One Libertarian’s Advice for Republicans and Republican Leaders
If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism [...] The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.
-Ronald Reagan (1975)
For the second election in a row, you find yourselves on the losing end. A significant majority of Americans have lost confidence in you and your lack of vision.
As you debate amongst yourselves the reasons why you lost the White House as well as numerous seats in both houses of Congress, perhaps this former Republican who has flirted with the Libertarian Party* over the last decade can offer you some helpful advice and constructive criticism. While I do not presume to speak on behalf of the many thousands of disillusioned former libertarian- leaning small government Republicans who were once a valued voting bloc in Ronald Reagan's "conservative coalition," I am quite certain that there are many others who would agree with my appraisal of why you find yourselves in the position you are in.
President-Elect Barack Obama is wrong about a great many things but one thing he (and his party) has which you do not is clearly defined principles and the ability to communicate these principles effectively. I know what the Democratic Party stands for, what does the Republican Party stand for?
I know what the modern meanings of the terms "liberal" and "progressive" mean, but I have no idea what the modern meaning of the term "conservative" means. I have recently seen polls which ask the following question:
The Republicans lost the election because
a. The Republican Party is too conservative
b. The Republican Party is not conservative enough
I find this question to be impossible to answer!
If by "conservative" one means a party which appeals almost exclusively to white Christian male culture warriors whose primary agenda is using the police power of government to accomplish desired political goals, then my answer would be "a."
If by "conservative" one means promoting the rights of life, liberty, and property then clearly, my answer would be "b."
I do not believe the ambiguity of the term "conservative" is by accident. "Conservative" is every bit the nebulous term as we have heard ad nauseam from the Obama campaign (i.e. "hope" and "change"). Because these terms are so under defined, each person who hears these buzzwords assigns his or her own meaning to them. I seem to recall every candidate in the Republican primary refer to himself as a "conservative" or even a "Reagan conservative" at one time or another. How is it possible that candidates with philosophical differences as stark as that of Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani both claim to be conservative?
Now that I have pointed out your apparent error of asking the wrong question (garbage in, garbage out right?) to try to regain the trust of a majority of voters, I believe it is time for you to explain what exactly a conservative is. My understanding of the term is more in line with what Barry Goldwater described in Conscience of a Conservative** as opposed to what the Republican Party has offered in the 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 campaigns.
I realize that a political party cannot be all things to all people but all of your constituents deserve to have a clear understanding of where your party is going. Does this mean that moving forward that you will have to choose between two very large voting blocs - small government conservatives and social conservatives?
This depends completely on how you choose to frame the issues. Where the Republican Party seems to stand now is that government can and should be used to force individuals to behave a certain way***. This approach is completely at odds with the small government conservative approach that undesirable behavior can be changed with the power of persuasion**** rather than force. Is it possible that the Libertarian Party has an approach that a majority of social conservatives could live with? Perhaps you could learn something from The 2008 Libertarian Party Platform:
(From the Preamble)
As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.
We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.
Consequently, we defend each person's right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.
This approach to governance that the Libertarian Party offers is why I have left the Republican Party and voted accordingly. Thus far, I have not seen any evidence that your party will become the party of smaller government, lower taxes, and more freedom. Some of the names I have heard bandied about as the "new face" of the Republican Party such as Mitt "Romney Care" Romney, Sarah "I can see Russia from my house" Palin, and "Tax Hike Mike" Huckabee suggests that you are yet to learn why small government conservatives are leaving in droves.
This is not to say that you will continue to lose every election until you return Goldwater/Reagan conservatism. There is a good chance that you will regain one or both houses of Congress in 2010 and perhaps the presidency in 2012*****. But if you wish to win elections and stay elected, you will need to return to these philosophical roots.
Until that day comes, I will continue to support the Libertarian Party and only support Republicans who demonstrate in word and deed their wishes to shrink the size, scope, and power of government. *And has recently joined the Libertarian Party and voted for another Republican turned Libertarian (Bob Barr) for president in this election.
**I would recommend everyone in a leadership capacity of the G.O.P. to read this book. I am certain that all of you have it on a shelf collecting dust and cobwebs. I would also recommend Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (read John Galt's speech if nothing else) to learn why lovers of liberty such as myself were very turned off by the McCain campaign's collectivist references to "a cause greater than self," "sacrifice," and "the common good."
***Abortion, end of life issues (right to die with dignity), gay marriage, gambling, drug use, prostitution, blue laws, etc. are all examples of personal choices that social conservatives believe should be regulated or abolished.
****Persuasion as in convincing individuals to make a different choice with a compelling argument. No matter how much one tries whether using persuasion or force, not everyone will make the "right" decision. This is a fact of life we need to learn to deal with.
***** Due to the unrealistically high expectations Obama set for himself, many of his supporters will be sorely disappointed when they learn he is a mere mortal. I also believe the Democrats will overreach and try to take the country further to the Left than a majority of Americans are prepared for.