America to Lurch Left?

The Weekly Standard‘s Fred Barnes has a scare story in today’s Wall Street Journal. He warns of a lurch to the left if Barack Obama wins today’s election. Barnes, a partisan Republican, wrote a book about President Bush in 2006 titled Rebel-in-Chief. He is also a McCain supporter.

Suppose Obama wins, and this lurch to the left happens. Why is Barnes opposed to it? A leftward turn would simply be a continuation of large swaths of Bush administration policy — which Barnes endorses.

True, most people think of President Bush as a conservative, not a liberal. And yes, President Bush is socially conservative and hawkish on foreign policy.

His liberal credentials are still impressive.

For example: President Bush has enacted the largest new entitlement program in forty years; made the tax code more progressive; skyrocketed federal spending on education; overseen 51,000 new regulations to rein in unfettered free markets; transferred billions of dollars from taxpayers to alternative energy researchers; the list goes on.

In short, the federal government, both in spending and in doing, has grown faster under Bush than even Lyndon Johnson could muster. McCain’s limited government credentials are on roughly equal footing.

Barnes and Obama do see things differently on foreign policy and on some social issues. But when it comes to core principles, there is little difference. Barnes, Bush, McCain, and Obama all favor a large, active federal government. Barnes’ distaste for Obama — and support for McCain — is more likely motivated by partisanship than actual philosophical disagreement.

The truth is, no matter who wins, people who favor limited government will probably lose.