GOP Schisms

Because of Instapundit and a few other posts I've seen today, I see that there's a new factional fight brewing in the GOP.

When the Libertarian Party agreed to partially fund the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to reach out to other organizations it was a bit of a gamble. Would they manage to appeal to fiscal conservatives without annoying the social conservatives? After all, I went with the GOP pretty strongly in the 2004 election primarily because of my split with many in the Libertarian Party that disagreed with the War on Terror.

Well, apparently there was some friction at CPAC. Ryan Sager noted it in his article on the event entitled “The Right's Right:”

No, the arrogance that will prove problematic, ultimately, was that directed at the libertarian-leaning conservatives by the social conservatives. The message in that regard was clear: We Christians can do this alone, y'all who ain't down with J.C. best be running along.

Such an attitude is unfortunate. After all, there were a lot of organizations there:

More than 90 organizations sponsored the event, including the Objectivist Center, Americans for Tax Reform, the NRA, the National Taxpayers Union, the ACLU, Heritage Foundation, Bureaucrash, the Drug Policy Alliance and a host of others.

The LP tried to leverage the event and obviously failed:

“While we aren't aligned with the political views of these other groups on all subjects, the other groups didn't necessarily line up on every issue, either,” said LP Executive Director Joe Seehusen. “By taking part in this CPAC conference, we hope to show that Libertarians are the true fiscal conservatives—much more so than the Republicans are.”

Various speakers were booed for their divergent views. It prompted Ryan Sager to write,

In fact, if there was anything particularly striking about this year's CPAC, it is to just what extent Republicans have given up being the party of small government and individual liberty.
Make absolutely no mistake about it: This party, among its most hard-core supporters, is not about freedom anymore. It is about foisting its members' version of morality and economic intervention on the country. It is, in other words, the mirror image of its hated enemy.

That's a pity. The people I meet from the GOP at a local level are very nice people that respect my differences of opinion. They even respect that I don't consider abortion and gays to be important topics of discussion and that I don't think government should be in the business of minding other people's business.

Bill at INDC Journal also noted Ryan Sager's column and added a warning of his own:

I would advise all of my respected socially conservative friends and fellow bloggers to take note: a lurch towards sane national defense and fiscal policy by a charismatic Dem or three (it could happen), coupled with one too many sneering “RINO” jokes from you hard righties, and this moderate—and many like me—are gone. One day we'll simply snap, our better judgment overwhelmed by a wacky sense of humor and stewing anger, and you'll wake up to a nightmarish world where the senior senator from Mass rides into the sunset as SecState and Billary is floating doomed socialized medicine schemes out of the Oval again.

What can I say besides, “hear, hear!” …although I would probably add gun rights to the list. I didn't so much vote for Dubya as much as against Kerry and his ilk. It was the same in 2000 when I votes for Dubya because Al Gore was a gun-grabbing taxaholic goof.

Ramesh Ponnuru responded to Sager on National Review Online's The Corner

If conservatives brush off libertarians more often--and I'm not sure that they do--that may reflect the simple fact that conservatives have a stronger position within the Republican coalition. If Sager's got any evidence or even an argument that the party's political success requires increased libertarianism, I'm sure a lot of people would be interested in hearing it.

Sager quickly wrote back:

I’d say that while a big chunk of the Republican base wants to believe that that 2004 election was won on “moral values,” the fact is that it was won on the War on Terror.
While much has been made of the fact that 22 percent of voters chose “moral values” as their most important issue when asked in exit polls—making it the most popular of the options given—that was only because “terrorism” and “Iraq” were listed as separate choices. Together, those foreign-policy topics were the deciding factor for 34 percent of voters.

Right on.

I was strongly in favor on the response to 9/11 and skeptical about Iraq. Ultimately it appears it was all proved correct.

I also believe that, long term, the Republican Party can only grow its base by shedding the stigma of being the party of intolerance. President Bush seemed to understand this when he took office, and he’s made inroads in the black and Hispanic communities by asking for the votes of blacks and by dropping the un-American crusade against illegal immigrants. But he’s made a short-sighted political calculation—perhaps based on electoral math in states like Ohio—to use gay marriage as a wedge issue.

Gay marriage is a good example. My opinion is that government has no business regulating marriage. The fact that they want to have a massive spat about it clearly indicates that other people have different values. I can accept that but I'm not changing my position for them.

Ramesh Ponnuru gets the last word, though.

Most sets of positions on contested political issues bring advantages and liabilities to the party that holds them. It is certainly true that social conservative positions—and the attitudes these positions are perceived to signify—alienate some voters… But they also bring in voters. The same can be said of opposition to big government: It too appeals to some voters and alienates others (at least when it's put in terms of opposition to specific government interventions).
If you want some of conservatism's libertarian elements to be strengthened—and I join Sager in wanting this—getting a clear view of our actual political circumstances is a prerequisite. Sager's a smart guy, but I think that his political prescriptions reflect wishful thinking on his part.

That's all well and good, but those that lean libertarian like me don't like it at all. What are the principles that drive the party? What are the values? It's when pandering to the base comes about that makes libertarians sneer “Demopublican or Republicrat, what's the difference?”

I dropped Bush senior like a rock for two reasons. First was his assault weapons ban. Second was his comment about atheists. That's when I knew the GOP did not have my values at heart.

Jon Henke at Q&O also comments on this growing dispute:

The “Fusionist” alliance that long-existed between Traditionalists and Libertarians is being strained by the near-total abdication of “limited government”—the principle around which we could rally—by the current leadership of the GOP.
There's a schism coming, and the fight will be between the libertarians (us, for example, as well as many of our readers), the fiscal conservatives (Gingrich, Kemp, et al) the moderate/centrists (Christine Todd Whitman, Giuliani, Schwarzenegger) and the social conservatives. (Falwell, Dobson, Santorum)

This struggle is the warning shots for the fight over who runs for President in 2008, though.

I have to say I don't like the anti-gun Whitman, Giuliani and Schwarzenegger (or, for that matter, the anti-gun mouthings of Bush) and I don't like the “true believer” attitudes of Falwell, Dobson and Santorum. I pretty much distrust true believers of any stripe, be it religion, economics, environmentalism or even gun owners.

For obvious reasons (limited government), we Neolibertarians can form an alliance with fiscal conservatives. We can even work with the Centrists, who share many of our socially tolerant views. The Social Conservatives, on the other hand, seem far less interested in limited government. In fact, they seem just fine with an expansive government, so long as that government is working towards their own social/cultural ends.

If Ramesh is right and limited government positions lose the GOP votes (the LP sure ain't stealing too many elections from them) then there has to be some sort of (unholy) alliance to save the soul of the GOP from the true believers that put their faith before the best interests of the country.

Jon says the same thing:

When they lose power—and they will—the GOP must have a faction, and a person, who will create a new coalition during the interregnum. As Dale has written before, such “socially tolerant, fiscally conservative” moderates as Schwarzenegger, and Rudy Giuliani may prove unbeatable on the national stage. If we want to remain a voice within the GOP, I suspect we'll need to hitch our wagon to their coalition, while we still have some political capital. Such a coalition will require uncomfortable compromises, but I really don't see any other possible alliances.

I'm all for it, so long as I don't have to lose my guns. That's the only place where I distrust the center-right.

Josh Poulson

Posted Tuesday, Feb 22 2005 03:09 PM

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GOP Schisms Followup

Randy Barnett muses that having a Libertarian Party might be a problem for libertarianism. I think that the creation of the Libertarian Party has been very detrimental to the political influence of libertarians. Some voters (not many lately) and, more... [Read more]

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Linked Thursday, Feb 24 2005 07:28 AM

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