Is Hillary Clinton a 'statist'?

The term 'statist' is soaring in popularity, just in time for the 2016 elections. Hillary Clinton is a leading target for critics of big government liberals. But Republicans aren't immune. Ask former Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Richard Shiro/AP/File
Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks in Columbia, S.C., on May 27, 2015.

"Statist.” An epithet for a supposed big-government liberal that is common in libertarian and conservative circles.

The term to describe an advocate of statism has been around for years but has soared in popularity in recent decades, according to Google’s Ngram Viewer. One explanation is the enduring fondness among limited-government adherents for philosopher and author Ayn Rand, whom her associate Harry Binswanger described as having “tirelessly promoted” the word’s use. She viewed statism as the notion that “man’s life and work belong to the state – to society, to the group, the gang, the race, the nation – and that the state may dispose of him in any way it pleases for the sake of whatever it deems to be its own, tribal, collective good.”

Opponents of Hillary Clinton have used seemingly every word in the book to criticize her, and “statist” appears to be gaining in popularity. Prominent anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist declared this week to “Hillary is a statist. There isn't any place, including the Iraq War, that she doesn't want more government.” Last month, GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum told ABC News that he’s well suited to begin “countering a big, top-down, statist approach that Hillary Clinton has advocated.”

Now that Vermont senator and self-described “independent socialist” Bernie Sanders is running, we’re almost certain to hear “statist” come up more and more

But Mrs. Clinton and Senator Sanders aren’t the only 2016 hopefuls to receive the designation. Conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg recently observed that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) “has a view of the state that would have jibed almost perfectly with such forgotten titans of the Progressive Era as Richard Ely, Josephus Daniels and even William Jennings Bryan.” He noted Mr. Huckabee uses religion to defend government activism by advocating that, among other things, Americans have a Biblical obligation to combat global warming. As a result, Goldberg said, Mr. Huckabee is “an anachronism ... not for his statist meliorism, but for his openly religious motivations.”

And former Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas, the icon of the tea party movement, dismissed both Mrs. Clinton and ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush last year as “statist political has-beens.” Not surprisingly, according to the Sunlight Foundation’s invaluable, when Mr. Paul was in the House, he said “statist” more often during congressional floor debates than anyone else – by far

Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark write their "Speaking Politics" blog exclusively for Politics Voices.

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