As Sarah Palin sipped her Big Gulp at CPAC over the weekend, I thought it was a subtle nod of solidarity to Marco Rubio, who infamously leaned off-screen for a tasty beverage during his State of the Union response.
Then, of course, I realized how much she must dislike New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who, despite his capitalist credentials, represents everything she hates about those elitist, over-civilized East Coasters who think they know more than her. It was good theater; I’m just not sure it was good politics, especially when your party’s taking a beating in the polls for its harsh image.
Which is crazy when you think about it: A new Hill poll reveals most voters agree with free market fiscal policies when they’re presented generically, but backtrack completely when they’re presented as Republican policies. It’s not a messaging problem; it’s a brand problem. And if you don’t think that’s serious enough to address, just ask the CEOs of Kmart, Yahoo or Blackberry, all of whom once ruled over their respective industries. And before you tell me this isn’t a popularity contest, I contend that’s exactly what politics is.
But all of that aside, it made me dig a little deeper into this whole concept of the nanny state, a coin termed by British Prime Minister Ian Macleod back in 1965 that references an overprotective federal body babying its constituents. Of course, this latest dustup from the right is a backlash against Mayor Bloomberg’s “sugary drink ban,” with pundits railing against being told what to do—or what not to.
“One day, we got ham and bacon, Next day, ain’t nothing shakin’
But it ain’t nobody’s business if we do,” as the song goes, right?
Leaving aside the rebellious teenage rhetoric, a look back at some of these laws reveals neither party is immune to telling the American people how to live their lives.
- In 1862, Republican President Abraham Lincoln established the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Chemistry, which would later become the Food and Drug Administration. This, over the course of the next 150 years or so, would give birth to our modern food labels.
- In 1967, we got the National Transportation Safety Board, and a year later, our first seat belt laws. Democrat Lyndon Johnson was in the White House.
- In 1970, President Richard Nixon launched the Environmental Protection Agency. (Incidentally, the Associated Press reported on just-released White House tapes that show Nixon privately pushing for a ban on all handguns in the wake of the failed assassination attempt on George Wallace in 1972.)
- In 1976, Congress passed the first Hyde Amendment, in response to Roe v. Wade, which barred federal funds from providing abortions to low-income women. The rider, named after author U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Illinois, landed on the desk of President Gerald Ford, who signed it into law.
- In 1984, Republican icon Ronald Reagan signed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act into law, forcing the states in to revising the drinking ages up to 21 or sacrifice federal highway funds.
- And, speaking of party icons and drinking (or even drinking party icons), left-wing poster child Bill Clinton signed a similar “federal highway fund blackmail” bill into law in 2000 to “encourage” states to lower the blood alcohol thresholds for driving under the influence violations.
- Finally, President Barack Obama signed a massive anti-smoking bill into law in 2009, giving the FDA sweeping powers of regulation over the tobacco industry.
Reasonable people would be hard-pressed to argue against most of this legislation. While the more “libertarians” among us might say there are several victimless crimes here, they still impose costs on the rest of society, whether in the form of tax dollars, health care costs (or premiums) or simply sleepless nights.
And even today, we see the discussion of gay marriage—a deeply personal issue—playing out in the public square. Are we against outlawing soda, but all for banning weddings?
I’m not sure I have the answer, but I’m pretty certain I don’t want a mayor in New York telling me who I can marry any more than I want the new pope to tell me what to order at lunch tomorrow.
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)