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The Conservative Message To Libertarians: Sit Down, And Shut Up

by @ 6:15 pm on October 18, 2010. Filed under Libertarians, Political Parties, Politics, Republicans

Over at Liberty Pundits, Melissa Clouthier responds to my post from yesterday about libertarian disenchantment with the GOP in a post provocatively entitled Libertarians: Still In Search Of Their Perfect World, Practically Irrelevant:

I have come to believe that Libertarians are worthless. Before them, a crop of wonderful, small government candidates sit and will likely win–scores of points of optimism in a political sky that has been bleak and black. To coin a word from the opposition, there’s Hope.

Now, most of us watching this election realize that the exhausting work over the last two years has hardly begun. Once this new crop become part of the system, they’ll have to be watched and held accountable.

The most optimistic change, then, hasn’t really been these candidates. It’s been the heart of the American people. Citizens have decided that they’ve sat on their duffs long enough. It’s time to get involved. It’s time to stay involved.

The candidates aren’t perfect. No politicians are perfect. Hells bells. They’re human and mere vessels for the expression of the voters’ will.

So, I read Doug Mataconis’ piece about why Libertarians are still disenchanted even with the best electoral hope in a generation presents itself. I feel absolute disgust.

Kvetching about the social issues of a Christine O’Donnell while ignoring the economic liberties that Mike Castle would have assuredly stripped had he had his way makes no sense. How on earth can a true Libertarian even worry about such irrelevance?

What Melissa misses here is that my problems with Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, and Carl Paladino — the three candidates that were the subject of the piece that caused me to write the post in the first place — have little to do with their social conservatism, and everything to do with the fact that they appear to me to be manifestly unqualified for the positions for which they are running.

As I’ve noted in my posts on the elections at Outside The Beltway, for example,  O’Donnell is quite simply just a very odd bird. She hasn’t held a job of any kind for at least the last five years, and has failed to respond to numerous questions from the media about campaign finance reports that seem to indicate that she has used campaign donations from previous campaigns to pay for personal expenses. She has made bizarre statement on issues ranging from creationism to Vince Foster’s suicide to homosexuality to her supposed access to secret information about China. And, during last week’s debate, she displayed obvious ignorance about the Constitution and the Supreme Court. More importantly, though, she’s not going to win. What does it matter if I point out her flaws rather than staying silent as others have chosen to, and why has it gotten to the point where one  conservative pundit accused O’Donnell’s critics on the right of sexism? Frankly, I don’t understand it other than to ascribe it to the same cult of personality that has developed around Sarah Palin.

Carl Paladino has distinguished himself by sending out pornographic and racist emails, threatening a reporter, and going off on a bizarre homophobic rant.

As for Sharron Angle, my opinion of her was mostly influenced by the fact that she appeared to be the one candidate that Harry Reid could be capable of defeating as well as her own refusal to answer legitimate press questions. It wasn’t until she started making bizarre claims about Dearborn, Michigan being under the control of Sharia Law, and then the horrible-all-around debate last Thursday, that I decided that a vote for None Of The Above would be the only thing I could responsibly do if I lived in Nevada.

So, the problems I have with these candidates has nothing to do with their social conservatism and everything to do with their own personal foibbles and obvious lack of qualifications for the office they seek. There are plenty of socially conservative Republicans running this year that I’ll be fine with if they win, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio come to mind most immediately.

But, about Melissa’s broader point:

Like the nagging wife, the American public is constantly hen-pecked by lazy, spoiled libertarians telling them how stupid and just not good enough they are.

And then, the libertarians whine about why they never get A Real Seat at the Republican table. Uh, maybe if you guys actually acted like you were on the team instead of pretending to be some sort of blind line judge, you’d be taken more seriously.

No one with a shred of libertarian guiding philosophy can seriously argue that Coons or Reid or what’s-her-boring name in Washington would be a better choice for libertarians.

But it’s not about going with the team and holding the team accountable. It’s about feeling smart. Libertarians must always feel smart. And as long as they don’t actually participate, they can never be judged as stupid.

There are plenty of libertarians who are involved in the way that Melissa demands us to be. I’ll just point you all to the Republican Liberty Caucus for just one example of that. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to blindly support every Republican running, or even every Republican who preaches fiscal conservatism. Jim DeMint, for example, recently reiterated a statement he made back in 2004 that gays and unmarried women with boyfriends shouldn’t be allowed to be public school teachers. Christine O’Donnell said last Thursday that local school districts should be allowed to teach creationism as if it were a scientific fact. Is isn’t all that surprising that a libertarian-oriented voter who might be sympathetic to Republicans would be uncomfortable with such politicians, to say the very least, and to suggest that principled criticism of such statements is either “worthless” or an example of not participating in the political process is just absurd.

It’s all rather ironic really.

