The rise of the so-called “liberty movement,” which sprang out of the early days of Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign, and of the tea party movement, which was a reaction to the one-party Democrat rule in Washington after the 2008 elections (with Obama’s victory being the likely spark) has forced the Republican Party to wrestle with warring factions in an attempt to establish a winning coalition.
Those in the media love to paint the GOP’s internal struggle as evidence of a party in the throes of extinction; as a party out-of-touch with mainstream America. But I think the “growing pains” the GOP are experiencing could potentially strengthen the Republican Party.
I am of the opinion that we have two political parties in our first-past-the-post electoral system. Few candidates have won major office in recent history under the banner of any party other than the Republican or Democrat parties. There are exceptions, but they’re rare, and those candidates usually win because of their personality, rather than a set of ideals on which a party platform could be constructed. Think Maine’s Angus King or Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman.
It is with that understanding that many within the “liberty movement” in Virginia have begun working within the Republican Party to move it in a more (small-L) libertarian direction. Our reasoning is that political parties do not hold a certain philosophy; they are vessels through which their members advance a set of ideas and beliefs. As the GOP looks for a path forward, it should look to the way the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) has embraced liberty activists.
Libertarians and conservatives alike either are intimately aware of problems with speaking out on social media, or they are residing under virtual rocks. In spite of the proliferation of liberty-minded individuals on networks like Twitter and Facebook, those platforms are anything but welcoming to freedom-oriented content.
On Twitter, there is the hated “gulag” that silences conservatives by exploiting an auto-account suspension rubric, or at least that is the explanation offered by the company. As for Facebook, it’s often turned into page suspensions and deletions for gun dealers, and conservative or libertarian commentators.
Now, Facebook has ended up in the headlines over problems with questionable content. They are now going to take a much more proactive stance when it comes to hate speech on their network. Of course this was at the behest of at least one feminist organization. That is not to say that this wasn’t necessary. Of course, there should be serious action taken to prevent content that promotes violence against anyone. However, this is definitely political pandering, and arguably for the benefit of the least profitable portion of Facebook’s “clientele.”
Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman and current Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller have been the subjects of intense questioning from Congress over the past two weeks over their relation to the Tea Party targeting scandal. For Shulman, questions remain as to whether he may have lied in front of the House Ways and Means Committee in March 2012 when questioned about allegations of targeting that at the time were simmering without mainstream awareness. He appeared to be less than forthright in his responses when questioned by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday. Miller has already tendered his resignation under pressure.
But there’s another IRS scandal waiting to gain widespread awareness, and this time it undeniably has Shumlan’s and MIller’s fingerprints all over it. The IRS is unconstitutionally implementing ObamaCare exchange subsidies in states that refuse to establish an exchange.
What PPACA Says
AJ Delgado had a piece in Mediaite last weekend asking whether conservatism was dead or not. She cites three major policy “defeats” as she sees them for conservatism this month.
1) Immigration reform is all but a foregone conclusion.
2) The gay marriage debate is essentially over.
3) The plan to defund ObamaCare — conservatives’ last stand after the Supreme Court failed to throw out the Act — is over
I think Miss Delgado misses a lot in construing all of these as catastrophic defeats for conservatives. A look at each issue on its own shows that it is not as catastrophic as it first appears.
Firstly, I wouldn’t put my money on comprehensive immigration reform becoming law. After Rand Paul outlined his position on the issue last week, he has been very careful to walk back certain aspects of it. Plus, the GOP House has shown exactly no interest in this issue. Finally, this is an issue that divides Democrats as well. Blue collar unions, African Americans, and many environmentalists want to kill immigration reform as well for their own reasons.
As for gay marriage, this is probably her strongest argument. Yes the gay marriage is over. It will become the law of the land in every state in the country within 20 years, if that. What conservatives need to is rebrand on this issue. What conservatives need to fight for on this issue is to make sure adequate religious liberty and conscience protections are in place for churches, businesses, adoption agencies and others opposed to gay marriage.
Back in 2010, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was thought to be the next big conservative star. After Barack Obama carried 6-point in there in 2008, many believed the Commonwealth was slipping away from Republicans. McDonnell, however, was able to restore hope for the GOP in 2009 when he defeated Creigh Deeds in the gubernatorial election.
McDonnell immediately became a key Republican spokesman. He gave the GOP’s response to the State of the Union address in 2010 and signed legislation — the Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act — that sought to nullify ObamaCare. Despite taking on President Obama in a purple state, McDonnell managed to maintain a 62% approval rating deep into 2011 and was one of the names most frequently mentioned to run alongside Mitt Romney in the 2012 election cycle.
There has been dissatisfaction with McDonnell from conservatives for some time, though much of this is related to how he has handled social issues. But McDonnell lit a flame under fiscal conservatives last month when he proposed an overhaul to Virginia’s transportation tax.
