Libertarian History/Philosophy

Angry Conservatives and the Libertarian Party

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Our own David Weigel was there, and so was the Washington Times's Robert Stacy McCain—the Libertarian Party's state chairs conference. Excerpts from McCain's report:

Former Rep. Bob Barr [of Georgia]….told a Saturday luncheon that many "real conservatives" have become disillusioned with Republicans.
"They are eager for a philosophical home," Mr. Barr said. "There are enough of them out there that a significant number can be weaned away" from the Republican Party.
…..[The meeting included] a Saturday presentation by longtime conservative organizer Richard Viguerie.
"Whenever conservatives are unhappy, bad things happen for the Republican Party," said Mr. Viguerie, author of "Conservatives Betrayed: How the Republican Party Hijacked the Conservative Cause."
Mr. Viguerie, whose pioneering direct-mail operations helped revolutionize political fundraising, emphasized the value of issue-oriented appeals in building a successful movement.
"You must give the voters a tune they can whistle," said Mr. Viguerie, who drew applause when he said of the 2008 Republican presidential candidates that Rep. Ron Paul of Texas "is the best of the lot."

Can the LP become a general retirement home for disgruntled conservative activists disgusted with Bushism? Well, either they will have to start becoming more comfortable with the personal liberties that tend to make right-wingers uncomfortable–as Barr has shown signs of doing with medical marijuana–or the LP will have to become more congenial to them–which, by definition, a huge influx of such disaffected conservatives will tend to make happen. A big wait-and-see on this one.

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  1. Can the LP become a general retirement home for disgruntled conservative activists disgusted with Bushism?

    Not if Fred runs.

  2. After 3 decades, the LP has to start thinking of continuity and explaining the philosophy to the next crop of Libertarians. If the old guard explains the reasons for their positions, I think we can bring most of the conservatives around.

  3. “Not if Fred runs”

    I think you are right. He is already saying the Right Things about States Rights- and he has a voting record to back it up. I could be persuaded by the incrementalist thing- looks a whole lot better for Liberty than that liberal-fusionist
    BS.

  4. More on Fred.

    As I have said on these electronic banks before, if anybody says “so, what did he do while in the Senate?” I say Lorrie Morgan.

    Thank goodness he was a “do no harm” Senator, an infinite improvement over the “internet inventor” that he replaced. Too bad that a bad excuse for a Republican now sits in his chair.

  5. “Can the LP become a general retirement home for disgruntled conservative activists disgusted with Bushism?”

    Um…Hello! What am I–chopped liver?

    …Has anyone heard anything I’ve said over the last few years?!

    Is this thing on? *tap* …Hello?

  6. Murray Sabrin scored 5% in the 1997 NJ Gubernatorial election by appealing to conservatives, particularly pro-lifers. The entire election was decided by less than 1%, I think.

    Sabrin didn’t explicitly disavow the “liberal” parts of libertarianism; he just emphasized the right-wing parts.

  7. The White Supremicist parts, sure.

  8. Hasn’t the LP tried to appeal to Angry White Republicans who REALLLY Hate taxes for a long time anyway?

  9. Welcome Libertarian Party Comrades! Hey, is great you all decided to have convention here in Branson! Is just like old times in Soviet Union… Once again, party finds me!

  10. Hmmmm, from ontheissues.org, Fred Thompsons’s political score is 40% for personal and 50% for economic, which puts him below the likes of McCain on the libertarian scale.

    I’m one of those disgruntled republicans who have left the party, and I doubt I will ever vote for a republican again at this point. I’ve always been one of those libertarian republicans to begin with (my political scores were 85,86 on personal,economic, which designated me as hard-core libertarian), certainly never one of those deep-fried social conservatives. I’ll probably end up making it official and join the libertarian party in the near future.

  11. As a libertarian, I for one am through holding up our corner of the conservative platform just so the Nazis can bend us over and dry hump us the second they get into office.

  12. Just a couple weeks ago, BobBarr was supporting an example of massive GovernmentCorruption… and even making the same argument as BillPress to do so. And, of course, there’s that whole anti-Constitutional OpenBorders thing that violates the supposed libertarian principle of supporting a national defense.

    Let me suggest instead going after the WSJ / CorruptCorporations / CorruptBanks / CorruptGrowers / CrooksInGeneral / MexicanGovernment market. There’s a reason why even in California you only got twice as many prez votes as LeonardPeltier.

  13. I’m with Warren, when the GOP pushes a pull out of the Middle East NOW, ends drug prohibition, and tells the Christian Right to go fuck itself, then I’ll consider voting Republican.

