Monday, November 10, 2008

Republican Postmortem

When Reagan was elected president in 1980, he put together a coalition of (for want of better terms) Christian fundamentalists, economic libertarians, and national-security conservatives. A future Republican electoral success cannot pretend the economic libertarian leg of this coalition does not exist.

The current president, because of the Iraq War, because of his tax policies, and because he successfully energized social conservatives by invoking their fear and contempt for homosexuals, managed an electoral success in 2004, a success that unraveled in 2006 with the Democratic victory in the House and Senate, largely over Bush's grotesque incompetence in executing the War, although Bush's extravagant and irresponsible spending policies and the political corruption of so many Republican politicians played a role.

Libertarians in this coalition had no candidate in the 2008 election. As a libertarian myself I still pulled the lever for McCain, but that was simply a vote against Obama. Why? It was virtually impossible to make a positive intellectual case for McCain. McCain knows nothing of economics it seems and he apparently feels embarrassed by social conservatives. Frankly, I am impressed that he received as many votes as he did.

McCain and the Republicans actually lost the tax issue to the Democrats in 2008, having ceded it to Obama's now famous "95% tax cut" rhetoric.

As a libertarian I come to the issues that energize social conservatives from a different point of view than they.

I seek limited government and quite frankly I could care less what anybody does in the bedroom or what they do with their bodies. Individual human beings, in my thinking, "own" their own bodies and lives and should have their natural rights recognized and respected by the law.

Unfortunately, on such issues as a woman's right to choose, the right of individuals to form a marriage contract, and the right to consume whatever they wish in the nature of foods, medicines, drugs, etc., are subjects about which social conservatives and libertarians will disagree profoundly.

As a libertarian I ask myself how could I possibly ally myself with people who believe they have moral right to deprive me of my right to life, that is, my right to live my life the way I want to, so long as I respect the equal rights of others?

Let's be clear. The only reason to do so is because the collectivists on the Left are even worse in their disrespect for individual rights than are the social conservatives on the Right.

Social conservatives, if they value their economic freedom and want to have a chance at future electoral victory, might consider showing a little more respect for the economic libertarians that made up the original Reagan coalition.

On the other hand, it is possible libertarians may be able to forge some sort of coalition with voters who have voted Democratic in recent elections but who have no stomach for socialism.

Until and unless social conservatives realize that the libertarian leg is as disgusted with religion-based governmental intervention into a person's most personal and private life, as they are with the libertarian commitment to individualism, the Republican Party will not be able to reclaim Reagan's authority and Reagan's active belief that the only justifiable purpose of government is the protection of individual rights.

Tom Anderson
November 2008

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