An Open Letter to GOP Primary Voters From a Libertarian

Dear Republican primary voters and caucusgoers:

Yesterday, some of you in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri delivered stunning victories for former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) in the race for the GOP presidential nomination. You may have thought in caucusing and voting for Santorum that you were dealing a blow to the big government establishment. Unfortunately, you weren’t. Santorum is and has always been a card-carrying member of the Beltway GOP. Santorum’s record in the U.S. Senate reveals consistent opposition to the principles of limited government, fiscal restraint, and individual liberty. That’s why libertarians can’t support him now or in the general election and why you shouldn’t either.

Rick Santorum has consistently voted in favor of big government, budget-busting programs. He has slammed former Governor Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) for signing RomneyCare into law, but RomneyCare and ObamaCare are hardly the first examples of big government intervention in the health care market. Another recent example was the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 establishing the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit. While libertarians and limited government conservatives were busy arguing for the reduction of government health care entitlements, former President George W. Bush was busy expanding them — and Rick Santorum was happy to vote in favor of Medicare Part D along with other big government establishment Republicans in the U.S. Senate.

Many libertarians and limited government conservatives have targeted federal education policy as one area that should see significant reduction. Some have even suggested that the Department of Education should be abolished and most if not all of its functions eliminated. But reducing the role of the federal government in American children’s education wasn’t on Rick Santorum’s agenda in the U.S. Senate. Santorum voted for the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, described by the Associated Press as “a symbol to many of federal overreach and Congress’ inability to fix something that’s clearly flawed.” Nothing says big government GOP establishment like voting for an expansion of federal education policy backed by Bush and coauthored by the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.).

Santorum has also been a consistent opponent of individual liberty. Although some do not, many Republican primary voters may agree with Santorum’s proposals to amend the constitution to prohibit abortion and same-sex marriage. But what about birth control? In October 2011, Santorum went on the record about “the dangers of contraception in this country,” arguing that birth control is “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” These far outside the mainstream views may be excusable if they were just his personal opinions, but they’re not. Santorum told ABC News’ Jake Tapper late last year that he opposed Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court decision that overturned state bans on discussing birth control with and providing it to married couples. President Santorum would favor letting states dictate what legally married heterosexual couples can and can’t do in the privacy of their own bedrooms. How’s that for big government?

In April 2011, Rick Santorum said that he was “Tea Party before there was a Tea Party.” It looks like caucusgoers and primary voters in Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri believed him. But future caucusgoers and primary voters shouldn’t be fooled; Rick Santorum has made a litany of proposals that are questionable at best from a constitutionalist point of view. He wants to use taxpayer dollars to support adoptions; “to incentivize the states to promote parental choice and quality educational options”; to create a public-private partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services and private organizations “for the purpose of strengthening marriages, families, and fatherhood”; to reinstate “2008-level funding for the Community Based Abstinence Education Program”; and “to advance adult stem cell research.”

Those may all be worthy goals, but a Tea Party activist might well ask: Where does the constitution give the federal government the authority to undertake these tasks? Santorum’s proposals paint a picture of a candidate who isn’t so much opposed to big government but merely opposed to the aims of big government under a Democratic administration. Tea Party activists claim to believe that the size of government should be reduced. Rick Santorum, on the other hand, seems to believe that big government is fine as long as he’s the guy controlling it.

Now, more conservative caucusgoers and primary voters might be saying to themselves: Why should I listen to this guy? He’s a libertarian, not a conservative. That’s true, but you don’t have to take my word for it. In January, leading conservative blogger Erick Erickson, the editor-in-chief of, also made the case that Santorum is “a big government conservative.” He brought up many of the same points I’ve mentioned and a few that I haven’t. If you’re a conservative and can’t trust Erick Erickson, who can you trust?

If you’re a Republican caucusgoer or primary voter interested in beating President Obama in November, you should know that you’ll need every vote you can muster. The truth of the matter is that you will need libertarians, including supporters of Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.). Yet at this very moment former two-term Governor Gary Johnson (R-N.M.) is seeking the Libertarian Party’s nomination. What I’m saying, and not very subtly, is that we libertarians have other options and I can assure you, dear Republican caucusgoers and primary voters, that we will pursue those other options this November if you nominate big government conservative Rick Santorum. He is the line we will not cross in the name of compromise. Consider yourselves warned.

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