  14. If angry conservatives flock to the LP the result will be more victories for Democrats. So I doubt that such a shift would last for more than one or two House election cycles. Oh, no doubt a few of them would stick around and make lots of noise, but in practice most will return to the GOP fold when the consequences become manifest.

  15. Hmmmm, from ontheissues.org, Fred Thompsons’s political score is 40% for personal and 50% for economic, which puts him below the likes of McCain on the libertarian scale.

    And he’s WAAAAAAYYYYY below 60/60 Rudy on the libertarian scale! While you’re at that website, check out Rudy’s official stance on drugs: he believes drug policy should be an integral part of foreign policy. A true libertarian stance if ever there was one!

  16. If the LP were to actually focus on individual liberty as a whole, and not simply flush another election cycle down the toilet with the tired old triumvirate of “drugs, abortion, and pacifism at all costs” they might actually make a difference.

  17. IIf the LP were to actually focus on individual liberty as a whole, and not simply flush another election cycle down the toilet with the tired old triumvirate of “drugs, abortion, and pacifism at all costs” they might actually make a difference.

    Soooo… In otherwords we should just join the GOP in their mindless, jack-booted opposition of “drugs, abortion, and pacifism” and give up on this pointless “libertarianism” bit.

    Our Republican Party, right or wrong.

  18. “If angry conservatives flock to the LP the result will be more victories for Democrats.”

    I don’t think the idea of Republicans dumping the GOP for the LP is very realistic–yeah, I did it, but that’s me. …the idea of libertarian minded conservatives and independents supporting a libertarian leaning Republican–now that’s realistic.

    I think something like that happened in 1980.

    Maybe we should identify some terms. I see clear lines between conservatives, for instance, and the religious right. …and I’m not talking about appealing to the religious right.

    Being conservative once meant favoring free trade over union objections. It had to do with being against the New Deal and the Great Society. It had to do with favoring balanced budgets and cutting marginal tax rates. It had to do with small government.

    Give me a Republican candidate like that and chances are, I’ll support him. Sure, I’ll moan about the drug war ’til kingdom come, and I’m not changing my registration from the LP anytime soon. …but if they gave us a Republican who thought Iraq was a bad idea on strategic grounds too…

    …As a Libertarian, I don’t think I can reasonably expect a better president than that.

  19. Akira;
    “Soooo… In otherwords we should just join the GOP in their mindless, jack-booted opposition of “drugs, abortion, and pacifism” and give up on this pointless “libertarianism” bit.”

    No, you should actually find out what libertarianism is about. Hanging everything on one or two nails will not only fail 100% of the time in attracting enough support to actually cause change, but it is also indicative of a very narrow ideological focus that has little to do with individual liberty.

    “Mindless, jack-booted opposition” is actually more descriptive of your basic point of view. If a politician doesn’t cover your holy trinity of drugs, pacifism at all costs and abortion, he’s just not a libertarian.

  20. You know, mentioning books around a libertarian blog is usually met with a yawn, and been there and done that, but a lot can be gained from a re-reading of Charles Murray’s book on what it means to be a libertarian.

    And much to Virginial Postrel’s delight, I’m sure, he makes a point to use the lower case L. He gets into the conservative capitalists, and the like.

    Even if one doesn’t agree with how he comes across on everything, he’s well reasoned, and many, many people around places like this could use a primer on how to argue for individual liberty without coming across like a narrow minded ideologue.

  21. with the tired old triumvirate of “drugs, abortion, and pacifism at all costs”

    Ray, whenever I hear this criticism of the Libertarian Party on a blog, it always turns out that the commenter is from a red state. And you’re observation is correct: the LP would do better in conservative states if it de-emphasized drugs, abortion, and pacificism.

    Be aware, though, that in liberal parts of the country, a Libertarian will win points with voters by talking about ending the drug war, abortion rights, and pacificism.

    I think the Libertarian Party should concentrate on local races, and should be willing to accept incremental change and compromise, so it wouldn’t be a big deal if different messages were emphasized in different areas.

  22. So, if Fred ran as a Libertarian he would not even get the nomination?

  23. “Can the LP become a general retirement home for disgruntled conservative activists disgusted with Bushism?”

    No. It can continue to be a home for those who prefer shaking their fists at the heavens to actually influencing policy though.

  24. Calling Paul “the best of the lot” is hardly a ringing endorsement given the state of “the lot” in general. I’m not sure we need any more statist conservatives pretending they are “libertarians” while they bash immigrants, come up with excuses why unequal rights before the law for gays is really a libertarian position, suck up to the anti-choice crowd on abortion, etc. The LP has too many such right-wing types already.

  25. I have to wonder why people continue to support all-or-nothing political positions.

    Am I simply unaware of all of the political victories that have resulted from such a stance?