It wasn’t too long ago, in fact just this year if I’m not mistaken, that conservatives were saying that they weren’t going to support someone just because they happen to have an “R” after their name. Conservatives have been ruthless in attacking Republicans like Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and even Scott Brown when they’ve dared to stray from some perceived orthodoxy. The conservatives who rallied around Christine O’Donnell during the Delaware primary did so primarily due to Mike Castle being perceived as a “RINO” (whatever that means).  Now, libertarians are being told to shut up when it comes to criticizing Republicans. Well, if it’s okay for conservatives to criticize “moderate” Republicans then why is it “worthless” when libertarians criticize social conservatives?

Finally, Melissa argues that despite the acknowledge and apparent failures of the GOP to live up to it’s limited government rhetoric in the past, this time it will be different:

NO ONE believes the old Republican guard has learned their lesson. NO ONE. Can we just chuck this straw man right now? Set it on fire. Throw it in the streets and stomp it so you can make sure it’s not just dead, it’s libertarian dead (really super, extra special, smarty pants dead). What people in the Tea Party believe is that 2010 is a START. And then, there’s 2012, where a whole bunch of scumbag Senators are up for re-election. Guess what? They’re going to be primaried and lose, too. This wave Is Not Stopping.

Pardon me for being skeptical, but I’ve seen this before.

Although I wasn’t young enough to vote then,  but I did follow the 1980 election and the Reagan Presidency closely. While Reagan was a great President in many respects, the fact remains that he was singularly unable to reduce government spending or the size of government at any point during his Presidency. If the Reagan Era was a battle between the New Deal and conservatism, the evidence shows that the New Deal won, at least politically. Similarly, the so-called 1994 GOP “revolution” resulted in some marginal victories in the war against big government — victories that ironically ended up benefiting Bill Clinton more than the GOP when 1996 came around — those victories were limited and, by the time George W. Bush left office in 2009, largely reversed. This time, it’s going to take more than blind faith in GOP rhetoric to convince me that they’ll actually accomplish anything, it’s going to take action, and while I’d like to believe that the Tea Party movement is some kind of mass uprising of principled libertarianism, the reality is that it is far more likely to be just a bunch of pissed off Republicans who will mysteriously quiet down once their guys are back in power.

Like I said at the close of my initial post, prove me wrong, I hope I am. However, when one of the darlings of the movement won’t even name with one government program she’d cut to balance the budget, I’m not at all optimistic.

In closing, I’d just like to say this to conservatives. Telling libertarians that they’re worthless and speaking them to in a demeaning manner isn’t exactly the way to win allies, especially when you consider what Ronald Reagan once said:

If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals-if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

Think about that.

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2 Responses to “The Conservative Message To Libertarians: Sit Down, And Shut Up”

  1. What a bunch of hogwash. Every party has it’s goons and nuts. But the libertarian party has tried to bring the country back to the constitution. They believe in limited government and the rights of the individual. You are right about one thing – every politician is a human being and therefore flawed. However, when you have 2 parties that have become so powerful that they negate the premiss of the constitution it is time for a change and you might actually say because the libertarian party has several fractions – James Quigley does not have to be tied to every message the party might espouse. He is is his own person within the libertarian environment.
    The libertarians aren’t perfect but they are running a great man in district 3. James Quigley is an honest man who truly thinks he is doing the right thing. He stepped up to the plate when there was no republican running against Scott. The republicans have not run against Scott for several years but after Quigley got on the ballot, they decided to drag Smith from his own district, where he couldn’t win, and put him in the 3rd. He’s the usurper in the 3rd district. I am personally sick of the political game these parties play and it is time for new blood in the government. Men and women who aren’t afraid to buck the system. someone like James Quigley.

  2. reston libertarian says:

    There is always an undercurrent of conservatives that are generally sympathetic to libertarian points of view, but expect some compromise.

    Every once in a while one of these folks become angry that we don’t make the same strategic decisions as them. This is dangerous to keeping those liberty minded folks sympathetic to Republicans who will never vote for a D, but struggle to pull the lever for the R. Libertarians pay attention and want to vote. Most, if reasonably satisfied will pull the lever for the R. Why turn them away? Moreover, we are also active, and can be harvested as volunteers or donors for good economic conservative, or liberty minded candidates. None will work with Ms. Clouthier after this, and most will avoid a candidate she is closely aligned with.

    Doug I agree with you, that some of the current crop, Paladino and O’Donnell, are not good candidates. Every time I think about saying something nice about either one, something indefensible comes out from the campaign. They are setting back the movement, to the extent they stay in the spotlight. Paladino will go back to his day job in two weeks, O’Donnell will become a right wing pundit and we can get on with supporting other candidates.

    As a “Republican apologist” I encourage you and other libertarians to vote for (most of) the current batch of Republicans, or sample amongst them as you can stomach. The party has a big tent, and the closer to the bottom rungs of the party you get, the more allies you will find. It is with the allies that we can affect long term change. But, if the party writ large addresses you as Ms. Clouthier does, then it sis fine to yield the party to the national security republicans and social conservatives.

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