May 9, 2013

Hey Conservatives, Libertarians and Republicans - what Rodney King said

Granted, I'm a little behind in posting this week.  I've been busy but I have time for a quick post .  I was reading through the comments on my most recent post on Left Coast Rebel.  One comment short caught my eye, and it made me think about conservatism, libertarianism and the future of the Republican Party and the Tea Party.  That's the sign of a great, thought-provoking comment.

How delusional that she thinks we are republicans, too. Ha!

While my thoughts ran on several different tangents that are worth sharing, I'd like to focus on just one for now.  

I have much more in common with a lot of Tea Party groups than current Republican leadership.  But the Tea Party is too amorphous and fluid to include in this discussion properly.   So I will focus on conservatives, libertarians and how they relate to the current Republican party.  

I'm probably more aligned with the most of the folks at LCR philosophically than politically. More precisely, we have very common beliefs when it comes to things like the economy, limited government and individual liberty, but we part ways somewhat when it comes to the means necessary to achieve those ends. Let me explain why.

Firstly, I adhere pretty forcefully to the notion that a person can love the ideals and principles that America's founding fathers established the nation upon while at the same time vehemently opposing the direction the current government is taking.  I suspect no one will argue that is an unreasonable proposition - even if you do not agree with my opinions about the current government.  If that is fair, then it is also fair to say that it is possible to like the premise of the modern Republican party (in the tradition of Reagan and Goldwater, the litany of principles which I will also save for another time) while not agreeing with the current Republican leadership.

In other words, I like the Republican Party, I do not like the Republican leadership.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm not a Republican.  I'm a Canadian (and unlike liberal Democrat ineligible voters, I don't vote in U.S. elections). But as a Canadian I have a unique perspective on what damage is caused by a split conservative electorate. In 1987 in Canada, a populist conservative party sprang up in the west as conservative voters had become disaffected by the more liberal wing of the Conservative party that had dominated the party and politics for a few election. Our Prime Minister at the time, Brian Mulroney was about as popular as a second term George W. Bush.  The conservative party was ripe for a clobbering and in fact they got one in the next election (1993).

But with a split in the conservative constituency between two conservative parties, the conservative viewpoint was left in the wilderness until 2006.  In 2006 the conservatives finally won a narrow minority government once again, but only after a unification of the two parties in 2003 when they realized that the parties had split resources and expended efforts fighting each other in conservative ridings (districts) instead of focusing their efforts on the common political opponents - the Liberals and the socialist New Democrats (who as often as not, worked together).

The point is that a split conservative, libertarian and Republican  constituency is an ineffectual one.  It is something that will keep both conservative and libertarian views from having a seat at the table as long as that split exists.  We have to subvert the 10% to 20% of areas upon which we disagree in order to avoid having the 80% to 90% of things we agree upon subverted by president Obama and potential president Hillary Clinton *shudder*.  

Subverting those disagreements does not mean forgetting them forever.  It means those issues get put on the back burner until the general public can be paradigm-shifted to the right.  Then the time for those issues will be plausible as the 'in-fighting' will not estrange voters from conservative/libertarian philosophy.   Canada again provides an example.

After years in the wilderness the Conservative Party in Canada has been forced to move the nation to the right in slow motion. As I offered to Ed Morrissey as a counter-argument on Hot Air in 2011,
The conservative party of Canada is far less of a center-left party than you suggest. While it is not currently conservative in the sense of American conservatism, it’s still a center-right party. The way it governs is affected by the country as a whole. The conservative government is hampered by decades of liberalism and socialism, so moving the country back to the right will take considerable time. The country fears conservatives as being radicals and Prime Minister Harper has had to temper his lower taxes, stronger national defense, pro-business views to suit what is still a center-left country that is slowly testing the waters with a conservative government (three elections later). 
Harper’s prudence isn’t as exciting as Reagan or Thatcher in a full on charge to the right, but it’s the smartest approach in a country ready to run back to the liberals at what it regards as the slightest hint of radical conservatism. If we are to get to a center-right nation, we unfortunately have to do it slowly. 
Other than that, glad as always that you are paying attention to what’s going on up here.
In the end, Ed Morrissey agreed that prudence was necessary. I'm still flattered that he even noticed my comment.

What that means for the case of the U.S., is that the longer conservatives spend out of power, the harder it will be to move the country back to the right.  Combine that with the notion of a Tea Party or a Libertarian party or a Constitution party 3rd option, it means a split vote and a guaranteed loss.  The path of most likely success is for conservatives and libertarians to work within the Republican party than without it. Fix it, don't dispose of it.  That's why I supported Mitt Romney in 2012 even though he was not my third or even fourth choice during the GOP primaries (I put him ahead of only Huntsman). That's my opinion based on what I've seen here in Canada and how dark it got for conservatives for almost twenty years.

Perhaps that also points out a difference between Americans and Canadians.  Americans think big and they want to hit a grand slam home run and switch the nation back onto the path of liberty and limited government in one fell swoop.  Canadians, continuing the baseball analogy are perhaps more conservative cautious and willing to play station-to-station baseball, winning one single, walk, stolen base or double at a time. That explains why Canada is moving to the right slowly and probably also explains my thinking that it's more of a recipe for success than striking out trying for the grand slam.  Of course, grand slams are entirely possible.  Ronald Reagan was a grand slam. I'd like to believe that it's still possible but given how far down the path of entitlement, environmental, class warfare and the dumbing-down of the populace path America has traveled, I'm not sure that it is any longer anything more than a fairy tale.

Up until president Obama, the left was content with a slow roll towards socialism and it was successful.  The speed with which progressive liberals are pushing forward now is out in the open.  While Obama won yet again in 2012, a backlash is coming and they will pay for their brazenly socialistic pursuits in votes.  But that is only true if the opposition isn't split. Divide and conquer works. Unity within the right is needed now more than ever.

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