Why do so many Republicans spurn libertarians?
I’ve noticed that a lot of members of the Republican Party have nothing but vitriol for self-described libertarians who have chosen to affiliate with the GOP. It seems a bit incongruous to me. The GOP brand is supposed to be one of a government with limited and well-defined powers exercising them as lightly as possible. This is something that would naturally attract libertarians, and it would make them allies of many conservatives on any number of issues. So what’s the deal with all of the hostility?
I think a lot of it is that we make many conservatives uncomfortable by pointing out cases where they failed to exercise appropriate restraint. The message of limited government is a great sound bite while out of power that often goes to the wayside while in power. This has resulted in Republican presidents presiding over at least half of our national debt during the last four decades. In addition, we’ve seen multiple instances of government being granted power to intrude in personal lives far beyond what any proponent of limited government should be comfortable with, including, but not limited to, the TSA, warrantless wiretapping, prosecution of whistleblowers, retaliation against political opponents, and even the assassination of US citizens without any kind of judicial review, much less a conviction. Libertarians consistent question these expansions of government power, trusting nobody, not even the “right” people, to properly restraint themselves. Granted, some if it is our own doing. As we rail against what we consider to be bad policy, we often leave social niceties at the doorstep. Heck, many of us can be downright obnoxious in our advocacy for Ron Paul as the preferred nominee for president. “They started it” can’t even be a valid defense anymore since both groups have been going at it for so long.
The greatest heresy, however, is putting principle over party. How often have you heard “shut up and fall in line” in regards to a Republican candidate or nominee? I can’t count the number of times that I, as a Ron Paul supporter, have been insulted and berated that I should shut up, sit down, and get behind Romney, as if unseating President Obama is more important than selecting the right candidate. The lack of principled leadership in the face of bad Republican leaders is what left us with a legacy of Republican-flavored big government in the form of Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, TARP, and myriad other fiscal disasters that, had they been proposed and passed by the opposing party, would have paraded around as examples of why not to vote for them. Instead of standing up to these programs, all too many rolled over and took their marching orders.
Let’s get down to brass tacks: libertarians who register as Republicans have as much right to the party as the rest of you. We may have disagreement about the extent to which government should be limited, or as to what constitutes smaller, but we all generally have the same goal, don’t we? Instead of treating libertarians as ideological opponents, it’s time to look at us as allies on a wide swath of issues. We want better Republicans too, and we’ve decided that settling on “electable” candidates hasn’t been cutting the mustard. It’s time to accept at least some of our criticisms as valid to build something better, not kick us in the teeth until we submit to the bullying.