Sen. Jim DeMint: Why Republicans Must Become More Libertarian

"The new debate in the Republican party needs to be between conservatives and libertarians," says Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). "A lot of the libertarian ideas that Ron Paul is talking about...should not be alien to any Republican."

Yet right after the 2010 midterm elections, the influential Tea Party favorite proclaimed that "you can't be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative," a comment that was widely viewed as a slap at libertarians. And South Carolina's junior senator is also a staunch pro-lifer, has favored a constitutional ban on flag burning, and is on the record saying that gays shouldn't be allowed to teach at public schools.

More recently, DeMint has been leaning libertarian. His new book, Now or Never: Saving America from Economic Collapse, is a warning to the nation that we need radical spending cuts (including putting defense spending on the table) or else face economic oblivion. And he was instrumental in getting Tea Party Republicans elected in 2010, including the most libertarian member of the caucus, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who also wrote the foreword to DeMint's book.

Reason's Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch sat down with DeMint for a wide-ranging discussion about fiscal vs. social conservatism, cutting spending, the GOP presidential nomination, whether the Tea Party still matters, and much more.

Approximately 29 minutes.

Shot by Meredith Bragg and Jim Epstein; edited by Epstein.

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  • Bingo||

    Is this the phase of the election cycle where TEAM RED pretends to court the ~5% of the US population that is libertarianish because they know that White Obama needs every vote?

  • wareagle||

    no, this is the phase where Repubs get electoral religion. They love the Santorum moralist-in-chief types but realize a good many self-ID'ed conservatives find that form of statism just as repulsive as the liberal brand.

    Pols being pols, everything comes with a grain of salt but the reality of the 2010 has sunk in for some: new folks were elected on hte promise of cutting spending; spending went up and the establishments of BOTH teams slammed the newbies; meanwhile, the debt figure is inescapable and we're now approaching budget season.

    I hope the TP folks stick to their convictions and don't do like the Alan West types - get caught up with certain media fawning over them while forgetting what got them elected.

  • lily||

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  • ||

    God, I really hate Santorum. The boobs in MN and MO are voting for him too. Yuck!

  • Yet Another Dave||

    the ~5% of the US population that is self-identifies as libertarianish

    FTFY. It might seem like splitting hairs, but I've seen polls that show the majority of Americans really function at some level of libertarian ideology when grilled about how they stand on the issues. The problem is that most see our political system as being two major parties and a whole lot of dwarfs so insignificant they aren't even worthy of figuring out what they stand for. So instead they consider themselves "moderate" and then try to figure out which of the major parties is the lesser of two evils.

  • annonymous commenter some guy||

    I think most people are libertarianish when it comes to things they like to do and statist when it comes to things they don't like others doing. Their libertarianish side comes out when they speak to the pollster. Their statist side comes out when they are punching chads.

  • Yet Another Dave||

    statist when it comes to things they don't like others doing.

    I agree with you when we're talking about hard-line conservatives who want to enforce morality on all of the unwashed heathens out there. On the other side of the coin is the hard-line liberals who think the solution to every problem our society faces is the people that caused the problem in the first place - the government. They tend to cancel each other out at the polls.

    Our elected officials are instead chosen by moderate independents who most of the time vote for the guy who has gone the longest without pissing them off. In this coming election, they'll probably vote Republican mostly because Obama has done such a great job pissing them off; they will have forgotten how much Bush pissed them off before that. And they'll keep going back and forth, never comprehending that doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results is one of the definitions of insanity.

  • KPres||

    No, the problem is that the largest bloc of the public, the "libertarinish" bloc, is split by the Red/Blue divide, and left arguing amongst themselves, when the real enemies are the religious fundamentalists and the socialists.

    That's why a complete crackpot (personality-wise) like Ron Paul can poll better against Obama than every other Republican candidate except Romney. If he wasn't a Republican, but still had the backing of a major political party, he'd do even better.

  • KPres||

    ok, I just realized that's pretty much exactly what you said.

  • KPres||


    Uh, no. I saw a survey recently where well over >50% self-identified as "socially liberal/fiscally conservative", ie, "libertarianish".

  • o3||

    but but but teh JOOS !

  • ralph||

    Thanks for the article. For info on people using voluntary Libertarian tools on similar and other issues, please see http://​www.Libertarian-Internation​ , the non-partisan Libertarian International Organization...

  • *||

    Is he the older brother, or the younger one?

  • ||

    DeMint is one of the few in Congress I think has integrity. He's also great on fiscal issues. I'd take this as a legitimate, positive sign.

  • romulus augustus||

    Yeah, a positive sign that the GOP is starting to think better of kicking the libertarians out of the big tent.
    Those who wish to stay, here's some advice - don't let yourself be relegated to the job of shoveling up the elephant poop. If they want the libertarians in the tent, then do more than pay us lip service.

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    He sucks on immigration, unfortunately. For some strange reason, Mexicans break the brains of smart people, some alleged "libertarians" here included.

