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Why The GOP Shouldn’t Ignore Libertarians

“If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism” – Ronald Reagan to Reason Magazine, July 1975

Both Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham made salient points this week by telling Republicans they needed to “shut down” if President Barack Obama is re-elected. The comments show a problem Republicans have had in convincing the Tea Party to support Mitt Romney.

It also shows the Republican Party has failed to listen to what has long been considered their conscience: libertarians.

What people have forgotten is the rise of the Tea Party wasn’t just a rebellion against the increased spending in late 2008, early 2009. The origins of the Tea Party can be traced all the way back to several of President George W. Bush’s decisions, including the Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security and the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

This series of responses started shaking people, waking them up from their long slumber. They realized the U.S. was running into major problems, the government was expanding too quickly and things needed to be cut. The Tea Party rallies, and the candidates which followed, were proof people were starting to pay attention and getting active. Libertarians were starting to be heard.

But what’s happened since then?

Certainly, the libertarian caucus in US Senate has grown from South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint. It now includes Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson. Hopefully, reinforcements are coming with the possible election of Ted Cruz, Connie Mack IV, Richard Mourdock and Jeff Flake. But that’s only nine out of 100 senators.

The House looks no better, with Michigan Congressman Justin Amash replacing Ron Paul as probably the most libertarian member. South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy should also get praise for fighting for reigned in spending and cutting the government. Arizona Congressman Trent Franks has been considered libertarian at times, but that’s only three out of 435. Plenty of Republicans pay lip service to libertarian ideals (see: House Speaker John Boehner and, to a lesser extent, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan) but don’t follow through.

The fact is Republicans need to listen to libertarians, especially in terms of government growth and the budget. The party which claims to be for “limited government,” allowed massive expanses during the Bush Administration. The original stimulus package may have been avoided if Congress had waited.

To be fair, libertarians have to take blame as well. The rise of social conservatism may have been held back a bit if libertarians did a better job at pointing out why some social policies are best left to states. There’s a reason why the Libertarian Party is known more for wanting to end the War on Drugs, instead of reduced spending, smaller government and more freedom. Organization and activism have also been major problems the Libertarian Party has failed to solve. This could be the reason why there are libertarians considering a vote for Mitt Romney, instead of Gary Johnson.

Ultimately, it may not be in the best interests of libertarians to leave the GOP. It’s possible libertarians will have to suck it up and keep trying to convince party leaders, elected officials and local activists why they’re right. Certainly the Koch brothers believe this and Rand Paul as well. For this to work, conservatives will have to be willing to listen and both sides will have to reach a consensus. It does nothing for Republicans to simply brush off libertarian concerns as a fringe element, or “hobbits,” but to ultimately sit down, look at what’s being said and move forward. There really are libertarians out there who want Republicans to succeed.

The solutions may be slightly different, but it should be a lot easier for conservatives and libertarians to come to an agreement. Certainly a lot easier than conservatives and liberals.

But if Republicans lose in November, what then? Will the party start listening to libertarians or blame them for their own failure? If it’s the former, things may turn out okay. If it’s the latter…the Republican Party may be doomed.

 

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Comments (4)

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  1. Brent says:

    Eric,
    You say, “The GOP can’t pander to a very, very, very small amount of people… the 5% of the country who are libertarians? Change their entire policy for libertarians?”
    It is sad that it seems only a “very, very, very small amount of people” believe in adherence to the U.S. Constitution, which should be the guiding principle of ALL parties, so in truth there is no reason to change the “entire policy for libertarians.”
    I appreciate that this is a conservative site, but you imply there is a substantial difference between Romney and Obama. Personally, I’m concerned that anyone that heavily supported by the Koch Brothers and with Romney’s uber-privileged background will represent the American people – not just the “very, very, very small amount of people” that make as much or more money than he does.
    Finally, I agree with you that it’s going too far to call social conservatism tyranny, but it isn’t far from the truth, as more government regulation means less personal liberty, and it absolutely repels potential voters. Without question.
    Fiscal conservatism matters — it affects us all, but social issues are exactly that and should be regulated by the individual, not the government. Otherwise we end up paying more taxes for a the “privilege” of a bigger government to regulate our freedoms away from us. Many more Americans would join the Republican/fiscal conservative bandwagon if A) it was consistently true (e.g. Bush Jr. didn’t grow government expense in a huge way), and B) there weren’t non-related strings attached (e.g. abortion and other social issues that repel voters and distract from balancing the budget).
    Libertarianism is about small government and fiscal responsibility and personal liberty and free market. It follows the constitution, is fiscally responsible (more conservative than conservative), and allows for religious and other freedoms.
    Reagan has been the posterboy for what the Republican ideal can achieve. He had it right: “If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.” Please take a closer look and you’ll see that it’s not “insignificant” or “psycho.”

  2. James says:

    The GOP doesn’t want the libertarians in it. That’s just the facts of things. I wish it weren’t so, but since they make no attempt to bridge the gap with libertarians, don’t be surprised if they lose this election by the libertarian margin (AKA Gary Johnson) this election cycle.

    The biggest problem with the GOP, as I see it, is they have steadily clung to social conservatism, even in the face of party destruction. Religion, in particular, has killed the liberty movement within, because every libertarian sees the social conservatism brand for what it is: tyranny from the right.

    • Eye Desert says:

      Sometimes you’ve got to beat them (kindly) over the head. Mike Lee, Rand Paul and Pat Toomney prove it.

      Cruz could too if he wins general election.

    • Eric says:

      The GOP can’t pander to a very, very, very small amount of people. What do you want them to do for the 5% of the country who are libertarians? Change their entire policy for libertarians? And the fact that libertarians would risk another 4 years under Obama by NOT voting for Romney is ridiculous and stupid. You’d rather have Obama destroy our economy, just to prove a point? That basically is saying “I don’t care about the country, I just care about my principles”.

      And as an agnostic, I don’t think Religion has done anything to hurt the Republican party, or the country for that matter. Notably because 95% of the world prescribes to one religion or another. And calling social conservatism tyranny…that makes no sense. Especially since America was founded on Christian principles, with Christianity being fully ingrained in the government from the beginning. That’s why it’s “Freedom of religion” not “Freedom from religion”. So no, religion hasn’t hurt this country or the Republican party at all.

      I love Ron Paul for his views on the economy. That’s where it ends. He is a nut job. Actually, he is a f*cking psycho. He is a 9/11 truther. He’s completely insignificant and barely worth talking about. And if that’s the best you can do for a Presidential nominee, that’s embarrassing.