On Jim DeMint and libertarianism
Over the last couple of days we’ve been discussing conservative/libertarian fusionism. Jeremy Kolassa got us started on Tuesday with an excellent post explaining that libertarians need to contrast themselves from conservatives, and not simply “go along to get along.”
While I largely agree with the substance of the post, I later posted somewhat of a rebuttal, in which I explained that we need not cut off our nose to spite our face when dealing with conservative groups that concentrate on issues with which we can agree; such as spending and taxes.
In my post, I pointed to comments made earlier this by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who, during an interview with Reason, said that the Republican Party should listen to libertarians. This caught the eye of my good friend, Chris Barron.
Yesterday, Chris pointed out that Sen. DeMint has been openly hostile to GOProud, a group of gay Republicans that promotes free markets and limited government, by opposing its inclusion in the most recent CPAC. Chris also pointed to a post that I wrote back in November 2010, in which I criticized Sen. DeMint for saying that one “can’t be a fiscal conservative without being a social conservative.”
There are plenty of conservatives that Jason cited who libertarians can and should work with to advance issues important to both conservatives and libertarians. Jim DeMint, however, is not one of those people.
The comments made my Sen. DeMint are just as concerning now as they were in 2010. There is no denying that. And Chris, who is an all-around great guy (with the exception of being a Pittsburgh Pirates fan), makes some valid points and I can understand where he’s coming from here, but I disagree with the conclusion.
Back in 2009, I believe, I had the opportunity to meet Sen. DeMint. Unfortunately, our conversation was brief. He’d dropped by the media room during the Defending the American Dream Summit to meet us lowly bloggers and podcasters . I mentioned to that I’m a libertarian. Sen. DeMint said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “I like libertarians. Republicans can learn a lot from you guys.” Again, that may not be the exact quote, but it was along that line.
I don’t believe for a second that Sen. DeMint didn’t know what libertarians believe. We either support gay marriage or we want government out of the marriage business entirely. And Chris is right that Sen. DeMint’s support of a the Federal Marriage Amendment and ban on civil unions is anti-thetical to libertarian beliefs.
But from my perspective, I’m not going to completely write-off Sen. DeMint based solely on one issue. If he’s pushing something that I can get behind — such as cutting spending and preventing regulations that place huge burdens on businesses, I’m going to promote it as much as I can.
This is a lesson I’ve learned working with state lawmakers here in Georgia. Unfortunately, I don’t always agree with them, but there are a few that I can count on with the issues close to me and who I occasionally do work for.