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Republican Revolt!

by D.V. Bowden
Thomas Jefferson said, "A little rebellion now and then is a good thing." On Saturday, June 28, 2003, I went to Montgomery to the anti-tax meeting sponsored by Marty McConnell, former chairman of the Alabama GOP. It was held at the ritzy Embassy Suites hotel, down by Alabama River, and witnessed a Republican Rebellion in the making. What had begun as an anti-tax meeting grew into an anti-Riley furor. The tempo of the meeting waxed and waned, but by the end, the atmosphere had been completely radicalised. Speeches along the lines of "hate the sin, love the sinner" gave way to shouts of "Impeach Riley!" and calls for him to be excommunicated from the Republican party. Magnificent!

John Giles of the Christian Coalition was the first speaker, and he was fairly direct and forceful in his denunciation of more taxes. Subsequent speakers, including a lady representing the National Federation of Independent Business and a tax lawyer, presented a detailed analysis of the changes contained in Riley's tax proposal. These details are important, but they're also dull--the crowd began to go to sleep. All the speakers up to this point has strongly opposed Riley's plans, but had stressed being polite and civil to the Governor, and had not denounced him.

Then came time for audience participation, and things heated up. When I mentioned Susan Hamill and her nefarious plan to gain support for tax increases from churches based on her twisted interpretation of the Bible, it brought a loud hiss from the audience. Radio personality Russ Fine said that being nice wasn't going to win this fight--we'd have to get down and dirty with the tax-mongers, because they won't fight fair. He then called for Riley to be ejected from the party, to the cheers of the crowd. [Note: An important piece of information that did not make it into any of the mainstream news reports is that someone, presumably a pro-tax dirty-trickster, stole the registration forms from the Montgomery meeting. Riley's forces now have the names of everyone who attended, to put to who-knows-what use. The media totally ignored this astonishing fact.]

As I told an AP reporter, it's good to see that the Republicans at the state level have not completely lost their spines, as they have at the national level. Now that Bush is growing the federal government at an even greater rate than Clinton, and obliterating our civil liberties to boot, the national Republicans are silent. They seem to have completely forgotten all that rhetoric about reducing the size of government and abolishing federal agencies.

At least in Alabama, when their Maximum Leader goes Caligula on them, the Alabama Republicans have enough sense to revolt. Most of them seem to realise that neither Riley nor any other Republican would have been elected on a promise to raise taxes, nor will any Republican be reelected if he supports tax increases. Alabamians are fed-up with taxes and their bloated state government, and they're sick and tired of listening to the state's apologists beg for more revenue.

Libertarians often have the dubious pleasure of saying "We told you so" when some harebrained government scheme goes awry. Perhaps Republicans who want to rescue their party from a train wreck would do well to start listening and adopting more libertarian ideas.

For a long time now, libertarians have known the score. Libertarians know that spending has gone up 40% in the last six years. Libertarians know that nearly every state has gotten itself into a financial mess due to overspending, and that no amount of revenue will fix the problem of lax spending discipline. Libertarians know that government schools are inferior not because they aren't funded properly, but because they are run by government. Libertarians know that pouring money into Alabama schools has been tried before, with awful results. Libertarians in Alabama have warned about all these things many times in the past, and been roundly ignored by Democrats and Republicans. Libertarians even warned that Riley would be worse than a second Siegelman administration, but were scoffed at by Republicans, who were sure that getting "their guy" in office would finally make a difference. The fact that he was vague on the issues and refused to debate his Libertarian opponent was of no concern to the Country Club crowd. Well, now they are feeling betrayed. I know one rich Republican who campaigned hard for Riley, and was even given a spot in the administration, but who quit over Riley's about-face on taxes. I'm glad to see that many Republicans in Alabama are willing to stand in opposition to their leader when they think he is wrong. As the saying goes, "If you stand for nothing, you'll fall for anything."

Now is the time for the Republicans to take stock of their party. Some party loyalists have suggested that opposing the tax is suicidal and will be the ruination of the Republican Party–they council full support for the governor–"My party, right or wrong." These sellouts, if heeded, will be the ruination of the Republican Party in Alabama. Not that I would necessarily mind. After all, the Republicans have happily cooperated with the Democrats in suppressing the Libertarian Party through the mechanism of Alabama's highly-restrictive ballot-access laws. If they were merely committing political suicide, I would not mind so much–I would consider it their just reward. However, the outcome of a Republican united front in support of Riley would probably be the passage of his massive tax plan, to the detriment of all Alabamians. Thus, while Republican support for taxes would surely help the Libertarian Party by driving disaffected Republicans into our arms, I hope that the Republicans stand firm. For the long-term good of the Alabama Republican Party, and the state, the Republicans should take this opportunity to purge their party of the "big-government" and "progressive" Republicans, and adopt a small-government attitude and free-market policies. Such a course would be a boon to Alabama. And the first thing the new liberty-loving Republicans should do to show that they are genuine in their convictions is to open the political process to competition from third-parties. If they truly have good ideas, they will have nothing to fear.

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