All through the Republican primaries, and through the general election too, we're going to continue hearing what we have been hearing: What do the candidates think about the issues? What is this one's opinion of gay marriage? What does that one want to do about immigration?
But the way I see it, there is only one real issue: how much power do we want the federal government to have?
Almost from my mother's knee, I have been warned about the dangers of an over-powerful government. "A government that can give everything to you can take everything from you." "It's easy to give power to the government, but it's almost impossible to get it back."
Does the federal government get to decide what you are allowed to put into your body? Your average conservative is thrilled when a candidate wants harsh drug laws on the federal level, overriding any of those bad states where they are legalizing medical marijuana. But I hope they realize that in four or eight years, some other guy is going to use that exact precedent to ban raw milk on a federal level.
Does the government legislate whom you are allowed to marry? At this point, the answer is actually yes, though at the state level. Clergy of any kind are considered agents of the state when they perform marriages, and they are forbidden to do so without government approval (a state-issued marriage license). Most conservatives want their candidate to work to ban same-sex marriage nationwide. Do they realize that in four to eight years, some other guy is not only going to allow same-sex marriages nationwide, but also will be able to force priests and ministers of every religion to perform them? My dream is to get the government, state, federal, or local, out of the marriage business altogether. Let them perform civil unions if they want. I'd get one. But I want my religious leaders to be able to perform whatever ceremonies they want without asking the government first.
Does the government have a right to listen to everything you say? More and more, we don't have the right to privacy that we used to, but it's all in the name of fighting terrorism, so it's okay. Rick Santorum has been advocating the wiretapping of all churches, synagogues, and mosques -- to make sure no terrorism-provoking rhetoric is being used. And I have no doubt that's just how he would use it. But four or eight years from now, the precedent will be set, and the next guy will be looking for "intolerant" rhetoric or some such thing. And you won't be able to fight it, because you will no longer have the right or expectation not to be wiretapped in church.
And who gets to decide when our nation goes to war? The Constitution leaves that power to Congress. However, in recent years it's been the sole prerogative of the President. He can embroil our troops first in a foreign conflict, and then, when they're in too deep to back out, can go ask Congress for approval to keep doing it.
In high school, I did a term project on the Vietnam War. I came to the conclusion that a nation cannot win unless its people want to win at least as bad as the enemy nation's people want to win. And since the enemy saw themselves as fighting for their nation's freedom, and we saw ourselves as sending our boys over to get killed for no good reason, it is natural that we couldn't win that one. I blamed, at the time, the media and the selfishness of the American people.
Now I'm realizing the problem may have been that we went at it hind-end foremost. First we got embroiled in a war. Then we were asked what we thought about it. Without the support of the populace, all the government succeeded in doing was wasting something in the order of 50,000 American lives. Lives of American boys who didn't want to die in the first place.
This is going to keep happening as long as the government starts an armed conflict without the consent of the populace: we'll fight for awhile, but as it drags on ... and on ... and on, the outcry from back home will be too great and we'll have to pull out. This is what happened in Iraq. You can blame the media, Wikileaks, or the selfishness of the American people, but very simply, no one wanted to be there that much, and no one at all wanted to be there for ten years. Few people want to get involved in Iran. But that doesn't matter, because no matter what we, the people, want, our government -- and particularly the executive branch -- reserves the right to attack other nations without even telling us first. So we're very likely to get involved in many more wars as time goes on.
The future looks grim in terms of increasing government power. Almost every candidate on the roster intends to increase government in at least a few big ways, and most of them in many ways. And I refuse to vote for anyone who has one of these on his platform: if they are for bigger government, they have lost my vote. Even if that means I don't get to vote at all.