Friday, February 19, 2010

The Growing Rift Between Libertarians & Republicans

I came across a very interesting article in (of all places) the "Progressive Nation" which discusses the growing split between libertarians and the core of the Republic Party. Obama poses a tremendous dilemma for libertarian minded individuals, like myself: on one hand we dislike many aspects of the Republican Party on the other hand our mutual concerns about Obama's economic policies are forcing us into an unhappy and (hopefully) temporary marriage.

Most libertarians have not forgotten that GW Bush set us on the path to fiscal insolvency, corporate cronyism and warfare with no end in sight; Obama has merely accelerated our journey in that direction. The only hope I have is that changes in public sentiment will force Republicans to go beyond empty rhetoric and actually implement true conservative policies.

This brings us to several other dilemmas: Should libertarian minded individuals (like Ron Paul) seek to improve the party from within or break off and form another party? If they break off will they siphon off conservative votes and allow even worse candidates to win and (ultimately) push the country towards even even worse policies?

To view the full article, scroll to the bottom and click on the link:

The Growing Rift Between Libertarians and Republicans

October 28th, 2009

Although a temporary truce between Libertarians and Republicans has been in effect for the Tea Parties, divisions over legalizing marijuana, domestic espionage, abortion, torture, gay marriage, the separation of church/state, immigration, and de-militarization are starting to take a toll. The schism between Libertarians and Republicans is widening.

Although the Libertarian philosophy has been around since the late-Enlightenment period, the party was established in the US in 1971. The Republican Party was established in 1854, and originally “put forward a progressive vision of modernizing the United States” before increasingly becoming the home of conservatives.

There have been periodic alliances between Libertarians and Republicans in the past, although the last few years have demonstrated increasing distrust between the two.


Roots of the rift between Libertarians and Republicans can be traced to many of the policies pushed through Congress during the George W Bush presidency, in particular the invasion of Iraq, spying on Americans, and the burgeoning yearly deficits. The libertarian Ron Paul (R-TX) gained enthusiastic online and grassroots support seeking the 2008 Republican nomination for president. Despite this, libertarian ideals did not play well with the conservative GOP base, and as a consequence, he was greeted with numerous boos and not even invited to the debate sponsored by Fox ‘News’.


The first Tea Parties were libertarian events for Ron Paul, starting with the ‘money bomb’ during the Republican primary in December 2007. A few speaking events and a ceremonial dumping of barrels into Boston Harbor followed in 2008. These early Tea Parties were generally smaller events based on the libertarian platform.

Instead of small events, up to 300,000 showed up in multiple gatherings around the country. The focus was kept exclusively on economic issues: taxation, deficits, the economic stimulus package, and the national debt. This is an area where there is supposed to be common ground between Libertarians and Republicans, although the latter only pays lip service to it as explained later.

This was the moment when the Tea Parties ceased being Libertarian events, and turned into Republican ones. Despite finding some common ground ideologically on economic issues, from this point forward the party platform of the Libertarians would take a back seat to Republican and corporate plans.


The issues that divide Libertarians and Republicans are numerous and intense. Although the outward similarity on fiscal policy has bound them together temporarily, these topics are increasingly becoming points of contention between them.

Legalizing Marijuana

Responsible Fiscal Policy

Domestic espionage (Patriot Act and FISA)

Abortion Rights

Torture, Rendition, Capital Punishment

Opposing corporate welfare

Get the government out of marriage

Separation of Church and State



Libertarians believe in the full legalization of marijuana and other drugs. Republicans have been pushing the failed ‘War on Drugs’ since Reagan. This irrational prohibition on a plant and the surrounding hysteria behind it has been behind the largest increase in the incarceration rate in the world. The United States is now the world’s leading jailer, with 1 in 32 Americans either behind bars or on probation, mostly due to marijuana arrests (approaching 1 million per year).

