fusionism

Trump’s Nomination Doesn’t Mean Libertarians’ Involvement in the GOP Has Been Misplaced

[Editor’s Note: This commentary by former Federal Election Commission Chairman, Center for Competitive Politics Chairman and Founder, and Capital University Josiah H. Blackmore/Shirley M. Nault Professor of Law Bradley A. Smith is reprinted here with his permission.]


A libertarian professor friend of mine took the opportunity of Trump’s nomination to write on Facebook:

The fact that the GOP appears to be nominating Trump, and the fact that libertarian-leaning conservative intellectuals in the GOP are (rightly) frothing at the mouth the most about it, only provides more evidence for my long-standing view that libertarian intellectuals who thought their (our?) home was in the GOP were making a very risky “pact with the devil.”

He went on a bit but that gets the mood and core message of the piece.

My response, which I’ll reprint here with light edits, was this:

The New Republican Party: Libertarian Fusionism in Virginia

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.

Reflections on the 2012 Cycle

Excerpted from “How I Voted — 2012 Edition” at The Dangerous Servant.

vote

Obama won a large Electoral College victory, but he did not receive a mandate for his agenda

People more eloquent than I am (who probably had more coffee today than I did) have already made this point. I thought this tweet from left-of-center blogger Cory Doctorow summed things up pretty nicely:

When it’s a struggle for your most vocal supporters to root for you, that’s not a good sign about how effective you’ve been as a leader. To read more on how exactly Chicago pulled off this election, see thisTIME piece. That kind of attention to detail made the Obama reelection effort more nimble and better prepared to adapt to changing conditions on the ground, and it’s really no surprise (from an operative’s perspective) that they won.

How to win libertarians to the GOP (and how not to)

As the election approaches, backers of both major candidates are doing their best to round up any potential uncommitted voters.  For the Republicans, one of these target blocs seems to be libertarians, many of whom are planning to not vote, or to support Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson (myself being the latter).   However, as Jason expressed earlier this week, these attempts are often counterproductive because conservatives, by and large, do not understand how libertarians think, and thus conversion efforts fall flat.

Now, for my purposes I don’t particularly care who wins this year, because both candidates are frankly awful. As I expressed in my post last week the GOP has in many ways become a joke, dominated by people who add nothing to the intellectual marketplace, and in fact often dumb it down and polarize the country for their own gain.  When Mitt Romney expressed his now infamous “47%” theory, he was regurgitating the sort of fact-free nonsense that is rampant on the right.  However, there are also those who believe the party has some hope, and offers the best chance for libertarian voices to be heard.  If that is the case, though, the party as a whole needs to understand some things about us crazy libertarians, and the current tactics used to convince us are in fact going to do the opposite.

More about libertarianism, fusionism, and the Romney campaign

Jason Pye has written a great blog post about libertarians and the Romney campaign already. He asked me my opinion about it, perhaps even with the possibility of a “point-counterpoint” sort of thing. I pretty much agree with what he’s saying, particularly about Ron Paul and the Libertarian Party. We are not a monolithic group; we are a very wide and very diverse range of individuals who just want to increase individual liberty.

What I want to add is that, while Republicans and conservatives complain about us, and want us to support them in elections, they have done nothing to earn such support. Let me show you a few examples:

To which I responded with:

And to which I got this response:

Is the Tea Party movement fundamentally libertarian?

Tea Party Movement

The Tea Party movement has been much maligned by its opponents as nothing but the conservative movement under a different name. Admittedly, this is a charge that even I’ve made as I’ve been concerned about ancillary social issues that have seeped into Tea Party. That was made even worse when polls showed Tea Party voters backing Rick Santorum, who is no fiscal conservative and even worse on social issues.

But a new study from the Cato Institute, written by David Kirby and Emily Ekins, shows that the Tea Party movement does indeed have very strong libertarian roots, which is often overlooked by political strategists and the news media.

The study isn’t necessarily the first of its kind. The Cato Institute has previous put out two separate studies on the libertarian vote. In 2006, an analysis by David Boaz and the aforementioned David Kirby showed that the libertarian vote, which was drifting toward Democrats at the time, made up “some 13 percent of the electorate.” A follow up study in 2008, showed that the number of voters that could be identified as libertarian made up 14 percent of the electorate. Moreover, they were much more supportive of John McCain than Barack Obama.

This latest analysis shows that the Tea Party movement has a strong libertarian influence on economic issues, which, as Kirby and Ekins note, is the uniting factor holding it together. However, they also note that the Tea Party movement is evenly split on social issues.