It was a mere tweet, but it summed up the entirety of the modern conservative movement:
Sequestration Cuts the DHS Off at the Knees herit.ag/WUTzw8
— Heritage Foundation (@Heritage) February 21, 2013
It has everything: the source is the preeminent conservative “think tank” in DC, soon to be headed by Tea Party conservative and former senator Jim DeMint; lamenting about spending cuts; the laments are all about a government department that by all rights should not exist; and for good measure, it has a photograph. It shows precisely how the sequester had torpedoed conservative credibility.
We have heard relentlessly these past five years, ever since Obama was elected, that we need to cut spending. (Indeed, another Heritage article is a dorky little bit that specifically notes a “thrifty” House which demands that they have a balanced budget and avoid deficits.) Yet now that there is something which will cut—no, sorry, I can’t type that with a straight face; it will not cut spending, but merely slightly decrease the rate of spending—Heritage is up in arms about it.
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Military Contractors) wrote the following in an op-ed:
There is a battle raging for the heart and soul of the conservative movement. While there is a near constant discussion over fiscal issues, also emerging is a debate over the foreign policy direction the United States should take.
Despite his anti-war rhetoric on the campaign trail in 2008, Barack Obama has largely continued the expansive foreign policy views of his predecessor. In 2011, Obama authorized a bombing campaign in Libya, which was aimed at deposing the regime of the country’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.
This campaign, which was waged without the consent of Congress, setoff a debate between the neo-conservatives and those who advocate a more restrained, constitutional foreign policy. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) criticized the non-interventionist views of Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jim DeMint (R-SC) and others, smearing them as “isolationists.”
It’s Sen. Paul who has largely become the voice of reason in the foreign policy debate. During the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, suggested that he could, as president, authorize military action against Iran without congressional approval. Sen. Paul responded forcefully, explaining that the “Constitution clearly states that it is Congress that has the power to declare war, not the president.”
It’s been obvious to many that modern conservatism has, to a large degree, become bereft of ideas and more about cultural issues, and opposing Barack Obama more out of personal dislike than principled opposition. On the right you’ll hear a lot of shouting and yelling, but almost no one is making a reasoned, optimistic pitch for why conservative ideas are better for actual people. It’s become all about firing up the base, which has been shrinking for years to the point where it is no longer enough to win elections.
But it’s one thing for a libertarian like me to say it. It’s another for Erick Erickson at the major conservative blog Red State to say it. I disagree with Erick most of the time, but he has just about nailed exactly what the current state of the Right is:
What I am finding is that among conservatives there is too much outrage, piss, and vinegar. It makes our ideas less effective. We have become humorless, angry opponents of the President instead of happy warriors selling better ideas. We are not even selling ideas.
Conservatives, frankly, have become purveyors of outrage instead of preachers for a cause. Instead of showing how increasing government harms people, how free markets help people, and how conservative policies benefit all Americans, we scream “Benghazi” and “Fast & Furious.”
Exactly. We see this all over the place. Obama is not simply just someone to disagree with, but someone to hate, to view as a literal traitor and evil person. Surely the left was guilty of this to some extent in the Bush years, but never to this degree. Frankly, the right has become exceedingly boring, and most of the country agrees.
Do you remember those four staunch fiscal conservatives — Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), Walter Jones (R-NC), and David Schweikert (R-AZ) — who were unceremoniously booted off from their committees assignments? Republican leadership insisted that they were removed based on some yet-to-be-seen “scorecard.” House Speaker John Boehner later denied that, telling the affected members that “there is no scorecard” and that Steering Committee, which ultimately made the decision, “reviews all appropriate information” before reaching a decision on committee assignments.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who serves as House Whip, was supposed to address the removal of these members from their committees during a House Republican Conference meeting on Wednesday. However, McCarthy has still yet to provide details to even his duly elected colleagues.
Yesterday, however, Politico reported comments from Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), a member of the Steering Committee, who explained that the reason these fiscal conservatives were removed was because of the “asshole factor”:
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, a conservative who is close to party leaders, told them that “the a—hole factor” came into play in the Steering decision.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak at the Cato Institute’s New Media Lunch on some of the issues facing the Republican Party after the 2012 election. The forum, focused exclusively on social issues, was appropriately headlined as “The Republican Problem.”
While Walter Olson went over gay marriage, Rob Kampia on marijuana policy, and Alex Nowrasteh on immigration, I tried to focus on how conservative activists and the conservative blogosphere are adjusting post-2012. With that, I wanted to mention some of what I briefly talked about yesterday in a post this morning.
In the days since the election, I’ve spent a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook reading comments from conservative activists and bloggers. They realize that they have a lot of work ahead of them and they can no longer afford to live in a bubble. They see that social issues — such as gay marriage, the war on drugs, and immigration — present a problem moving forward.
Activist organizations are looking for ways to build outreach to younger voters and minorities, though the immigration issue remains a tough challenge for conservatives, and many are realizing that the war on drugs has failed. Right on Crime, a conservative-backed initiative, has become somewhat popular as cash-strapped states look for ways to take some pressure off of their prision systems. While we as libertarians see this as a personal liberty issue, it’s an easier sell as an economic issue to our conservative friends.