me, simply wasn’t worth it.
You go on to comment that “Ronald Reagan’s leadership…ended the Cold War.” I’m not so convinced. There were a number of factors that lead to the fall of the U.S.S.R., a big one being that state socialism is unsustainable. The free market provides more than state socialism ever could, and does so more efﬁciently. This was the primary cause of the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Reagan is due some credit. He brought attention to the stupidity of the continuing existence of the Berlin Wall in our modern society. The Soviets could not rationally defend their having this wall, and it eventually did fall. Others that deserve some credit include Pope John Paul II and the leadership within the U.S.S.R., which at the time was liberalising, eventually leading to elections. (Unfortunately, it seems Putin is leading Russia back to despotism, but that’s a bit beyond my point.) Over all else, state socialism and state-run central-governments in general do not provide efﬁciently the needs of the people, and so the system was bound to collapse. (And I would argue that it would have collapsed sooner if not for external competition.)
That leads us to your next inference, that Republicans have liberated “ﬁfty million in Iraq and Afghanistan.” I believe America has been involved in only two just wars in the past hundred years: World War II and the war against al Qaeda. In both of these cases, we were attacked and had war declared on us by the groups we fought. Japan declared war on us by attacking Pearl Harbor, and Germany declared war on us a few days later. We not only had a right, but also a responsibility, to get involved in that war. Likewise, al Qaeda attacked us a little over four years ago, thus declaring war on us. We had a right and the responsibility to go after them. [Both of these wars derive their justness by way of the right to self-defense.]
But I am left unconvinced that the war in Iraq was justiﬁed. Hussein was a tyrant, but so is Islam Karimov, and Kim Jong-Il, and countless others. Does that mean it is our responsibility, just by our nature as a wealthy nation, to get involved in foreign conﬂicts? It would seem to me that this is an extension of Marxist philosophy that your party espouses.
Next you claim that “Republicans have consistently stood for freedom—and even today, we are putting new reforms that spread freedom into action.” This I have much disagreement with. The Republican Party of today has strayed far from any roots in small government philosophy. Let’s take the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 for instance.
When the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 was introduced, it was the conservatives and libertarians that ﬁrst spoke up against it, and with good reason. But the Republican Party as a whole has ignored its conservative and libertarian roots and has pushed to keep the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 in force. Republican defenders of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 have put aside any love for Liberty they may have just to use this as a point of partisanism against Democrats. The same can be said of the REAL ID Act of 2005, which essentially sets up a National ID Card—something that certain leftists have been wanting for quite some time.
It doesn’t end there. The Republicans’ insistence on banning gay marriage goes completely contrary to the separation of church and state that Republicans have championed for so long. Marriage should not be controlled or deﬁned by the government, but rather by private individuals, private churches, and private businesses. If government has any role in marriage whatsoever, it is merely as a recorder. As you may remember, it was the Democrats that originally instituted marriage licenses as a means of keeping blacks from marrying whites. These are still used today to prevent consensual polygamy and consensual homosexual marriage, even when there is a church that approves.
Republicans should be taking the same stance as Libertarians, that being that (A) if the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t want to ordain gay marriage or polygamy, it doesn’t have to; (B) if the United Church of Christ does want to ordain homosexual marriage, it should be free to; and (C) if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints wants to go back to endorsing polygamy, it, too, should be free to.
Marriage is a religious institution, so I fail to see what authority the government has in restricting marriage between consenting adults.
In summation, the Republican Party, at least as a whole, does not consistently stand up for freedom. Many Republicans stand up for censorship, like Senator Stevens and Senator McCain; many stand up for restrictions on gun rights, like Senator Frist and Senator Daschle; et cætera. (Let it be noted for objectivity that my favourite members of Congress are Republicans, especially Dr. Ron Paul.)
Lastly, you mention black history month. My problem with black history month isn’t black history, but rather the fact that it’s segregated from so-called “white history.”
Alexander S. Peak
Alex Peak served as President of the College Libertarians of Towson, 2004–2006; Membership Chair, 2006–2007; and Vice President, 2007–2008.