  26. I have to wonder why people continue to support all-or-nothing political positions.

    Am I simply unaware of all of the political victories that have resulted from such a stance?

    Well, I think the LP is a bunch of idiots, but my response to that is, [i]I don’t care about political victories, I care about the changes I want[/i].

    I mean, yeah, if I were pro-Iraq, pro-drug war, pro-taxation, pro-regulation, pro-censorship, etc – I’d be [i]so[/i] winning right now. However, I’m not going to do that just for the sake of “winning”.

  27. *glares at his formatting*

    That should be:

    Well, I think the LP is a bunch of idiots, but my response to that is, I don’t care about political victories, I care about the changes I want.

    I mean, yeah, if I were pro-Iraq, pro-drug war, pro-taxation, pro-regulation, pro-censorship, etc – I’d be so winning right now. However, I’m not going to do that just for the sake of “winning”.

  28. I think it is ridiculous for Libertarians to be running at the federal level. Local elections should be the mantra, and perhaps in 4-5 decades candidates can be put up for the Senate. The LP strikes me more as a debating club, but it does fit that old stereotype of organizations that are made up of individualists can’t get anything done. I’ve never seen heavy canvassing by the LP. On election day Dems/Repubs are out in force, they travel from all around the country to help out.

    I’ve been to three L.P meetings, and I must say I was disheartened. It seemed like a circle jerk in which everyone tried to out libertarian each other before ejaculating and really didn’t seem to care about winning elections.

  29. I’m all about compromising with Republicans for the big picture–if that furthers our goals.

    …but I’m also not sure that those who fault the LP for not taking the steps necessary to seize the levers of government and effect positive change really understand what libertarianism is all about.

  30. As I understood it, the LP platform explicitly takes no position on whether abortion should be illegal.

  31. I favor the local-elections approach. I know that the LP has tried this for a long time, but until there is a real grassroots and some LP candidates with actual governing experience, even if just as dogcatcher or water commissioner, then the LP really is just a debating society.

  32. “…but I’m also not sure that those who fault the LP for not taking the steps necessary to seize the levers of government and effect positive change really understand what libertarianism is all about.”

    Then it shouldn’t be a political party.

  33. “As I understood it, the LP platform explicitly takes no position on whether abortion should be illegal.”

    Last I looked, they changed that. …much to my disappointment. They give some lip service to valid arguments on both sides like before, but the gist of it now reads to my ear like women should be free to choose to keep their children if they want to.

    …which kinda isn’t the point.

    “Then it shouldn’t be a political party.”

    Where else to lodge a protest vote?

    …besides, you’ve looked in the back of “Free to Choose” and seen the comparison of the old Communist Party Platform to the “achievements” of the New Deal, haven’t you? Seizing power doesn’t have to be the aim of a political party–it can be just to influence elections and the policy decisions of those who win them.

    Perot may have lost the election, but would Gingrich have balanced the budget without him?

    Also, there is an inherent contradiction in a political party devoted to lessening the power of politicians.

  34. ….the idea of libertarian minded conservatives and independents supporting a libertarian leaning Republican–now that’s realistic.

    I think something like that happened in 1980. – Ken S.

    That’s a better description of 1984. In 1980, the LP got it’s best popular vote ever for Prez – over 900k. Reagan’s 51% popular vote was only considered a landslide because all the defections to alternative candidates, notably 6.5% for John Anderson, kept Carter to 41%. Republicans or Republican-leaning independents who were nervous about either Reagan’s social conservatism or foreign policy/military positions had somewhere else to go, especially if they, in their hearts, didn’t believe a movement conservative could actually win.

    I welcome the ex-Reps to the LP. Technically, I’m one myself, even if the last national GOPer I voted for was Jerry Ford. I don’t mind if they are at our dance, even if I think we might not make one bandleader just yet.

    As for where the LP should concentrate its electoral efforts, I say, conform the strategy to the local conditions. If you live where there are non-partisan local elections you can sometimes get someone elected. If your locality suffers from straight-ticket, one-party results, so that the only way to “make your vote count” is to participate in the dominant party’s primaries, working on state-wide campaigns may be more productive. A one-size-fits-all strategy isn’t wise.

    Kevin

  35. You all have got to ask yourself one simple question.

    What is the political vehicle that has gotten more libertarians elected to public office at all levels in the last 40 years?

    Answer: the Republican Party.

    Jeff Flake, Ron Paul, Butch Otter, Tom McClintock, Leon Drolet, Vic Korhing, Bob Hedlund, Toby Nixon, Mark Sanford, Al Baldasaro, Daniel Greenburg, and on and on and on…

  36. A better question: what has the GOP containing a few token, marginalized libertarians gotten us?

  37. Better half a bee than the full Dondero!

    Kevin

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