Republicans need libertarians more than libertarians need Republicans. It's time for libertarians - fiscally conservative, socially tolerant people who advocate limited government and individual freedom - to start fighting back. - Jon Henke
There are all sorts of self-described libertarians out there: Ron Paul libertarians, Libertarian Party libertarians, Club for Growth libertarians, Cato libertarians, Reason libertarians, Next Right libertarians, Neal Boortz libertarians and Lew Rockwell libertarians. There are also millions of people who don't even know they are libertarians.
During the Goldwater-Reagan years, Republicans knew they needed libertarian votes to win the White House. After George H. W. Bush disregarded his "read my lips" pledge, libertarians felt pretty isolated until the Republican Revolution. Once the Republican Party gained control of Congress, libertarians and the goals of the Republican Revolution were simultaneously flushed down the commode of win-at-all-costs politics.
Republican leaders were warned time and time and time and time again that they would pay a price for dismissing potential libertarian supporters. Republicans did pay a significant price in 2006, but continued on as if nothing had changed. Immediately after it became apparent that John McCain was going to win the 2008 Republican nomination, the Libertarian Party sent a funeral wreath to the RNC.
There are a lot of senior Republicans who apparently wish for this downward spiral to continue, as they continue to bash libertarians to this very day.
Immediately following Election Day, Mike Huckabee graced the pages of Time, blaming libertarians for his electoral shortcomings:
In a chapter titled "Faux-Cons: Worse than Liberalism," Huckabee identifies what he calls the "real threat" to the Republican Party: "libertarianism masked as conservatism." He is not so much concerned with the libertarian candidate Ron Paul's Republican supporters as he is with a strain of mainstream fiscal-conservative thought that demands ideological purity, seeing any tax increase as apostasy and leaving little room for government-driven solutions to people's problems. "I don't take issue with what they believe, but the smugness with which they believe it," writes Huckabee, who raised some taxes as governor and cut deals with his state's Democratic legislature. "Faux-Cons aren't interested in spirited or thoughtful debate, because such an endeavor requires accountability for the logical conclusion of their argument." Among his targets is the Club for Growth, a group that tarred Huckabee as insufficiently conservative in the primaries and ran television ads with funding from one of Huckabee's longtime Arkansas political foes, Jackson T. Stephens Jr.
This wasn't Huckabee's first jab at libertarians. The following comes from a May 2008 Huffington Post interview:
Republicans need to be Republicans. The greatest threat to classic Republicanism is not liberalism; it's this new brand of libertarianism, which is social liberalism and economic conservatism, but it's a heartless, callous, soulless type of economic conservatism because it says "look, we want to cut taxes and eliminate government. If it means that elderly people don't get their Medicare drugs, so be it. If it means little kids go without education and healthcare, so be it." Well, that might be a quote pure economic conservative message, but it's not an American message.
"Huckabee may believe libertarians are the 'real threat', but his God, Guns and Butter agenda would destroy the Right far more effectively than the libertarian cartoons that exist in Huckabee's head," wrote Jon Henke last year.
Let's fast forward a little bit. Currently, we have the whole John Cornyn/National Republican Senatorial Committee brouhaha over the Charlie Crist endorsement. It's no secret that libertarians have had considerable differences with folks like Red State's Erick Erickson and The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol. That Kristol and Erickson can agree with libertarians on this issue should indicate that fusionism need not be dead.
These aren't isolated examples of current libertarian-bashing within the GOP.
"These were real people. [The April 15 Tea Parties] weren't organized by any crazy right-wing extremists or libertarians, as you might expect," said Kansas Representative Lynn Jenkins on a podcast interview a little more than a week ago. "These were just all-Amercan people who have finally had it with Washington."
The last time I checked, a lot of all-American, non-crazy real-people libertarians were heavily involved in the Tea Party movement. Libertarian Eric Odom told RNC Chairman Michael Steele that he wasn't invited to speak at the Chicago Tax Day Tea Party, while state Campaign for Liberty coordinator Marcelo Muñoz told Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman that she wasn't invited to speak in Birmingham, either.
