Libertarians or Libertarian Republicans?

Two items came to my attention this morning that, on the surface, seem unconnected…until you read the body of the articles. One appeared in the Wichita Eagle and was shown on the web via Kansas.Com. The other was a comment by Bobby Jindal at the Red State Gathering in New Orleans. Both are indicators of the struggle for primacy within the Republican Party.

The Wichita Eagle column was written by two Kansas Citians, neither know for their strong conservative principles. Both authors are reporters for the Kansas City ‘Red’ Star, and at least one is a full-blown, wild-eyed liberal.

That said, their observations do have some merit. They make the standard mistake of aligning libertarian philosophy as the sole ownership of the Libertarian Party. But, the left has never understood those principles anyway.

Libertarians, on a tide of support, make their move

Kansas, Missouri seeing the effects
Published Monday, August 5, 2013, at 6:53 a.m.

For half a century, the microgovernment movement known as libertarianism has lapped at the beach of American politics.

Sometimes, the tide rolls slowly; other times, it’s a bigger wave.

This summer, the surf is up.

From issues like same-sex marriage and legal marijuana to restrictions on government spying and U.S. intervention in foreign affairs, the nation is engaged in a new “libertarian moment,” politicians and political scientists say.

“The libertarian mindset – just leave me alone, get government out of my way, government shouldn’t tell me what I can or cannot do – that is definitely a larger and more active group than I’ve ever seen before,” said Missouri Sen. Brad Lager, a Republican from Savannah.

Brink Lindsey, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, sees the same phenomenon.

“The libertarian impulse is especially prominent right now and getting attention,” he said.

That impulse isn’t aimed at dramatically increasing support for the existing Libertarian political party. Approval for that has been stuck in the low single digits for decades and is likely to stay there, observers said.

It’s also likely to have little impact in the Democratic Party, which shares libertarians’ enthusiasm for civil liberties, but little else.

Instead, “small-l” libertarians have turned their attention to the Republican Party, where a fierce battle for message control is now underway.


• Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul, a leading libertarian voice, recently engaged in a nasty public battle with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over government surveillance policy: Paul wants more limits on secret surveillance; Christie, also a Republican, does not.

• Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, libertarian Republicans, threatened to shut down the federal government over funding for the Affordable Care Act. The suggestion worried more mainstream Republican office holders, who prefer other approaches to repeal or reform Obamacare.

• In July, Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas voted against a new farm bill, earning applause from libertarian groups but frowns from the House GOP leadership. Huelskamp cast a “no” vote despite representing one of the biggest agricultural districts in the nation.

• Huelskamp recently joined with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver and other liberal Democrats to support new libertarian restrictions on government eavesdropping.

• This spring, libertarian Republicans in statehouses across the country, including Kansas and Missouri, approved new expansions of gun rights, a popular libertarian goal. Libertarians also are pursuing gun rights at the city council level.

• Missouri lawmakers rejected calls to expand Medicaid in the state and opposed Agenda 21, an obscure environmental initiative that they said threatened property rights.

• Lawmakers in Kansas and Missouri, worried about libertarian privacy concerns, considered bills this spring limiting drone aircraft.

In these cases and others, GOP libertarians fought mainstream, business- and compromise-oriented Republicans in an effort to promote their views.

“It’s animosity towards government,” said Jim Staab, a University of Central Missouri political science professor.

Libertarian movements aren’t new, of course. In the 1970s and again in the 1990s, many small-government conservatives drifted toward the libertarian approach whenever they believed GOP positions had drifted too far to the middle.

But the current libertarian moment may be getting a unique boost from younger politicians and voters. They’re blending socially tolerant views on same-sex marriage and drug use, experts said, with the anti-authoritarian ethos of the online generation to embrace a libertarian world view.

“They came of age in a very different world than their parents,” said longtime GOP consultant Jeff Roe, who called libertarians a “significant” force in the Republican party.

Al Terwelp, chairman of the Kansas Libertarian Party, said libertarians have changed.

“Fifteen years ago, (we were) a bunch of middle-aged white guys debating philosophy,” Terwelp said. “That has significantly changed. … There are lots and lots of young people.”

Even with support from younger voters, though, it isn’t clear if the current libertarian moment can last.

In 2010, the tea party movement made a similar anti-government case, only to watch its influence dwindle following internal arguments over tactics and commitment to the cause.

And libertarians may soon face a similar choice between ideological purity and a message aimed at a broader audience, some said.

