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Title: Hey, Tooconservative And Other Libertarians, Maybe Republicans Just Aren’t That Into Your Libertarianism [Appropriately Modified Title]
Source: Reason
URL Source: https://reason.com/blog/2018/06/13/ ... tarians-maybe-republicans-just
Published: Jun 13, 2018
Author: Matt Welch
Post Date: 2018-06-28 22:50:40 by Gatlin
Keywords: None
Views: 2237
Comments: 29

June 12 was not a good day for free-market constitutionalism in the modern GOP.

Libertarian-leaning Republican congressman Mark Sanford got primaried in South Carolina last night by immigration hawk and late-breaking Donald Trump endorsee Katie Harrington, whose main line of attack on Sanford was that he was disloyal to Trump. But that was just one event in a day unusually swollen with reminders that the modern GOP at the national level is not welcoming to libertarian ideas.

Take two issues that we've been banging on about at Reason for years: tariffs, and Congress's paralytic fear of doing even its minimal constitutional duty. In a remarkable speech yesterday, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who is retiring at the end of his term this year, combined the two issues in a damning indictment of his colleagues' cowardice. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Corker charged, blocks all amendments—including one Corker introduced last week requiring congressional approval for "national security" tariffs—because "Well gosh, we might poke the bear" (meaning the president). Watch:

Not to be overly tautological, but it's difficult for even the most libertarian-leaning legislators to get meaningful stuff done if they are prevented from legislating.

Then there was the defeat last night of liberty-movement Republican Nick Freitas in the Virginia GOP primary for U.S. Senate at the hands of Confederate monument enthusiast and recent Paul Nehlen fan Corey Stewart, who is fond of saying stuff like "I was Trump before Trump was Trump" and tweeting jibber-jabber like this:

All of the above was enough for Daniel McCarthy to write the latest version of "How Donald Trump eclipsed the 'libertarian moment.'" McCarthy's grim conclusion: "The revolution begun by Trump in 2016 is continuing at the state and congressional levels. And the Ron Paul revolution begun by Senator Paul's father now seems marginal, if not utterly defeated—a remarkable reversal of fortune from just four years ago."

Politicians respond to incentives, and right now the imperative Republican incentive is to kiss Donald Trump's ring. Less than 15 months ago, Trump was warning that "The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!" Last night, as one Freedom Caucus incumbent lost to a Trump-backed challenger and a Rand Paul–backed Senate candidate lost to a #MAGA nationalist, Freedom Caucus stalwarts Reps. Mark Meadows (R–N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) went on Laura Ingraham's Fox News program not to sulk but to talk about possibly impeaching Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for his role in overseeing the Mueller investigation. They have gotten on the team.

Libertarian policy goals will still sometimes be met under Trump, some of them intentionally, some not. He will continue deregulating and appointing some good judges, may yet contribute to genuine peace on the Korean peninsula, and has proven surprisingly malleable on marijuana enforcement and prison reform. But as an organizing body, particularly anywhere near the levers of federal power, the GOP is an increasingly unreliable ally to libertarians.

Daniel McCarthy, in his essay, provides some interesting food for thought about the unsatisfying-to-many penchant among libertarians for calling balls and strikes in a more emotional age of with-us-or-against-us polarization:

The other great issue at the libertarians' disposal, smaller government, simply never mattered in the ways they thought it did. Anti-government sentiment was most powerful with Republican voters as an expression of anti-elitism and resistance to a government run by a liberal Democrat like Barack Obama. Emphasizing cutting government on principle, as libertarians did, would never be as effective as emphasizing fighting the liberals, with or without shrinking the state. Trump was not the most anti-government candidate, but he was the most anti-left. The libertarian position, by contrast with Trump, seemed like just a more thoroughgoing version of what every other supposedly conservative Republican believed about cutting government....

Urgency matters in politics, and Trump is a master of creating a sense of urgency in both his supporters and his opponents—as Michael Anton's "Flight 93" essay and the left's continual cries of "authoritarianism!" have shown. Ron Paul did create a sense of urgency in his campaigns, largely by capitalizing on powerful issues that had been ignored by the establishment in both parties, such as disastrous wars with bipartisan support and the mysteries of the Federal Reserve. The elder Paul said a further financial meltdown was imminent. But Trump outflanked the libertarian line in this respect as well. And today the most urgent question in American politics, the one that quickens pulses the most, is simply whether you are for or against Trump. Mark Sanford has said he's not really anti-Trump, but that he simply applies to Trump the standards that derive from his libertarian-ish principles. If those standards lead to a good grade for Trump, Sanford is happy to apply it. If not, then not. But his kind of abstraction and fixity, whatever its merits in other respects, cannot convey a sense of urgency. The libertarian way proves over time to be oblivious to circumstances and psychological conditions, which are in fact the essence of real politics....

Those who look to the likely rout of Republicans like Corey Stewart in November as the shock that will turn the Republican Party against Trump are profoundly misunderstanding what the GOP has been going through for a decade, which is a search—whether through libertarians or nationalists or whomever else might arise—for the perfect anti-establishment vessel.

Or as Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) put it to me last year, "How could these people let us down? How could they go from being libertarian ideologues to voting for Donald Trump? And then I realized what it was: They weren't voting for the libertarian in the race, they were voting for the craziest son of a bitch in the race when they voted for me and Rand and Ron earlier. So Trump just won, you know, that category, but dumped the ideological baggage."

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Begin Trace Mode for Comment # 7.

#1. To: Gatlin (#0) (Edited)

Libertarians continue to get more out of a Trump presidency than a Xlinton one.

It's not much more complicated than that.

As for the decline of libertarianism in the GOP (along with the decline of the internationalists, the conservatives and the free traders), that is a temporary matter. When Trump eclipses as a lame duck or leaves the presidency, these issues will return to GOP politics with the same force they had before.