In New York City, although he supported the bailout, Newt Gingrich was treated respectfully when he spoke. Representative Gresham Barrett wasn't treated as politely in the more fiscally conservative state of South Carolina.
Home to Fort Sumter, South Carolinians are used to the first volleys of a war. In a recent Wall Street Journal column, Senator Jim DeMint called for a coalition built upon small-government principles:
Freedom will mean different things to different Republicans, but it can tether a diverse coalition to inalienable principles. Republicans can welcome a vigorous debate about legalized abortion or same-sex marriage; but we should be able to agree that social policies should be set through a democratic process, not by unelected judges. Our party benefits from national-security debates; but Republicans can start from the premise that the U.S. is an exceptional nation and force for good in history. We can argue about how to rein in the federal Leviathan; but we should agree that centralized government infringes on individual liberty and that problems are best solved by the people or the government closest to them.
In a move which has insulted Ron Paul supporters, SC Senator Lindsey Graham unnecessarily stated that “Ron Paul is not the leader of the Republican Party” during the SC GOP Convention. Rob at Say Anything noted:
Graham also calls himself a “Reagan Republican,” yet dismisses libertarianism. Graham should perhaps remember that Reagan himself said that “the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.”
This barb wasn't isolated, either. According to video posted by Jack "Southern Avenger" Hunter, Graham made a similar comment in early May.
Taking the DeMint side on the issue, SC Governor Mark Sanford fired back at Graham.
"Throw me in that briar patch," responded Sanford. "I'm guilty. I love liberty and I think that ought to be a good thing and I don't think that it's something people should back away from. I've been accused of being a libertarian and I would say I wear it as a badge of honor because I do love, believe in and want to support liberty."
“I’m not going to give this party over to people who can’t win,” Graham stated, as noted by CNN.
Graham is correct in this regard. There aren't enough libertarians out there right now to become the dominant force in American politics. As election results continue to prove, there aren't enough people willing to support business-as-normal inside-the-beltway Republican types, either. Should the national GOP leadership re-invite libertarians to the table (as they are doing in some places at a state and local level), the Republican Party might once again become more significant in the national political arena.
Obviously, neither side in this fight is afraid to duke it out. Libertarians have one critical advantage, though.
Libertarians are used to wandering in the wilderness like political nomads. We know we'll be called upon from time to time to act as tour guides in order to lead the Republican leadership towards some safe small-government oasis or waterhole of individual liberty. We don't even need maps or compasses, as the routes are permanently etched within our minds. Being tough and hearty political travelers, another forty years in the wilderness doesn't scare us all that much.
We are, however, becoming increasingly annoyed with Republican leaders who have established a pattern of stiffing us on the bill for our services -- making us significantly less inclined to help out in the future.
We warned Republicans in 2004. We showed some resistance in 2006. We showed most of our cards in 2008. Months after the election, the John Cornyn/Mike Huckabee/Lindsey Graham wing of the party continues to hurl insults at us. At this point, any reasonable person might ask why libertarians would even care to lift a finger to help.
Without enough allies to fight the Democrats or even the skills to find the path to small government and individual freedom, the current Republican leadership may not be destined to forty years in the wilderness. Without libertarian assistance, they may not even make it to the next oasis.
With or without the GOP, libertarians will somehow survive. Can the GOP survive without libertarians?
The Alabama Republican Liberty Caucus takes notice here and Americans for Limited Government provided us with a nice front page link. Rational Review News Digest hit this article here. Memeorandum hits it here and also bring our attention to this related Forbes article by Shikha Dalmia. Lucius Brutus here.
"The GOP should take Stephen Gordon’s advice and embrace libertarians of all stripes, otherwise the Grand Old Party may be destined to be the Tired Old Party by 2012," writes Marc Gallagher.
Over at The Liberty Papers, I've started keeping tally of the various insults being hurled at libertarians because of this post.
"If leaders in the GOP are serious about their party's future, they will embrace libertarianism, not shun it," advises Jason Pye.