“In the past, there have been libertarians who have said you can’t be a libertarian because you’re not libertarian enough,” Terwelp said. “We have been working on that. … (But) we’re not changing our principles.”

Indeed, libertarians can sometimes stumble over the full implications of their agenda.

The Libertarian party platform, for example, says abortion should be left to “each person for their conscientious consideration.”

That’s a bridge too far for many current GOP libertarians like Paul, Cruz and Huelskamp, who consider themselves strongly pro-life. Their views on same-sex marriage and recreational drugs are also nuanced.

Broadening libertarianism to include traditionally conservative views on social issues could draw more regular Republicans into the anti-government effort. At the same time, classic libertarians might be lost.

“The libertarian perspective is politically homeless,” said Cato’s Brink Lindsey. “It doesn’t fit left or right. Republican Party or Democratic Party … if it pushes too hard, it gets pushed back.”

The entire column can be found here.

The article continues delving into the usual Libertarian vs. ‘Pub divisions. Yes, there are some. Some of those divisions are not negotiable, like abortion. Libertarians accuse the ‘Pubs of wanting Big Government because of those differences while ‘Pubs accuse the Libertarians, rightly in my opinion, in being too rigid in their doctrine. It is doctrinal difference as strong and divisive as doctrinal divisions between religious dominations.

There is also a significant amount of truth in this column. The grass roots of the Republican Party is turning more and more “libertarian.” The libertarianism with a small “l”. Most of that shift is being driven by the slide of the GOP establishment to big government solutions, like increasing the SNAP program (food stamps,) amnesty for illegal aliens, ignoring the abuses of constitutional rights by the FBI and federal agencies, not least from the NSA.

The second item was an article that appeared in the Red State newsletter this morning.

The Establishment vs. The People

This year’s RedState Gathering was a wonderful event. There was, however, one interesting moment with a guy from the National Republican Senatorial Committee worth sharing.

Friday afternoon as I was trying to make my way to Governor Jindal’s reception, the guy from the NRSC stopped me and very derisively asked if I was going to support anyone other than challengers to incumbents. He went so far as to claim I must be making money to support challengers against incumbents and let me know RedState would be blamed if the GOP did not take back the majority.

What was most fascinating, however, was that he demanded I name candidates RedState supports in states without incumbents as proof RedState does not somehow get paid to push challengers. I mentioned Larry Rhoden in South Dakota, at which point he started bad mouthing State Senator Rhoden and revealing NRSC opposition research on Senator Rhoden.

I also mentioned Dr. Greg Brannon in North Carolina, but he was dismissive of him too.

This all comes as multiple friends of this site, in conversations with me, told me the National Republican Senatorial Committee contacted them to do negative stories about the Madison Project — a conservative group I am a big supporter of. Why? Because the Madison Project endorsed Matt Bevin in Kentucky against Senator Mitch McConnell. Full disclosure: the Madison Project’s Daniel Horowitz is a RedState contributor, which is why these friends reached out to give me a heads up.

So let’s recap — the NRSC is pushing hit jobs against conservative organizations who don’t support their incumbents in primaries. They are claiming conservatives who don’t support their candidates are getting paid to do so. They demand to know who conservatives support in open races then bashing those candidates.

And they call this outreach.

Friends, this is exactly why we have the RedState Gathering. You’d never have the opportunity to hear for yourselves people like Matt Bevin, Bryan Smith, Rob Maness, Art Halvorson, and Larry Rhoden if the NRSC and its establishment friends had anything to do with it.

Each year we do the RedState Gathering and I invite the speakers and I approve the sponsors. We returned money for some politicians who thought they could buy their way into the Gathering to get a platform. We refused large sponsorships from various Republicans because we did not want to be associated with them. We aren’t CPAC and work hard to present people we either fully support or are interested in supporting.

It is a sad commentary on the part of anyone at the NRSC that they would see RedState turning down money and then claim we are getting paid to do what we do. I would submit that is more a reflection on them than us and it is also a reason why we must commit to growing the RedState Gathering every year so the grassroots can experience authentically conservative candidates outside the world of the establishment and the coin operated portions of the movement.

Lastly — should you see any conservative outlets attacking groups like the Madison Project or Heritage Action for America or Club for Growth or others, it is probably a clear sign these outlets are on the side of the incumbent establishment leaders who’ve been complicit in getting us to $17 trillion in national debt, but think the only problem with government is Democrats in charge of it.

 The split between the GOP establishment and those outside Washington continues to grow. It’s not a question if the split in the party occurs, but when.

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