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We Had to Destroy the Party to Save It
Posted by: Jon Henke on Wednesday, February 23, 2005

From a tangent of an email discussion I'm having with Bill from INDC Journal....
Before the 1950s, there were no conservatives. There were traditionalists and libertarians who opposed the dominant welfare state liberal ideology, and there were Republicans who were "do it slower-than-the Democrats,” moderates. -- Dr. Donald J DeVine
It's not terribly obvious now, because the GOP controls the Executive and Legislative branches, and the temptation to bicker is restrained, but within a few years the GOP will experience a struggle for the soul of the Party. A struggle similar to that which the Democratic Party is experiencing -- between their Progressives, Moderates, Greens, etc -- now that they are consigned to the sidelines in Washington.

But, for the Republicans, this too shall pass, and -- after their gluttony of power -- Republicans will have to ask themselves "whither our Party?" 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)

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.

And the social conservatives, because they are organized and vote en bloc, wield a great deal of power within the GOP.

No single ideology can win on the national stage, so the neolibertarians are going to have to form an alliance with what centrists and fiscal conservatives can be broken away from the social conservatives in order to win the power struggle within the GOP.

The price of failure will be the end of libertarianism as an important constituency in US politics.

There is a lesson, I think, in Disraeli's takeover of the conservative
Party (the Tories) in the 19th Century.



Benjamin Disraeli used the protectionist Corn Laws -- even though he privately disagreed with the political position he took, upending it later -- to split the Tory Party and reinvent it in, so to speak, his own image. Only after gaining power was he was able create coalitions that reflected his own philosophy.

The GOP needs their Disraeli. Somebody who will tell the GOP leadership "Ay, sir, and though I sit down now, the time will come when you will hear me!"

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.

UPDATE: Bill weighs in, noting that the belligerency of the social conservatives -- as exemplified by the execrable Ann Coulter -- will run off a lot of the moderates, too.

He also links to this Ryan Sager piece, which is worth a read.

Needless to say, triumphalism permeated the proceedings. The Republicans, having just held the presidency and consolidated power in Congress, are perhaps entitled to some gloating. But out-and-out arrogance was the order of the conference, as well, and that is what threatens to undo Republican gains in the long term.

Arrogance toward Democrats isn't the problem ...

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.

[...]

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. [...] Conservatism can't survive by religious extremism and tax cuts alone.
In the meantime, what to do about it? I don't see a whole lot of libertarians doing the work of building the coalition.
 
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Comments
Take heart though. There might be more people like me - Social conservatives who would rather see the conservation done by free association rather than governmental intrusion.

It's very similar to why I support the separation of church as state as a religious person - I don't want the Guv't telling me what church I can or cannot attend. It is in this way I do not want Uncle Sam to tell me what is moral and what is not. That is for me to decide, thank you.

Then again, I have a very difficult time aligning with anyone, it seems. My ideas appear to be a bit whacky, sometimes...
 
Written By: Sharp as a Marble
URL: http://sharpmarbles.stufftoread.com
Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. How many times must this lesson be taught, learned, absorbed, profited from? Adding "neo" to the labels changes nothing. To successfully play the game - admittedly not beanbag - requires only the articulation of truly-held principles and then stubborn adherence to them. The principles need, at every turn, to be based upon some variant of the golden rule. How complicated is that?

e-man
 
Written By: Everyman
URL: http://www.e-manonline.com/blog.php
It's not terribly complicated, but it's not terribly effective, either. See: The Libertarian Party.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
But the GOP does not define itself by what it is, but by what it is not.

The GOP owns the three branches of the federal government. If you believe the rhetoric of the GOP, the counry is sliding inexorably toward conservatism. (Whatever that is.) In effect, the GOP is taking over the country.

Increasingly, however, the rhetoric on the right is increasingly hateful. The mainstream spokespersons on the right increasingly use terms like "traitor" and "un-American" to describe the largely disenfranchised left. Hannity - who has literally millions of viewers, uses this vernacular regularly.

Digby has noticed and wondered:


I do not think that the majority of Republicans have partaken of this poisonous fruit. They do not believe that the Democratic Party is "engaged in an effort that is a betrayal of America." Clearly, they do not think this in the US Congress, even though the comity that once reigned has been snuffed. They know that the people they see every day are not traitors even if they hate their politics. They understand that the Democratic party disagrees with the Republicans as a matter of policy and philosophy but that we are all Americans and under the constitution dissent is protected in order to have a thriving, open democracy.

But the right wing echo chamber is increasingly made up of voices that sound both this "reasonable" and this crazy. The more people listen to talk radio and watch FoxNews and read wingnut blogs exclusively the more they are going to see the world this way. It's extremely dangerous.

What continues to fascinate me is that this sense of frustration seems to be growing despite the fact that the Democrats have less power than they've ever had before. TBOGG links to Hinderocket responding to a home state blogger's rather benign questioning on the Gannon matter with this:


You dumb shit, he didn't get access using a fake name, he used his real name. You lefties' concern for White House security is really touching, but you know what, you stupid asshole, I think the Secret Service has it covered. Go crawl back into your hole, you stupid left-wing shithead. And don't bother us anymore. You have to have an IQ over 50 to correspond with us. You don't qualify, you stupid shit.


Like I said before, there is something very strange going on in rightwingland. The more power they have the madder they get. Any psychologists out there care to weigh in on this strange psychosis?


My theory is the differences you identify, John, are coming to the surface. And as they become more pronounced, so does the hate speech directed toward the politics of the left. In other words, rather than defining what the GOP is, those on the right are attempting definie itself by what it is not. The Right needs to gloss over the differences within the party by uniting the party against the left. And as the GOP becomes more powerful and the differences of its coaltiion more apparent, this becomes more difficult, as it does for any coalition in power. As the power of the GOP grows, the level, intensity and tone of scorn toward the left must accordingly increase. The GOP must define itself by what it is not. ("While we have our differences, at least we aren't a bunch of traitors like Hillary and Ted. Those un-American bastards. Why don't they just crawl back into the spider hole with Saddam and Osama because we all know they hate America.")

There are two possible outcomes: The hate increases and becomes literally manifest, or the coalition implodes. It will be interesting and very f***ing scary to watch.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
When it comes to hate, the right certainly could learn a few tricks from the left.

Interesting that you publish that letter from hindraker. Off course, you know that your side has been sending unending vile hate mail to him and calling his work and swearing at his secretary, don't you? Amazing that he was so restrained. If you and your ilk had called me at my home and place of work and swore at my employees and family, I would have responded a little more strongly. His appology showed far more class than any of you riff-raff were ever born with.

Obviously you approve of this sort of thing.

While we are at it are you one of the people who sends michelle malkin email and comments like this:

Maybe what Magalangadingdong is really hoping for is that she'll get tossed in a camp and get to live out her "Comfort Woman" fantasy that she works hard to keep under lock and key at all times . . ..
Big Daddy Mars | Email | Homepage | 02.04.05 - 7:45 am | #

Malkin's a whore regardless what race she was born. She'd serve any Dark Lord as long as they paid her.
Big Daddy Mars | Email | Homepage | 02.04.05 - 7:52 am | #

You're a filthy whore.



So do you approve of this too? hmmm.

Yep, we could definitely learn a few thing about hate from your side. You seem to know all the really disgusting tactics.

Both Kos and Atrios seem never to think about how far something like this could go. Let's say, Glenn says something in his mild sort of way that pisses off Atrios. So Atrios tell his girls and boys to let loose (as usual). Will that phrase be "Will someone rid me of this troublesome priest". Then what happens? Will a tragedy be the wakeup call for it? Somehow I don't think so.

The more scary thing is if you sons of something ever get the power to do what you want.
 
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
oh yeah, and tbogg who you link to so appreciatively is one of the commentors who engaged in the atrios commentary rape fantasy of michelle malkin.

So forgive if I say who cares what he thinks. I am in awe of the degree of cognitive dissonance (yes, I have said this before) of a class of people who can talk about a woman in this manner and then point to a guy they goaded into a slightly distemperate remark that seems quite justified.

POT meet you much darker cousin.

hypocrite.
 
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
The arrogance of libertarian types never surprises me. The political naivete is always funny, however.

You folks don't realize that limited government is dead. The idea of cutting gov't is a non-starter.

More than likely, it will be fiscally moderate social conservatives who will dominate the GOP because their values line up more with the American people.

Americans are fiscally moderate and basically conservative socially. Extremist small-government types fail in almost every race they run in because no one wants to vote for someone who will vote against free stuff.

Everyone is a small-government person in the abstract but no one is when it comes to something they like. This is why no party will ever be able to significantly shrink the size or role of the federal government.
 
Written By: Dead Parrot
URL: http://
wow, extremists, us??

so what got you here from your pining for the norwegian fjords?
 
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
Increasingly, however, the rhetoric on the right is increasingly hateful.
I think that what you're observing there is commonly called "politics", and your assumption that it is relegated to, or primarily on, one side of the aisle is just laugh-out-loud stupid.

Exhibit A: your new Party chairman, who openly declares his hatred of Republicans, and who says Republicans believe in book=burning.

Exhibit B: while much of the primary campaign consisted of Democrats accusing the Bush administration of questioning their patriotism, the only actual "patriotism-questioning" came from Howard Dean, and Wesley Clarke...both of whom openly called members of the administration unpatriotic/unamerican.

I don't mind you criticizing the Republicans, but please....try to do so in ways relevant to the discussion. You're welcome to comment here -- and I appreciate your presence -- but the comment sections at QandO are not free-form, stream of consciousness forums for random complaints.


"the largely disenfranchised left."
You use the word "disenfranchised". I do not think it means what you think it means.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
You folks don't realize that limited government is dead. The idea of cutting gov't is a non-starter.
Actually, I wrote about that very topic recently. I think you'll find that post very much in line with the sentiments you express here.

I don't really think we'll be able to shrink the size of government at all in the short term. In the long term, the only possibility for such an outcome is an incremental reframing of the debate, with a focus on the power of the free market and alternative solutions.

Essentially, we have to get people to think about government in a whole different way. I don't think that's entirely probable, but I'm not sure it's impossible, either. In any event, trying -- even if unsuccessfully -- will have positive effects.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net

Essentially, we have to get people to think about government in a whole different way. I don't think that's entirely probable, but I'm not sure it's impossible, either. In any event, trying -- even if unsuccessfully -- will have positive effects.


The best (from your pov) that can be achieved is that you'll get a big government that allows people some flexibility in whether or not they want to participate in the welfare state. Most people like it. I personally have no problem with it.

Most Americans share my opinion, the Reagan Democrats and the social conservatives who don't care about economics are the biggest voting bloc in this country. I'm a Reagan Democrat.

As for Pat Robertson, hardly anyone takes him seriously so there really is no danger of him taking anything over.

Meant to say in my initial comment: Ryan Sager is arrogant, naive, and hypocritical to assume that by going to a conservative conference he'd somehow find a place where he could heap scorn on those he disagrees with just as was done to his set. It's ironic hearing him whine about the content of a conference that he had to go to far more effort to attend than simply turning on the television.

If he wants to have a conference where he and those who agree with him can bash those they hate, they should start their own Libertarian Whining Conference.
 
Written By: Dead Parrot
URL: http://
The best (from your pov) that can be achieved is that you'll get a big government that allows people some flexibility in whether or not they want to participate in the welfare state. Most people like it. I personally have no problem with it.
Or, alternately, that the existing "welfare state" is made as market-friendly as possible. This, I'd note, is the central idea of the neoconservative tendency in domestic policy.

As for Pat Robertson, hardly anyone takes him seriously so there really is no danger of him taking anything over.
I'm not worried about him taking over. But he represents a large, influential bloc of people. As an individual, he's not important. As a representative of an influential voting bloc, he's a significant player.

Ryan Sager is arrogant, naive, and hypocritical to assume that by going to a conservative conference he'd somehow find a place where he could heap scorn on those he disagrees with just as was done to his set.
I'm afraid I don't get your point here. Where did he express a wish to attend the conference in order to heap scorn? Why is it bad to express dissatisfaction at the fact that the Republican party is becoming more and more dismissive of the libertarians?
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.qando.net/Default.aspx?tabid=38
I'm not worried about him taking over. But he represents a large, influential bloc of people. As an individual, he's not important. As a representative of an influential voting bloc, he's a significant player.


Jon,
I really wonder sometimes about the use of Robertson and Falwell as 'represent(ing) a large, influential bloc of people', as being a member on one of the larger churches in the SBC, these 2 are not even on the radar, and few of the church-folk I come across in Christian circles pay them any mind or agree with much of what they spout. Just because they are the squeaky wheel, does not mean they are the drive wheel.

 
Written By: Crusader
URL: http://www.coalitionoftheswilling.net/
Crusader: when I say "he represents a large, influential bloc of people", I don't mean that the large, influential bloc of people follow his marching orders. I simply mean that Falwell/Robertson are representative of a large, influential bloc of voters. Because they are the most vocal, they get name-checked.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Crusader: when I say "he represents a large, influential bloc of people", I don't mean that the large, influential bloc of people follow his marching orders. I simply mean that Falwell/Robertson are representative of a large, influential bloc of voters. Because they are the most vocal, they get name-checked.


But you missed my point Jon. As one of the evil Christians who desire a theocracy (at least from how we get painted, that seems to be what people think), they are not 'representative of a large, influential bloc of voters'. But people insist that they are, few of which seem to have a clue what most Evangelical Christians think/believe. They represent a minority.
 
Written By: Crusader
URL: http://www.coalitionoftheswilling.net/
Crusader is correct. Very few actual christian conservatives even like Falwell, Robertson, Dobson, et all. They don't represent most of us, people just think they do because they are looking from the outside. This is why they still wield power now, but won't for much longer. At best, they basically represent their generation of Evangelicals, which is getting conspicuously older by the day.

As for the great divide between social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and neo-libertarians, I don't think it is as major as you do. Frankly as soon as the conservatives start losing power, the socials will start crying for limited government just like the moderate Democrats are doing right now. The far-sighted among us are crying for it now, because we know that day is coming.

I think the key to a long stay at the top will be framing the discussion as one where these social issues are fought about outside of the capitol building.
 
Written By: Jeff the Baptist
URL: http://jeffthebaptist.blogspot.com
Parrott - I'm sort of with you on the Sager article. The GOP is not a libertarian party. GOP policy and libertarian principle rarely intersect in theory and almost never in practice. If you take 'The world's Smallest Political Test' social conservative takes you out of th libertarian sector. I'm not sure what Sager expects from a CPAC convention.

Smaller, less intrusive gov't is an ideal but I disagree that gains can't be made towards it and I disagree that nobody wants 'their' programs cut. I really don't have a program, I'm a contributor. I think there's a significant portion of the country that can't be bought off with gov't programs and if you look at the demographics that group is probably growing. I think this is a big part of the growing Dem irrelevance in that the cost of gov't programs is going to become so prohibitive that their appeal will wane. I can only hope so.
 
Written By: Jack Tanner
URL: http://
Capt. Joe: The correct format for your link above should be this: Duncan B. Black.

My comments about the immigration-related section of Sager's comments are in Tamar Jacoby, CPAC, immigration, and not yet clued-in bloggers.
 
Written By: The Lonewacko Blog
URL: http://lonewacko.com
But you missed my point Jon. ... they are not 'representative of a large, influential bloc of voters'.
We disagree. I think that may be due to our perspective on what constitutes "representative of". I see them as representative of the school prayer, Roy Moore, abortion and anti-homosexual movements. (to name a few) Their views may not match that of many social conservatives, but there seems to be a real crop of "traditional values" social conservatives, who--if not in agreement with Falwell/Robertson on every point--are coming from roughly the same place.

Further, their "moral majority" may, in fact, represent a minority, but it's a very active, influential minority.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.qando.net/Default.aspx?tabid=38
This article makes a really good point. So why are so few Republicans interested in protecting the integrity of the vote? If the faction in power takes over control of electronic voting machines, then coalitions will not matter. Anyone who argues against retaining paper ballots has to be doing so with a wink and a nod - so how many of you expect to be in the winner’s circle?
 
Written By: SKH
URL: http://
You raise good questions for the GOP.  I agree with the alliances that should be made.  In my opinion, the Leviticus Crowd needs to be marginalized in the Republican Party - they are political poison. 

In Minnesota the chief Leviticus Crowd politician is Michele Bachmann - I have a blog about her at:  http://dumpbachmann.blogspot.com - if she gets elected to congress, she will be another Marilyn Musgrave. 
 
Written By: Eva Young
URL: http://lloydletta.blogspot.com
Much as, while they pay lip service to their more moderate factions, the Democratic Party by and large has been captured and is run by the ultra-liberal faction, and will continue to be so (and which will wield the dominant position when shaping Party platform, polciy, direction, etc...) so, sadly- it appears it shall be w/ the GOP, w/ the social conservatives wielding that same power, even as they pay "lip service" to other factions (see: the 2004 GOP Convention.)

I don’t know where limited government types are to turn at this point. The high hopes from ’00- with, at last, GOP control of the White House and Congress and the, at that time, prospects for true smaller government- having long since been dashed by the spendthrift and civil liberties trampling acts of much of the GOP (and their Dem peers.) The LP is no option- they have never shown capable of offering a credible plan for governance, and their messengers often being more off-putting than their inability to accept incremental progress toward a more small-l libertarian government.
 
Written By: Vito
URL: http://

 
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