Remember when Republicans liked less government?

Published March 23, 2023

By Thomas Mills

I liked the Republicans more when they were the party of limited government. Of course, I probably liked them because they were also in minority back then. Still, they used to oppose government interference in our lives and institutions. Their adhered to the saying “The best government is that which governs least.” Today, they’re trying to regulate everything from menstrual cycles to school curriculums. 

It’s disturbing to watch big government conservatives run through educational systems, waving mandates and demanding courses. Right now, they’re pushing their anti-CRT bill based on bad information. They are continuing their attempt to write a skewed version of history into the law. They are also trying to require university and community college students to pass a history course in oder to graduate. I’m a history guy, and this sure seems like heavy-handed government to me. 

I don’t think anybody is teaching CRT to kids in public schools, and if they are teaching something similar, it’s being taught in areas where most people agree that race has been major factor in shaping our history. That’s really about local control, something Republicans used to tout. It’s also ironic that a bunch of mostly White legislators are concerned that our children will somehow be indoctrinated when almost all of them are products of the indoctrination that taught Confederates were honorable but misguided heroes for the past 150 years.

I don’t believe you can give an accounting of American history, especially in South, without an accounting of the role race played in shaping almost all aspects of society. If you grew up in a small town, there was a White side of town and Black side of town–and the Black side of town was usually on poorer terrain. Just look at the flooding in places like Princeville and Fair Bluff after recent hurricanes. It’s no coincidence that the most heavily flooded places were inhabited largely by African Americans. If you’re as old as me you remember segregated restaurants, doctor’s offices, movie theaters, and schools. Churches are still largely segregated. 

Ignoring the role places like Wilmington, Tulsa, and Rosewood played in the Black experience in America is every bit as indoctrinating as CRT. History helps us recognize our shortcomings and strengths. It teaches lessons about to how to govern and how to live. It helps us understand the perspective of people who had different experiences than us. The story of Black people in America is one of overcoming adversity and a fight for equality that is ongoing. That needs to be taught in school, especially in the South.

As for teaching history in college, I really don’t see the purpose in teaching history to somebody who is in a community college course learning to become a graphic designer. I think liberal arts colleges should be teaching American history, but I don’t believe the legislature needs to be mandating college curricula. Neither do proponents of small government, unless, of course, they aren’t really proponents of small government at all.

Finally, Republicans seem poised to limit access to abortion in North Carolina. In other words, they are going to insert themselves between patients and doctors. Again, that’s not small government. That’s big government imposing their religious views on the rest of us. I suspect the backlash to Republican overreach on abortion is just getting started. It might take another decade, but they will pay a serious price for their heavy-handedness. 

In South Carolina last week, legislators proposed a bill that would allow the death penalty for abortion. That bill might not pass, but 21 legislators signed on it. In Idaho, they’ve already passed laws that hold providers accountable with jail terms and fines that start at $20,000. One doctor had to send a patient out of state in an ambulance to get an abortion that saved her life, but she almost died before she got to the other hospital. These states are going to see an exodus of OB-GYNs. In Idaho, it’s already started. They are literally running doctors out of their states. 

Over the coming years, we’ll be divided between states where you can get proper health care and those where God will determine your fate. Corporations and entrepreneurs will follow the doctors, not the tax rates. Half the country will become more like Mississippi or Alabama and the other will become prosperous, modern societies. And the ones looking increasingly like theocracies will whine that the elites are discriminating against them. 

The GOP is increasingly authoritarian in their view of government. Not only do they want to control women’s bodies, they want to control the historical narrative. Their attempts to impose their will and their ignorance on people will result in further sorting as doctors, intellectuals, entrepreneurs, corporations, and minorities opt for more open-minded places to live and do business. North Carolina is a state on the cusp. Let’s hope Republicans drop their desire to micromanage and get back to their more libertarian instincts. We need less government regulation of our personal lives as much as we might need it for our businesses.