Tooconservative  posted on  2018-06-28   23:04:37 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  


#3. To: Tooconservative (#1)

As for the decline of libertarianism in the GOP (along with the decline of the internationalists, the conservatives and the free traders), that is a temporary matter.
Rationalize much….do you?

Of course you do, as stongly evidence by your statement here.

Gatlin  posted on  2018-06-28   23:31:00 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  


#4. To: Gatlin (#3)

I don't think any of the usual GOP factions have gone away or changed substantially in a permanent way. Those elements are there for unchanging political reasons and they all have their constituencies within the party.

But Trump is the center of Trumpworld. So all these concerns go on the back burner for now. You are a fool if you think there is anything permanent about that. They will all return when Trump's primacy wanes or ends, probably with a vengeance.

Tooconservative  posted on  2018-06-28   23:37:48 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  


#6. To: Tooconservative (#4)

Libertarians ready to claim 2018, 2020 elections

Dearest Libertarians,

Save us please!

Before you stands the greatest opportunity in a lifetime. Those cruel, almighty, and vengeful gods of politics have just handed you a gift on high. A gift in the form of two of the most despised presidential candidates in the history of our nation.

This is your moment. The spotlight is on you now! What will you say?

“We are fiscally conservative, but socially liberal.” Awesome, I like it. What else? “We stand for greater individual responsibility and less government intervention.” Okay, cool, what does that look like? “Lower taxes and less spending.” Alright, well Republicans promise the same, but I am still with you there. How would you achieve that? “By shrinking government,” okay, but, “by eliminating the Department of XXXX!” Whoa, wait what?

Leading Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson recently revealed the new slogan #MakeAmericaSaneAgain. Given this year’s circus of a primary it is certainly appropriate, but I am here to tell you right now that crazy calling crazy crazy, doesn't really pull much weight with American’s sane.

As an independent that is deeply frustrated with status quo politics, I have tried — I mean really tried — to be Libertarian. Yet over and over, each time I try, what starts out with some really good principles ends up devolving into some really insane assumptions about what kind of reforms are reasonable or even physically possible.

When you go to the Libertarian Party website — aside from feeling that you just took an internet time machine back to the 90s — you can find plenty of examples of what happens when good principles go off the rails. Compared to the websites for the Democrats and the Grand Old Party, which are intentionally vague about what you need to support the party, Libertarians make you feel like you are joining a cult. Just look how new members are asked at the very top to: “certify that I oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals.”

Seriously, what does that even mean? For a party that claims to “live and let live,” why would you ever force people to certify that they are against the initiation of force?! Shouldn’t that just go without need of saying?

From past conversations with a high-ranking Libertarian Party leader, I always get a similar vibe. You must either be in whole hog or you are not a libertarian. For the party that supposedly embraces individual liberty, it sure stinks of authoritarianism.

Sure, every party has its dogma — it is what gives them color — but it should never be more than a force like gravity, steadily pulling policies toward the mass of its principles. A party run by stodgy intellects insisting that dogma trump political reality, however, is destined to go no where.

Enter the opportunity of this election. To break out of obscurity, the Libertarian Party will have to be well, more libertarian. Let the “party of principle” pull people in without precondition and then see what “the people” come up with. If you stand for free markets, do not cram dogma down our throats. Use the post 1990s web to open up a free market of ideas. Most importantly though, start explaining how we can achieve real reform when Congress is — by almost every measure — completely broken.

The game of promising the moon in presidential elections is up. The people have figured out that the system is rigged and that no matter who wins and what is promised, until Congress is fixed, none of it will happen as it actually should. Sure, with Republicans you might get a prescription drug program for seniors, but not before the drug companies have their way with it. With Democrats you might get health care for all, but not before the medical and insurance lobbies define all the rules.

It is not the President stuffing these bills either, and just vetoing every such bill would only leave the underlying problems unsolved. If Libertarians want to play the role of savior in 2016, then they need to start offering tangible, sane solutions. First and foremost, however, they need to explain how they will fix democracy first.

How else can Libertarians ever expect to win enough campaigns to matter, when winning is largely dependent upon whoever can secure the most private support for a public office? How else can Libertarians ever get enough votes in districts that are blatantly gerrymandered to rig elections for major party candidates? How else will all those millions of would-be Libertarians ever get registered to vote and to the polls, when access to voting is being manipulated by both major parties?

You cannot just put your faith in starting a “political revolution” and you cannot just promise to “make America great again”. Sure, #MakeAmericaSaneAgain at least sounds like a step in the right direction, but #MakeDemocracySaneAgain is a far more accurate slogan. It is insane that Congress spends more time raising campaign money than it does governing. It is insane that we have a revolving door between Congress and lobbying. It is insane that we have winner-take-all elections, and it is insane that voting be even the slightest bit harder than integrity requires.

By fixing those problems first, Libertarians have a golden opportunity to put Americans back in the driver seat. To be the voice of reason, you have to start with both what is reasonable and what will have the greatest return on value. Then, and only then can we talk with any seriousness of cutting taxes and spending, stopping endless war, and all those other “big government” problems.

Bruce Skarin. a former independent candidate for the U.S. Senate and advocate for democratic reforms.

Gatlin  posted on  2018-06-28   23:56:33 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  


#7. To: Tooconservative (#6)

Libertarians ready to claim 2018, 2020 elections.

Gatlin  posted on  2018-06-29   0:02:53 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  


Replies to Comment # 7.

#9. To: Tooconservative (#7) (Edited)

Spending this evening with you has been a blast.

I should be around for a few days.

I will try to catch you tomorrow.

Good Night …

Gatlin  posted on  2018-06-29 00:10:23 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  


End Trace Mode for Comment # 7.

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