There is no doubt that the Republican Party is at a crossroad with many questioning the direction that should be taken to bring them back to electoral success. The biggest obstacle to moving the GOP back to its limited government roots is the political establishment — the dealers and the consultant class — who want to the party to take the road to victory by selling out limited government principles.
This creats a problem for conservatives, many of whom are still trying to make sense of the 2012 election. Many realize the dangers that lie ahead by kowtowing to the party’s political establishment, but they’re weary of trying to stand in their way. They’ve actually bought into the line that the freedom movement is to blame for the problems that have plagued the GOP. Yes, there were some bad candidates that ran in 2012, but the Republican Party’s brand was damaged long before voters ever headed to the polls.
In a recent piece at Commentary, Matt Welch, editor of Reason, explained that conservatives need to start actually practicing what they preach when it comes to limiting the size and scope of government:
[W]hen given the opportunity to choose politicians who actually name and confront the main danger facing us–a government piling up commitments and expenses and debt just before the baby boomers retire and send the entitlements system crashing down–the Keynesianism-hating American electorate these past three years has mostly ignored sideshow utterances and rewarded those brave enough to take on Leviathan. Mike Lee, Scott Walker, Rand Paul: These class-of-2010 politicians might not agree with me (yet!) about deregulating reproductive decisions, narcotics intake, and the U.S.-Mexico border, but on the issue of the day they have shown up for work and given Obamanomics-weary voters a clear alternative to the never-ending bailout.
And yes, taking fiscal policy seriously also requires unblurring the distinctions between military and defense spending and coming up with a more affordable, realistic, and strategic projection of American power abroad. There is no such thing as an orderly retreat during a debt crisis.
Just as we need to steel ourselves against the real possibility of a debt spiral and the dead certainty of an entitlements time bomb, so too can the social- conservative agenda (which I do not endorse) lose its off-putting taint by switching to a defensive posture. Gay marriage will be legal in most of the country during our lifetimes; conservatives should have long since gotten out from under the eventually disastrous strategy of trying to offensively outlaw same-sex inclusion, and instead switched to the righteous defensive posture of making sure such recognition does not create intrusive new government mandates on religious institutions and even (Google it!) wedding photographers. Instead of proposing new constitutional amendments for every activity they disapprove of, conservatives should have recognized that the Bill of Rights is essentially a defense from, not an enabler of, an already rampaging federal government.
More Americans than ever think that government is trying to do too much. All conservatives need to do now is provide those people with a believable place to go.
While many of my friends may disagree with me — and they have in our discussions here on fusionism — we, as libertarians, have much more in common with conservatives than we care to admit. In many cases, we act as their conscience; pointing to where they’ve gone wrong on social policy or steered off the path.
Engaging the debate, as Welch and other libertarians have done, is our responsibility because, like it or not, we do need conservatives to succeed. We just need for them to find their voice and not back down when things get tough.