Can This Marriage Be Saved ?
Reason’s David Weigel takes a look at the increasingly tenuous relationship between libertarians and the Republican Party:
[Ron] Paul’s candidacy—which drew the eye-rolling treatment from McCain, Rudolph Giuliani, and “serious” conservatives nationwide—showed just how marginalized libertarianism has become in the party of Barry Goldwater. Paul’s lonely apostasy on foreign policy was greeted with hoots of derision on one debate stage after another. His calls for abolishing the Internal Revenue Service and hacking back the federal bureaucracy rolled right off the standard-bearers of a party that retook the House of Representatives in 1994 on a platform of reducing government.
Yet despite raising $30 million, Paul and his limited-government supporters got their clocks cleaned by Huckabee and the social cons, who were treated with much more deference by eventual nominee McCain and the party establishment. Twenty-seven years after Ronald Reagan famously said that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” the GOP’s appetite for rolling back the regulatory state appears as dead as the era of federal budget surpluses. Even former revolutionary Newt Gingrich agrees. “The Republican Party cannot win over time as the permanently angry anti-government party,” he writes in his latest book, Real Change.
Not only that, and ironically considering how badly Ron Paul actually did in the Republican primaries, some are actually blaming libertarian Republicans for the triumph of John McCain:
The remaining libertarians in Reagan’s shrinking big tent aren’t just being ignored or marginalized; they’re being blamed for the Reagan coalition’s crackup. While John McCain was heading toward the nomination in January, The Weekly Standard published an online piece by the political scientists Benjamin and Jenna Silber Storey slamming McCain’s critics as “strict free-market” ideologues whose rigidity jeopardized the conservative movement. “The moral vacuity of dogmatic libertarianism is poisonous to public life,” the Storeys wrote. “Conservatives who forget that the free market is properly a piece of policy rather than an ideological end-in-itself not only obscure the importance of individual virtue, they undermine it.”
Intentionally or not, the blame-economists argument mirrors a popular critique of George W. Bush from the progressive left: that his presidency is an example of free marketeers run amok. In her best-selling book Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein lays the original sin of Bushite misgovernance at the feet of an unlikely source: Nobel Prize–winning economist Milton Friedman, the “grand guru of the movement for unfettered capitalism and the man credited with writing the rulebook for the contemporary hypermobile global economy.” Never mind that Friedman, in his 10th decade on the planet, exerted little or no influence on the free-spending, government-growing Bush administration.
As the 2008 primary season draws to a close, it’s fairly clear that the libertarian/Goldwater tradition of the Republican Party is, effectively, dead.
And there doesn’t seem to be much hope of reviving it.
As unlikely as it might have seemed three months ago, there is now at least an even chance that John McCain could win the General Election in November, especially if the Democratic crackup continues apace. If that happens, then the Republican Party will be taken in a direction that seems hard to predict, but it’s not one that is likely to be friendly to liberty.
If McCain loses, then the people who will pick up the pieces won’t be the small band of Ron Paul supporters, it will be the people who voted for guys like Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, neither one of whom is close to a libertarian agenda.
For the first time since the 1964 election, it seems quite apparent that libertarians will not have a home in either major political party.