Mande Wilkes | Republicans love big government, too

I try to avoid even looking at it. But that pile of postcards catches my eye every time I sit down in my office, embarrassing me with the reminder of the person I was – or maybe the person I pretended to be.

You see, this time last year I was running for Congress. I made those postcards for the campaign, as an introduction of sorts. I won’t go into all the gory details of what’s printed on the cards, but suffice it to say that I used insensitive phrases such as “makers and takers” – phrases that make me cringe now, a year on.

And a year on, that phrase is more popular than ever – especially as the debate rages on about the fiscal cliff. Here’s the thing: The idea that there are makers and takers, while maybe true, is beside the point. To nitpick about the source of tax revenue is a dangerous distraction.

No matter what the media say, and no matter what your representatives tell you, the fiscal cliff debate isn’t about who should pay less and who should pay more. Whence the money comes isn’t nearly as important as whence it goes. Taxes, in and of themselves, aren’t inherently corrupt. What’s inherently corrupt, evidently, is the government which they fund.

That’s the reason I wince when I read those postcards I printed. Running as a Republican, especially during the tyrannical Tea Party era, I figured the way to be electable was to cling to concepts like class warfare and small-government conservatism. But the fact is – and take it from me, because I learned this the hard way – is that the Republican Party is lying when it says it supports small government.

Think about all the laws that Republicans promise to protect or pass: laws against homosexuality, laws against pornography, laws against gambling, laws against medical marijuana, laws against assisted suicide, and laws against choice. And that’s to say nothing of the local issues that Republicans dictate: laws against commercial zoning, laws against business signage, laws against parking parity, laws against body piercing and tattoos, laws against what time of day you can sell alcohol, and laws against profanity.

Scary, isn’t it? In point of fact, Republicans don’t favor small government – far from it. That’s why it’s so hard for me to swallow reminders of my “no-compromise conservatism.” (Catchy phrase, huh? Made it up myself.) The right likes government just as much as the left. If you don’t believe that, refer to the previous paragraph and re-read that litany of laws that conservatives support.

For those like myself with a genuine distrust for government, the right is the wrong place to be. That’s why there is no sensible solution to the fiscal cliff dilemma. The only thing that Washington Republicans are debating is who should be Peter and who should be Paul. The real debate, though, isn’t who ought to be funding the government; the real debate is what kind of government we’re funding, and to what end.

In the meantime, though, it’s pretty entertaining to watch as Peter and Paul duke it out.

Contact Wilkes, a local cultural commentator, at m@mandewilkes.com.