Rosett: Try liberty as a platform

Claudia Rosett has a suggestion for Republicans looking to reorganize themselves and their message: liberty.  Rosett notices that no one talked about it during the 2008 campaign, and wonders when Republicans stopped making it central to their platform:

With more than 63 million votes, President-elect Barack Obama–eloquent, young and bankrolled to the gunwales–has won the White House. That still leaves more than 55 million Americans who voted for the aging, outspent warrior, John McCain.

What were those McCain supporters voting for? Rather than reverting to the zillion polls of recent months, which centered on the platforms put forward by the candidates, I’ll hazard a guess–based on what was missing from this campaign, and seems to have all but vanished from the main stage of American politics.

That would be the straightforward love and defense of individual liberty, with its attendant freedom to take risks, and responsibility for the results. And here I stress individual. Not the chant of the crowd, but that basic American passion for individual life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Joe the Plumber, icon that he became, was not ultimately all about marginal tax brackets worked out to the umpteenth decimal point. He was a symbol of the broad principle that America thrives when its citizens are free to chart their own lives under a government more focused on defending their liberty and private property than encroaching on it in the name of redistributive state-administered “justice.”

Rosett says that she doubts that many of the 56 million voters who supported McCain did so on the basis of his health care plan, as substantive as it might be.  Nor did they flock to the GOP because of the Lexington Project, even though it was the far superior energy policy.  They did so because of the echo of Republican values, echoes that were never met with a new call to liberty, at least not until a plumber in Ohio raised the basic question of values and philosophy.

Ronald Reagan could speak to these values, as both a politician and a philosopher.  The Republican Party needs to find someone who can do the same.  Policies are important, but they should fit the values and principles of a party dedicated to individual liberty, and not the other way around.  The alternative, Rosett says, is to “turn on each other and look for ways to climb back onto the gravy train,” and it appears some Republicans have already found ways to do that.

We could do worse than to listen to Claudia Rosett.  We have work to do, and we need to start now if we expect to have anything more to say in 2010 than promote a diluted form of redistributionism.