  • T||

    It's the years of exposure to Old Mexican, Rev. It scars the psyche.

  • A Secret Band of Mexicans||

    Re: Dumb Dumb Stupidhead Who Disagrees With Me,

    It's the years of exposure to Old Mexican, Rev. It scars the psyche.

    Your dislike of Old Mexican is clear evidence of your moral and intellectual inferiority. You probably like Gary Johnson, you putrescent wretch.

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    RE: SBR the Pederast

    +1. Would read again.

  • T||

    Silence, you festering pustule. Nowhere did I say I disliked or even disagreed with OM. I just said exposure to him scars the psyche. Your unwarranted outburst is proof your psyche is irretrievably scarred, inasmuch as a sebaceous boil can be said to have a psyche.

  • A Secret Band of Mexicans||

    Re: Idiot With A Letter For A Name,

    Nowhere did I say I disliked or even disagreed with OM. I just said exposure to him scars the psyche.

    Your semantic games cannot obscure your true meaning, asshole, and your readiness to resort to unprovoked name calling only proves that your logical errors are due to profound neurological damage, likely as a result of your uncontrolled syphilis.

  • T||

    Re: Dumb Dumb Stupidhead Who Disagrees With Me,

    you putrescent wretch

    Unprovoked name calling? Clearly, your ability to keep a coherent thought in your head longer than 20 minutes has been impaired by the years you spent drinking Sterno under highway overpasses.

    And my syphilis is responding very well to medication, unlike your late-stage jackassery, which remains incurable.

  • protefeed||

    For some strange reason, Mexicans break the brains of smart people, some alleged "libertarians" here included.

    I think it's partly that Hispanics overall tend to break at best 60-40 for Democrats, which is how California went from a red state to the Deep Blue clusterfuck it is now.

    What those Republicans don't seem to understand is that they need to make Hispanic voters break Republican in the future, not piss them off by trying to shut down the border, or they are doomed electorally.

    Short-term versus long-term thinking is Teh Hard.

  • cynical||

    "Short-term versus long-term thinking is Teh Hard."

    Which is why the party of slavery, the KKK, and Jim Crow now gets 90% of the black vote. I'm not sure it's possible to fuck up bigger than the GOP did there.

  • Randy||

    protefeed? What did you do with the rael prolefeed?

  • Grego||

    So Reverend Moon, do you define "immigration" as entering a country illegally?

    That's like defining rape as sex.

    Do you know what the Mexicans do to people who enter their country illegally? They DEPORT them!

    So instead of pointing the finger at DeMint, why not point at Mexico?

    I'm so f-cking tired of Latino illegal alien activist playing the victim card. Ask illegal aliens from Guatemala how the Mexicans treat them when they capture them.

  • Wiatt Ater||

    But you don't understand, we have to let more illegal immigrants in and say we love them, that way they're sure to vote for us!

    You can't argue with that logic!

  • T||

    People are slowly beginning to admit to themselves that no matter what you want the government to do, we're fucking broke.

  • ||

    I beg to differ. The printing press is working fine!

  • West Texas||

    I'm inclined to view this as an election year ploy - otherwise, why the hell did he dodge the Ron Paul endorsement last month? I know he didn't endorse anyone else, either, but the other three stooges sure as hell ain't no libertarians.

    I lost some respect for DeMint last month and his pseudo-austerity message when he failed to endorse the one candidate who actually pushes a reduction of government size, which is what DeMint's message supposedly is.

    Hell, I'm quickly losing respect for ANY Republican who preaches cutting spending and then doesn't support Ron Paul. (non)Actions speak louder than words and it seems to me that TEAM RED really does care more about simply being in power than adhering to any sort of small government principle, I'm afraid.

  • Dekedin||

    I think Paul made a bad move in hiring Bachmann's campaign manager. I don't think she's endorsed anyone yet, but if I were Paul I'd be asking for her's simply to get more Tea Party votes. It's bad enough that Cain endorsed Gingrich, the exact opposite type of person Cain was campaigning as.

  • ||

    Not really opposite. They're both fat and ugly.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Dammit why didn't DeMint run for GOP nom!!??

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    Any self-respecting Objectivist would never vote for a Republican.

  • protefeed||

    Any self-respecting Objectivist would never vote for a Republican.

    Link to the statement from Ayn Rand that leads you to that bizarre conclusion?

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    Ayn Rand is not Objectivism's god, nor is Peikoff its pope.

  • Trespassers W||

    If Aynish McRand ain't a true Scotsman, I don't know who is.

  • cynical||

    "Ayn Rand is not Objectivism's god"

    She is its founding prophet.

  • Randy||

    But non-self-respecting Objectivists are free to vote as they wish.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Depends on the circumstances RBM. AR supported Nixon as an "anti-Nixonite for Nixon" but was 'profoundly' opposed to Reagan. I like her philosophy but she wasn't perfect. And I'm not going to get started on Peikoff.