Libertarians believe in a deficit neutral economic policy. The Republicans have given lip service to this, while actually employing the Starve the Beast policy where deficits are deliberately run sky high. Recent GOP administrations are responsible for 82% of the national debt, including the majority of the deficit for fiscal 2009 (Bush budget, Great Recession, etc.).

Libertarians believe in repealing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the Patriot Act to finally end domestic espionage. Republicans believe that surveillance of American citizens is an integral part of keeping the country safe.

Libertarians believe the government should be kept out of the abortion issue. Republicans continue to pander to their religious right base in pushing for more government laws to end a woman’s right to chose.

Libertarians believe in ending torture, rendition, and capital punishment. Republicans are big supporters of all three.

Libertarians believe in ending corporate welfare. Republicans have traditionally advocated supporting many big industries, such as defense contractors and Big Oil.

Libertarians believe in getting the government out of marriage, which would effectively give LGBT couples the same rights as straight folks. Republicans support the continued government mandated discrimination against gays being able to marry.

Libertarians believe in the separation of church and state. Republicans continue to support religious ceremonies in school functions, government buildings, endorsement of Christianity on legal tender, the courts, and elsewhere. In fact, it is one of the wedge issues that they use most often.

Libertarians believe in an open border policy on immigration. Republicans continue to demonize undocumented immigrants seeking a better life in the US.

Libertarians believe in a small, lean, and defensive Department of Defense. Republicans favor more military, bigger budgets, and more interventionism abroad. The US currently has over 400,000 troops stationed in 144 countries around the globe. The official cost of this has soared to almost $500 billion per year although the hidden costs easily double this. The US actually spends as much as the rest of the world combined on military expenditures, hardly a sound fiscal policy. Any talk of bringing our troops home and ending foreign wars results in Republican accusations of surrender.


The Tea Parties have been the glue that binds the two groups together so far. The think tanks behind the themes of these events have been very careful to keep the focus on economic issues, although as time passes, more conservative social and foreign policy issues are being brought to the forefront. Libertarians who dare carry signs advocating a withdrawal from Iraq, ending the drug war, or allowing gay marriage will suffer the same fate as Ron Paul during the primary debates: an angry wall of intolerance and open hostility, just like this peaceful counter-protester who dared to carry a Public Option Now sign to Glenn Beck’s 912 DC rally.

To add to this, the Republicans are going to have an increasingly difficult time with cohesion as non-economic issues are brought to the forefront. The upcoming battles over the Employee Free Choice Act and Campaign Finance Reform are not likely to cause a rebellion by Libertarians, although Immigration Reform, the closure of the torture facility at Guantanamo, and equal rights for LGBT folks certainly will. There will simply be no way for this temporary truce to last in the wake of issues such as this.

One of the main curiosities of this situation is whether the Libertarians will do as they have done before, become disenfranchised with the political system, and accept a minor 3rd party status, or whether they will stand their ground and try to create a larger movement.

There are many non-partisan community organizers in the Tea Party movement who are actively trying to stop the slide into Republican control. This is apparent in the recent division between the Tea Party Patriots and Tea Party Express as reported by the Rachel Maddow.

What this boils down to is ‘Our Country Deserves Better’, the Republican political action committee (PAC) being behind the Tea Party Express bus tour.To make matters worse, Fox ‘News’ appears to have chosen a side, not surprisingly with the Republican Tea Party Express. The Tea Party Patriots are not happy and ejected Amy Kremer, the Atlanta activist who co-founded the organization, after she jumped onboard the Express.

There is more. In September, Florida Republicans purged Libertarians from the GOP. According to the Daily Paul:

“On Friday — timed just right to minimize news coverage — Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer and the state party Grievance Committee notified a number of party members, many of them holding elective office, that they were effectively purged from the party and had been removed from their offices and would be ineligible to hold any other party positions for periods ranging from two to four years. The targets of this purge are mostly members of the Florida chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus”

As a matter of political philosophy and organization, the cracks in the foundation are spreading. From differences in core beliefs to resentment over the Tea Party movement being hijacked, the rift between Libertarians and Republicans is growing.

No comments:

Post a Comment