Over the last few days, I’ve been reading some interesting conversations on Twitter and elsewhere about the role that libertarians will play in the presidential election. There has been a lot of talk about Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s nominee, spoiling the election for Mitt Romney. That has obviously caused some concern by and friction from conservatives, who are saying that a “vote for Johnson is a vote for Obama.”
Before I jump into some points, I’d like to remind my conservative friends that this is not one national race for president, but rather 51 separate races, including the District of Columbia. By my count, Romney has a long road to haul in many battleground states, including Colorado, Ohio, and Virginia. Right now, President Barack Obama holds a substantial advantage in the Electoral College, which is what ultimately matters on election day.
There is a disconnect between conservatives and libertarians. Our conservative friends tend to believe in the concept of “ordered liberty,” a principle perhaps best explained by Russell Kirk. To most libertarians, the concept of ordered liberty is really “soft statism.” As you might imagine, this view doesn’t really have much of an appeal to libertarians.
When it comes down to it, libertarians don’t fit anywhere on the political scale. While many will dumb down our beliefs as “socially liberal” and “fiscally conservative,” there is really much more to the equation. We believe in the sovereignty of the individual. Our view of morality can be best defined by what John Stuart Mill called the “harm principle.”
On Friday, Jennifer Knight published a piece entitled “A Libertarian Case for Romney.” The essence of the post is that the Romney/Ryan ticket are a move in a better direction than President Obama, and as such they should get our vote as a way to try and put the brakes on the path our nation is headed down.
Unfortunately, I can’t help but disagree.
Oh, sure, Romney and Ryan are talking a better game than Obama, but the bar isn’t really set that high. For me, at least, voting for Romney requires a few things that he frankly hasn’t provided.
First, I would have to trust him at his word to actually do what he says he would do. Honestly, I haven’t seen a lot from his record that really convinces me that he’s geniunely interested in “putting the brakes” on anything.
For months now, libertarians are being told that we simply must vote for the GOP nominee (now known to be Mitt Romney) or risk four more years of Obama. Honestly, I’ve been tickled by the arguments.
You see, if the GOP gave a damn about the libertarians out there, why didn’t they nominate someone who we might actually like? Ron Paul, for example, or even Gary Johnson when he was still in the GOP race?
The GOP and its supporters, and their relationship with libertarians, is amazingly similar to a relationship between a an abusive husband and his battered spouse. First, there are the refrains of how they’ve learned their lesson and it will never happen again (like electing someone who swole the national debt and expanded government like George W. Bush). For a while afterwards, things are fine. Then, suddenly, it starts back.
Most people seem to come to libertarianism from the right. It honestly makes sense when you think about it. The right tends to be a place of minimal government and typically argues for more freedom. The problems kick in on some specific issues. Many libertarians came to libertarianism after searching for a more consistent ideology.
Me? I’m a bit of an oddball. I came from the left. I came from a place of seeking more consistency on the issue of civil liberties that I was getting from the Democrats. There have been times when I wondered if there was ever being a small “L” libertarian in the Democratic Party. Based on what’s being reported over the party’s new platform, I can see that is a resounding “no.”
The piece points out several issues where the Democratic Party has decided to back away from their stances on civil liberties just four years ago. Issues like indefinite detention, closing Gitmo, illegal wiretaps, and racial profiling all pretty much continue without any modification from President Bush’s era. Even torture, for which many wanted heads on the proverbial pikes, has reportedly continued despite an executive order ending the practice.
So which conservative or libertarian publication makes such remarkes about President Obama and the Democratic Party? Townhall? Nope. Red State? Not even close.
The Weekly Standard? No. The National Review? Hardly. Reason? Wrong again. Try the left leaning Mother Jones.
Many on the left are less than pleased that Obama has done so poorly on civil liberties. That says nothing over any meaningful move on gay rights (besides the appeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) or a host of other issues.
Julie Borowski is the Policy Analyst at FreedomWorks. Recently, Ms. Borowski was a government affairs associate at Americans for Tax Reform. Before that, she was a Koch Fellow intern with the Institute for Humane Studies at the Center for Competitive Politics.
Business Insider recently named her in a list of women leading the “Ron Paul Revolution” and she is famous in right-of-center political circles for her vlogging.
Matt Naugle: Business Insider named you one of the leading women in the Ron Paul liberty movement. How did you become a libertarian?
Julie Borowski: I became a libertarian because of the Internet.
I used to be a huge neoconservative in early high school. Eek, I know.
Growing up in a Republican household, I used to have the childish mentality that I couldn’t criticize Republicans ever. I supported all Republicans because they weren’t “tree hugging sissies” like the Democrats. I believed in every word of the Republican platform without any independent thought. Wow, how dumb.
I was thrilled when George W. Bush became president. But after a few years, I realized that we weren’t better off. Despite all the talk about fiscal responsibility, George W. Bush was a big spender like the Democrats. And I slowly started questioning the wars. What exactly has been accomplished?
Early last month, Ron Paul conceded that his delegate total wouldn’t be enough to contest Mitt Romney for the Republican Party’s nomination in Tampa. Paul did, however, note that his supporters would be at the GOP convention in August, looking to make some changes to the party’s platform.
Paul had also hoped to earn a speaking slot at the convention, which would have been possible with wins in five states. Unfortunately, that hope seemed to die this weekend when Paul’s supporters were unable to score a majority of delegates in Nebraska:
Paul’s forces had hoped to pull out a victory at the Nebraska majority of delegates here would have guaranteed their candidate a speaking slot at the GOP convention in Tampa late next month.
Under party rules, a candidate cannot have his name entered into nomination at the convention unless he has won a majority of delegates in at least five states. Paul had won four.
In the end, Paul won only two delegates, to Romney’s 32.
Some will no doubt say that the Ron Paul Revolution hit with a thud since the campaign failed to gain a significant number of delegates with which to shake up the convention. They will say that this shows that Paul’s message was limited. However, Jack Hunter puts it all into a perspective:
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.
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.
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.
A lot of people have asked me about Rand Paul’s endorsement of Mitt Romney. Does it mean I now support Mitt Romney? Does it mean that Rand has abandoned the libertarians? Are the Pauls fighting? Is it part of some two-pronged Paul-Paul strategy to get some respect from the mainstream GOP for Rand’s presidential run in 2016 or 2020?
While I wasn’t exactly thrilled to see Rand endorse Mitt Romney, there are some reasons that this endorsement makes sense. Plus, in four (or eight) years when Rand runs for president, those who criticize him for the endorsement now won’t care about it then. On the other side of that coin, those delighted by the Romney endorsement won’t have the “not a team player” card to play at that time.
It’s also important to remember that endorsements these days mean almost nothing. Like a free toothbrush at the dentist’s office, anybody who really wants an endorsement can get one. If Rand Paul wants to endorse Romney as a candidate, that’s fine with me. Plus, Paul is an elected Republican with real presidential possibility. In what universe would endorsing someone other than the GOP nominee make any sense for him?
Rand’s endorsement of Romney the candidate means nothing to me. But if Rand endorses Romney’s philosophy, we’ve got issues. Playing nice within the Party is one thing; jumping on the big government bandwagon is something else entirely.
You can imagine my delight when I saw this article from Rand Paul. He is very direct in his criticism of the Obama administration, especially since Obama campaigned on a platform of ending wars and since his election, he has done the exact opposite. Obama deserves this criticism.
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: