Ron Paul’s Legacy and Libertarian Republicans

by Stephen H. Miller on August 26, 2012

The New York Times considers the future of Ron Paul-inspired pro-liberty Republicans:

The purity of the movement’s principles has long left it in self-imposed isolation. The minimalist role it envisions for government repels a vast majority of Democrats; its noninterventionist foreign policy and live-and-let-live social views repel most Republicans. . . .

Simple generational change could give the movement a boost in elections to come. Younger voters of all stripes display increasing tolerance on social issues like same-sex marriage; the fiscal conservatives among them will fit into the libertarian camp far more easily than older, conservative Christian Republicans. In New Hampshire [where Paul placed second to Romney], for instance, Mr. Paul drew half his votes from people under 45. Three-fourths of Mr. Romney’s votes came from people 45 and older.

No one is saying it won’t be a challenge, but the fight must be engaged. Simply working to elect big-government Democrats whose agenda is pro-gay but promises a menu of ever-increasing bureaucratic statism means that gay legal equality gets forever tagged as part of anti-liberty leftism.

Paul wasn’t right on everything, but he opposed the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment, calling it a “very bad idea,” and voted to end “don’t ask, don’t tell,” citing his conversations with gay veterans. More on Ron Paul and marriage equality, here and here.

More. From the Washington Times, “Paul forecasts a libertarian storm brewing.” Ron Paul bids farewell to his supporters, telling them that the cause of liberty is bigger than any convention or election:

“We will get into the ‘[Republican] tent, believe me,” he said. “Because we will become the tent, eventually.”

But Paul-style libertarians (unlike many tea party activists) are at ideological odds with big government social conservatives, and many say they will not vote for Romney (or Obama). The only way they can “become the tent” is if the theocratic right diminishes.

Furthermore. Michael Barone observes: “conservative stands on cultural issues have repelled affluent suburbanites, particularly unmarried women…. (Republicans) need to add votes from other groups to win. White noncollege voters and white evangelical Christians were only 42% and 37%, respectively, of the winning Republican coalition in the 2010 congressional elections.”

{ 11 comments }

Tom Scharbach August 26, 2012 at 4:27 pm

… bureaucratic statism … anti-liberty leftism …

I just love Libertarian-Speak. It resembles plain English.

No one is saying it won’t be a challenge, but the fight must be engaged.

So are you going to actually engage, Stephen? Are you going to get active in the Republican Party and try to turn it around? How?

esurience August 27, 2012 at 3:32 am

It’s rather disingenuous to put the adjective “Big-Government” in front of Democrats, implying that Republicans are any different.

Government grows no matter what party is in control, but at least Democrats believe in paying for it, whereas Republicans engage in deficit-spending.

RedRabbit August 27, 2012 at 3:39 pm

I don’t really agree with the Ron Paul crowd on a whole lot of issues, but I do think they would be an improvement over the current GOP platform.

Still, I don’t see much evidence that they’ve really had much of an impact. On all the big issues that they care about (the drug war, foreign policy realism, various types of personal freedom, etc.) the GOP still seems to hold positions more or less identical to those they held during the Bush years. The most devoted members of the GOP base don’t seem like they have become any more receptive to Ron Paul’s message than they were in 2008.

JohnInCA August 27, 2012 at 9:02 pm

… IIRC, the exit-polls from 2008 showed that McCain got somewhere around 20-30% of gay voters (maybe higher? I can’t recall clearly). I’ve seen polls now showing that Romney is expected to get somewhere around 30% of gay votes.

So here’s a question… with those kinds of numbers, why aren’t there any Gay Republican groups that actually *do* something? If Gay Republicans feel their voice isn’t being heard (either among gays or among Republicans) then it’s because they aren’t talking.

So again… please stop whining that gay Democrats aren’t doing more to make the Republicans more gay friendly. By the polls you have the numbers already. So if you’re missing the drive… that’s not something gay Democrats are going to fix.

Carl August 28, 2012 at 11:43 am

Is this going to be a libertarian like Rand Paul, who opposes seemingly all legislation which isn’t anti-gay and who makes jokes about how gay Obama is?

Houndentenor August 30, 2012 at 9:43 am

He was more likely thinking of the Gary Johnson variety of Libertarian. You can see how much traction he got in the GOP primaries in spite of being well prepared and articulate in the debates. Republicans heard from him and rejected his platform. It’s time for Libertarians to stop pretending that the GOP is a Libertarian party.

Tom Scharbach August 30, 2012 at 9:50 am

The only way they can “become the tent” is if the theocratic right diminishes.

Or, alternatively, if libertarian-minded Republicans and other socially moderate Republicans increase their power within the party by doing what the social conservatives have done since the 1980′s — organize at country, state and federal levels.

I can’t speak for the country as a whole, but I watched the “theocratic right” take over the Republican party in Iowa and Wisconsin. The “theocratic right” gained power, little by slowly, by building their base within the party.

The Republican establishment didn’t fight back at the ground level, and were outworked and out-organized. It took almost thirty years, but I think that it is fair to say that the “theocratic right” took power the old-fashioned way — they earned it.

The “theocratic right” is now firmly entrenched, as is evident from the 2012 Republican Platform. It is going to take more than money and talk to “diminish” their power in the party.

As I look at the Republican landscape, I think that the best opportunities to start turning the party around are in the northeast, where something of a moderate Republican base still exists, and in the non-Mormon mountain states, where a strong “live and let live” ethic still pervades, and in pockets of the Midwest, like Illinois.

If those areas can be turned, then the rational folks within the Republican Party will have a beachhead from which to start working on the “hopeless” areas of the Republican geography — the Deep South, Texas, the Mormon mountain states, and the Republicans-gone-crazy states of the Midwest like Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin.

I’m not saying that this is going to be simple, but it can be done.

Tom Scharbach August 30, 2012 at 12:40 pm

By the way, when I said “it can be done” above, I am making two assumptions that might or might not be correct:

(1) Romney-Ryan will not win this November. If Romney-Ryan win, the Republican Party will be locked into social conservative mode for a minimum of eight years. Romney may be “flexible” (a much nicer word that “unprincipled”) on social issues, but Ryan is a hard-core social conservative.

(2) Social moderates, libertarian-minded Republicans, and “live and left live” Republicans in the non-Mormon mountain states will be able to work to increase their respective power base within the party independently, but in tandem on social issues.

This might be tricky, because the three groups are not aligned on other issues. The social moderates in the northeast and states like Illinois tend to believe that government should have a broader scope than the libertarian-minded Republicans, and the “live and let live” Republicans in the non-Mormon mountain states are quirky about when government has a role and when it does not than the other two groups. None are fueled by the incoherent rage of many Tea Party advocates, who would destroy government if they could, but the three groups don’t see eye to eye, either.

Each of the three groups will have to allow the others to increase their power within the party without igniting a death-to-the-finish war on economic issues and different visions of the role of government. Instead, each will have to compromise and accommodate the legitimate interests of the others.

Whether that is possible in the current slash-and-burn environment of the Republican Party (fueled both by Tea Party anger and social conservative desperation), I don’t know.

Houndentenor August 30, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Karl Rove made the calculation in 2004 that there just weren’t that many GOP voters who cared enough about gay rights to change their vote for it to matter. Anti-gay rhetoric pleased the base and all the Republicans who claim they disagree are either lying or just don’t care what happens to their gay friends so long as they get their tax cut. I doubt that math has changed much. Of all the coalitions mentioned, none of them are willing to walk away over this issue and so nothing changes in terms of GOP platforms or policy. Good luck fighting for your rights once the courts are stacked with Scalia wannabes.

Tom Scharbach August 30, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Good luck fighting for your rights once the courts are stacked with Scalia wannabes.

As I see things, the Court has played a critical role in moving the “arch of history toward justice” — Brown v. Board and so on — and an equally critical role in protecting individual liberty — Griswold and progeny — from government over reach.

It seems likely that the next President will appoint two justices, the Republican platform (and Romney’s NOM pledge) commits Romney to appointing “original intent” justices and judges, and that won’t do.

I wouldn’t vote for the Republican ticket on that ground, period.

Tom Scharbach August 30, 2012 at 7:06 pm

I doubt that math has changed much. Of all the coalitions mentioned, none of them are willing to walk away over this issue and so nothing changes in terms of GOP platforms or policy.

I don’t think that change will be quick or easy. After all, it took many years to bring my party to the point where it is today. Even with the relatively rapid pace of change in the country, I think that it will take two more presidential elections cycles to turn the Republican Party, and possibly three or four.

And to be real blunt, at age 65 I don’t think that I will live to see the day when the Republican Party will embrace equality for LGBT citizens as a civil rights issue, as the Democratic Party has done, or a priority, as increasing number of Democrats are beginning to do.

But I think that there is a real chance that the social conservatives can be neutralized in two or three president election cycles, to the point that they no longer control the Republican primary process.

That small step is all we will need to have to pick up the Republican legislative votes we need to keep moving forward, once our struggle moves from the blue states to the red states.

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