Politics

GOP Too Libertarian, Free-Market-y, Say Anti-Libertarian, Anti-Market Pundits

|

Jonathan Chait

The Republican Party's pummeling at the ballot box earlier this month (which was less of a pummeling than a weak and uninspired failure to achieve expectations), can be laid at the doorstep of that party's doctrinaire, libertarian touting of smaller government and its embrace of hardcore free-market economics. Or so we're told by a couple of scribblers who aren't obviously penning an alternative-history novel. It's an intriguing premise, impaired only by the GOP's lack of enthusiasm for anything of the sort, and its thorough rejection of candidates who actually did espouse such views.

Jonathan Chait, that outstanding example of the progressive movement's success in mining a rich vein of humorless predictability, writes at New York:

It's certainly true that libertarianism is a broad and varied enough ideology that there are some ways in which more of it may have helped Romney win. (Say, supporting more humane immigration policies.) But it seems obvious that, as even Goldberg concedes against ideological interest, Romney's economic libertarianism was a millstone around his neck. His 47 percent comments reflected the Ayn Randian sentiment that has swept through the GOP, a phenomenon Gillespie has celebrated. …

At a more practical level, Romney's anti-government dogma left him unable to propose any concrete solutions for things most people regard as problems.

Right about now, you may be scratching your head and wondering, "wait … Romney espoused anti-government dogma? When?" Strictly speaking, the GOP turned its back pretty early on the real skeptics of government power, driving Gary Johnson to flee to the Libertarian Party and marginalizing Ron Paul to the extent that the only Republican candidate with an enthusiastic and youthful following could be marginalized.

My personal take-away from Mitt Romney's campaign is heavy on "free trade with China is bad" and "protect Medicare." Free-market libertarianism … not so much.

Paul Ryan was supposed to be the Ayn Rand acolyte, but campaign coverage was heavily salted with descriptions of him as a neutered "mini-Mitt." The most interesting part of his presence on the campaign trail was when he briefly endorsed federal respect for state-level marijuana policy — before backtracking.

Joshua Green at the in-aptly named Businessweek (for years, it;'s been, at best, a Mixedeconomyweek) chimes in with a similar message, attributing the GOP's very real loss of the Hispanic vote not just to its know-nothing immigrant bashing, but to its insistence on … you guessed it … free-market, small-government policies.

[M]inorities' alienation from the Republican Party goes far beyond language and immigration to the very heart of the conservative worldview. …

Minorities tend to view government as a positive, and effective, facilitator of economic opportunity and prefer that it take an active role in regulating the marketplace. Whites generally don't share this view.

Well … Maybe many minorities do take that pro-government view, but if a major political party were to say, stop bashing minorities and start making a cogent case for why everybody would benefit from choice and freedom-oriented policies, instead of leaving the field clear for the opposition, perhaps the numbers might move. Just speculating here. Frankly, the pro-market argument wasn't tested in the political arena.

By the way, you might notice from the Chait excerpt above that the New York scribe continues his … fascination with our own Nick Gillespie. Nick is called out for his "traditional spirit" in "arguing in response to David Frum and other critics of the party's doctrinaire economic agenda, asserts that it's impossible the GOP may have taken an excessively libertarian position."

It should be clear that Nick made his argument because it's true. Romney may have made a generally protectionist, pro-business case in many ways, but he showed no great enthusiasm for actual free markets or individual choice. And the Republican Party made great efforts to kick to the curb those candidates who did.