On Allies and Enemies

The recent discussion on Jim DeMint got me to thinking.  I can’t help but look around at libertarianism, and how far we’ve come in just a few short years.  We have become more a part of the political landscape than I thought we would be.  We have seen more and more activism for libertarian causes and candidates than I ever thought I would see.

And yet, we still manage to shoot ourselves in the foot.  Part of that stems from our choices of enemies and allies, and the idea that someone must be one or the other.

Take, for example, Jim DeMint.  Yes, he seems to say he likes libertarians.  He generally seems to like fiscal responsibility.  He generally seems like he wants small government.  We libertarians should love him…

…but a lot of us don’t.

You see, DeMint is not a fan of gay marriage.  He is a fan of the Defense of Marriage Act.  He also famously said that he didn’t see how you could be a fiscal conservative and not a social conservative.

Yeah, a lot of libertarians don’t like the guy.  Others, however, do.  Either is really fine with me.  I honestly don’t have an opinion on DeMint, though I have opinions on his positions. Maybe, that’s the way libertarians need to start viewing politicians from other parties.

Even though you may not like the guy, can’t we stand with him as an ally on shrinking the national debt?  We can then side with someone else on gay marriage.  We’re talking politics here, not a long-term romantic relationship.  There’s no need to be “faithful” to anyone here.

In Defense of Fusionism

Earlier this afternoon, my colleague, Jeremy Kolassa, raised an important issue about fusionism between conservatives and libertarians. For what it’s worth, I share the frustration. In early June, I attended a local GOP meeting to hear some local candidates talk about the issues facing our county. Unfortunately, the county party’s chairwoman spent 10 minutes complaining about Ron Paul supporters and libertarians who “want to take over the Republican Party.”

The experience was deflating, though not entirely surprising. I wasn’t in attendence as a libertarian. I was there as a concerned citizen, who has twice had his home broken into, to discuss issues important to me.

It’s certainly true that many conservatives don’t find the importance of an alliance with libertarians. The Rick Santorums and Mike Huckabees of the conservative movement have certainly made that clear. Indeed, even CPAC worked hard to ensure a “libertarian-free” gathering earlier this year. But fiscal conservatives, including Sen. Jim DeMint, have offered us an olive branch so that we can work together on issues that are mutually motivating.

It’s Time to Rethink Fusionism

Two weeks ago, I wrote not one, but two posts about how conservatives had basically foisted Obamacare upon the populace. About how conservatives wanted libertarians to join them again, and vote for a conservative…who wrote Obamacare. About how conservatives had lost any sense they principles they had.

This is an addendum.

Since the end of World War II, libertarians and conservatives have been allied in a loose coalition known as “fusionism.” The idea was that, as communism and social “democracy” was on the rise, anyone who believed in free markets had to ban together, at the expense of other ideas. It originally began with Frank S. Meyer, an American philosopher, who believed that libertarian free market concepts worked hand in hand with conservative traditionalism.

However, it has become clear to me, and to growing numbers of libertarians, that this is false. That the entire fusionist experiment was really born out of necessity, not principled ideology, as a way to survive the Cold War. And especially the last few years have shown, the conservative “movement” has come utterly unhinged.

The birthers. The Kenyan anti-colonialist crap. The accusations our president is a secret Muslim. The now ludicrous defenses of bigotry against homosexuals, transgendered, and those who do not believe. And then there is the vehement and heated arguments against spending…but on the same front, conservatives themselves spend and spend and spend. They just want to spend a tad less than liberals.

Can Libertarians And Social Conservatives Be Allies?

There has been an interesting back and forth over the past couple days between Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner and Walter Olson and David Boaz of the Cato Institute. Carney started the exchange by writing a piece about this weekend’s protests against the Obama HHS birth control mandate. In the piece he said:

This truth needs to get out there. The media need to figure out who is imposing morality on whom. Libertarians need to reassess their allegiances on social matters. And cultural conservatives need to understand that government is inherently their enemy.

This brought a response first by Walter Olson who said after mostly touching on a recent case from New Mexico where a photographer was forced to photograph a gay marriage against their will:

As I understand it, the libertarian position is to prize religious liberty, while also disapproving the use of government as an instrument of culture war. That’s no contradiction. It’s the American way.

David Boaz then responded by illustrating how social conservatives have been recently trying to expand the state:

But what about conservatives? Are conservatives really the defenders of freedom? Carney seems to want us to think so, and to line up with conservatives “on social matters.” But the real record of conservatives on personal and social freedom is not very good. Consider:


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