  • rather ||

    Republicans are heeding the lesson for the Tea Party's political interference. Elements of Libertarianism philosophy will receive the cold-shoulder after 2012 election.
    Fool me once...

  • ||

    Balancing the budget is extreme...because that's how we all live.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Remember, he must be pushed away as forcefully as possible, lest he taint the pristine waters of libertarianism...

  • Trespassers W||

    I can't be a fiscal conservative, apparently, so I have nothing in common with him.

  • rst||

    Libertarianism is orthogonal to the conservative/progressive axis; the emptiness of the Tea Party's reproach is that free market principles aren't strictly "fiscally conservative". Some aspects of libertarianism will be conservative, while others will be progressive.

    So if they're saying I can't be a supply-sider crony capitalist without hating on gays and immigrants, well, I can live with that I suppose.

  • Robert (in the Bronx)||

    I don't think that's strictly true. Crony capitalism is only a small part of supply side-ness, and supply side economics is only a part of fiscal conservatism. Most of fiscal conservatism runs in the same direction as libertarianism. What distorts things is that you're seeing what programs have been able to be implemented, which involves a lot more political compromise than radicals are used to thinking about.

  • Randy||

    I think DeMint has read about some book I recently heard about. Something about declaration ... and independents in the title.

  • Muad Dib||

    Nick was kinda being a jackass in parts eh? Why should it be anathema to say welfare dependency encourages government dependency? I think it was Milton Friedman that said that anything you subsidize you get more of. Get rid of all of it.

  • ||

    I'm not terribly impressed. With the exception of father and son Rand, Republicans only express their libertarian bona fides when they are no longer running for Congress.

  • ||


  • Cynic||

    The difference between republicans and democrats is mostly rhetoric.

    Republicans use libertarian, social-conservative, or national-greatness rhetoric.

    Democrats use class-warfare, identity politics, or compassion rhetoric.

    Both in practice are corporate-socialist welfare-warfare statists.

  • Tony||

    Jim DeMint is a fascist.

  • Emperor Wears No Clothes||

    Spoof Tony or Genuine Tony, that's a lot closer to the truth than the rest of you seem to grasp.
    Anybody who wants to make flag-burning a crime and being gay a legitimate reason to be banned from serving in the military is not a libertarian.

  • Jake||

    Exactly! I could give a rats ass what this bigot has to say on fiscal conservatism. And I sure as hell don't want him running for the GOP nomination...

  • ||

    Please define: "Fascism, follower of."

  • Doug||

    Good stuff - Nick Gillespie you are not a good interviewer - when you ask a question, let the person answer it!!!!

  • ||

    It would be nice to think that uber-Rightist Jim DeMint has finally seen the light.

    But I'm going to withhold judgement until DeMint acknowledges that you can't be a Libertarian and still be a social conservative. It's an utter affront to the concept of individual liberty to assert that some, based on their religions, can force others who do not adhere to those religions to abide by the implications of those religions.

  • ||

    Good grief. Jim Demint reaches out to Libertarians and this is what he gets from Reason fans.

    It was Jim Demint who backed Rand Paul early in the 2010 primary over Mitch McConnel's insider pick. And don't think he didn't get an earful about it in the cloak room either.

    It's Jim Demint that is publicly trying to move his party closer to libertarian views on a number of topics.

    And this is the welcome he gets?

    I say all of this as a conservative with a vibrant libertarian streak. Yeah, I grew up in a Baptist church. Yeah, I'm opposed to gay marriage. But I also realize that a government powerful enough to make me go to sunday school is a government powerful enough to regulate my refrigerator, my thermostat, the kind of car I drive, and my health care insurance.


    C'mon, we aren't going to get anywhere with this attitude.

  • ||

    Libertarian, in this case, means right-wing reactionary---as opposed to the original French movement for which the term was coined.

  • EBL||

    http://evilbloggerlady.blogspo.....ecome.html Excellent post which I did a post on.

  • Bruce Majors||

    Isn't the author who DeMint's new book is written "with" a writer who works on the Paul campaign and co-wrote a book with Ron Paul, who calls himself a paleoconservative? Would this explain a libertarian leaning shift? Is there a libertarian nose in DeMint's tent?

  • Bruce Majors||

    Isn't the author who DeMint's new book is written "with" a writer who works on the Paul campaign and co-wrote a book with Ron Paul, who calls himself a paleoconservative? Would this explain a libertarian leaning shift? Is there a libertarian nose in DeMint's tent?

  • G.Patton||

    Senator Demint is the new Reagan he is able to cut through the politics to expose the true agenda of the socialist Demons who have infiltrated both parties. He understands that a true war is being waged against our constitution and individual rights. He is signaling an alarm for every American to be vigilant against crony capitalism and corrupt politicians that will ultimately prove to be the bedrock of a Marxist plot to replace the pillars of individual and state freedoms.
    God help us all.


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