Don't do that

What the GOP, libertarians, and jellyfish have in common
By AL DIAMON  |  March 23, 2011

Republicans and libertarians share many similarities. For instance, members of both groups are generally equipped with bladders.

Of course, the same is true of jellyfish.

That reference to jellyfish and certain members of the GOP isn't as random as it might seem. Jellyfish are brainless, drift with the tide, and kill their prey with long tentacles that contain venomous stingers. I'm not saying that describes every member of the Republican caucus in the current Legislature, but since gaining the majority in last November's election, the party's lounge at the State House has been sealed off, filled with water, and its snack-bar menu now includes live smelt, eels, and guppies.

I mention this not to be unkind to the party of Chester A. Arthur, Warren G. Harding, and Richard M. Nixon (although, that's certainly a side benefit), but to point out the divergence between the libertarian doctrines Republican candidates espoused in the 2010 campaign — smaller government, a more efficient bureaucracy, less intrusion in private life, more freedom, more personal responsibility — and the actual way they're trying to govern.

Which is about as libertarian as the People's Republic of China. Or, for that matter, Portland.

Here are just a few of the changes they want:

• Restrictions on abortion.
• Restrictions on birth control.
• Restrictions on snow on cars.
• Restrictions on wolf hybrids.
• A requirement that vehicles have their headlights on.
• More school consolidation.
• More restrictions on getting a divorce.

For every piece of libertarian dogma — right to work, right to bear arms, right not to wear a seat belt, right to cut down trees along the shoreline, right of manufacturers to put weird chemicals like BPA in babies' sippy cups — the GOP is trying to restrict some other right, whether it's allowing game wardens to stop ATV riders without cause, preventing 18-year-olds from buying cigarettes, or requiring a driver's ed class before obtaining a license.

In short, when it comes to regulating and restricting the way Mainers live their lives, Republicans differ from Democrats in content, but not in style.

As for any GOP resemblance to libertarians, that seems to have been swept away like jellyfish on a storm tide.

Nowhere is that sea change more apparent than in the legislative agenda of alleged conservative-libertarian state Representative Richard Cebra of Naples. While Cebra has maintained some connection with the more extreme fringes of the less-government-more-anarchy crowd with his bill to allow states to nullify federal laws (because, he told the Lewiston Sun Journal, "the federal government is spreading its tentacles into our state's rights"), most of his initiatives have nothing whatsoever to do with expanding anybody's freedoms.

Cebra wants to prevent the state's constitutional officers from endorsing legislative candidates, something that they're currently permitted to do because of that glaring legal loophole contained in the US Constitution's First Amendment, with its ill-advised guarantee of free speech.

He'd require people running for public office to prove they're United States citizens, lest alien shape-shifters from the planet Boogeria slip past our defenses and end up sitting in the Legislature ("Greetings, fellow jellyfish") or other high government positions ("Greetings, fellow Kenyans").

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