Will the Tea Party movement be willing to support libertarian-leaning candidates?by Stephen Gordon
If only a left/right alliance would cooperate to end the drug war, get a grand compromise on the debt, and rein in defense spending and police state creep. But seriously, does Jesse really believe that the Tea Party would do any of these things?
Yes, they are, for the most part, emphasizing economic and fiscal issues, which is wonderful, even though they have no actual realistic plans to cut spending by the amount they would have to if taxes are not to rise. But that does not mean they have in any way forsaken the social issues substantively. Name a tea-party candidate who is pro-choice. Name one who backs marriage equality. Name one who wants to withdraw from Afghanistan beginning next year. Name one who has opposed torture. Name one who has the slightest qualms about police powers. Name one who would end the military ban on gays serving openly, and take even the slightest political risk on any of these subjects.
I welcome the belated right-wing opposition to out-of-control government spending. But the one thing you have to note about tea-party fervor is that none of it existed when they had real leverage over a Republican president, who spent us into bankruptcy. That tells you something. And if you think a party led by Palin will not embrace every neocon crusade or Christianist social policy, you’re dreaming.
From the perspective of a libertarian Tea Party activist, I’d like to add my two cents to the conversation.
To begin, Scott Rasmussen and Douglas Schoen scribed the following in Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System:
…it is premature to consider the prospects of a Tea Party message on the biggest national political stage. However, Gary Johnson, the libertarian-leaning Republican former governor of New Mexico, is rumored to be a contender in the 2012 presidential election, and possible the preferred presidential candidate of the Tea Party movement.
While Johnson, who has attended several Tea Party rallies, diverges from the Tea Party movement on certain issues such as immigration and support for the Iraq war, he has been praised by Tea Party groups for his support for personal liberty and smaller government. As governor, Johnson vetoes 750 bills, more than all the vetoes of the country’s forty-nine other governors combined, and he gained national notoriety for his support of legalizing drugs.
John Dennis, the Republican running for Nancy Pelosi’s congressional seat, offers the following on his platform:
- The Constitution was written to restrict the actions of the government, not individuals.
- If we support some types of liberty but not others, ultimately we will be left without liberty at all.
- I oppose, warrant less wiretaps, water-boarding and other forms of torture.
- Governments have historically institutionalized racism through legal preference and advantages to certain groups.
- Racism a form of collectivism is the antithesis of liberty.
- It is the pursuit of liberty and the equal application of the law that draws people together.
- I support ending both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and withdrawing our troops as safely and quickly as possible.
- I believe the men and women who bravely serve and defend our country should be well trained, well equipped, well clothed, well fed and deployed only when necessary.
- I do not believe that our troops should be forced to be policemen of the world. Our troops, first and foremost, should protect Americans where they live – in America.
While these platform snippets don’t directly address all of Sullivan’s concerns, they seem to indicate that the candidate is certainly leaning in the direction Sully suggests. To be clear, I have no clue as to whether Dennis considers himself a Tea Party candidate. However, the only Tea Party activists I know in the district support him and it is difficult to imagine any person affiliated with the Tea Party movement supporting Pelosi.
I spoke with Daniel Adams, the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Georgia, on the telephone this morning. His gubernatorial candidate, John Monds, had recently spoken at a Tea party event. Adams informed me that by the end of the evening half the of the people in attendance wearing stickers for a gubernatorial candidate preferred Monds while the other half preferred GOP nominee Nathan Deal. At this moment, all of Georgia’s statewide libertarian candidates are polling relatively high for third-party candidates while Deal continues to be plagued with financial (and other) problems. I’m not stating that the Tea Party movement will go third party, but the Hoffman/Scozzafava debacle in New York indicates at least some willingness to pursue this option, if absolutely necessary.
To be sure, there hasn’t been a plethora of strong libertarian-leaning Tea Party candidates out there so far, but there are certainly plenty of libertarians within the Tea Party movement. Even in Alabama, I’m more likely to run into a Campaign for Liberty member than a Roy Moore supporter at a Tea party event — although both coexist within the movement to pursue common goals regarding fiscal policy and fighting “the establishment.”
There is a certain degree of pragmatism within the Tea Party movement, Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts serving as the perfect example. It is also interesting to note that I know quite a few libertarians who snicker about Christine O’Donnell’s stance on a certain individual liberty issue, but still enjoy watching an establishment big-government Republican go down in flames in Delaware. I’ve also seen plenty of Ron Paul supporters speaking at Tea Party rallies. There is clearly some give and take on both sides.
In their book, Rasmussen and Schoen clearly identify libertarians as one of the three major ideological components of the movement. Combining the aforementioned factors, Tea Party support for reasonable libertarian-leaning candidates seems possible – at least in some districts and in some cases.