by John Hawkins | February 23, 2005 12:03 am
Libertarian Ryan Sager wrote a column about his experience at the Conservative Political Action Conference that has drawn attention from Jonah Goldberg, Ramesh Ponnuru, INDC Journal, Q&O, & Instapundit among others in the blogosphere.
Why has the column generated so much heat? Mainly because Sager tapped into two wells of discontentment that Libertarians love to drink deep from…
#1) Resentment of religious conservatives who have sharp disagreements with Libertarians on social issues.
#2) Libertarian anger at being on the margins of politics in America.
Here’s an excerpt from the column that gives you a pretty good idea of what infuriated Sager about CPAC,
“On the immigration panel mentioned above, Phyllis Schlafly took the hard line against immigration.
“The idea of giving any job to any willing worker is absolutely unacceptable,” Schlafly said. American workers won’t and shouldn’t work for the wages Mexicans and other Latin American immigrants are willing to accept, she said, and companies should be forced to pay them more.
All of this met with wild applause from the audience. And so there we have the most conservative of conservatives fully buying into economic protectionism — not to mention the minimum wage, which a past generation rightly saw as a destructive and outrageous intrusion into the free labor market.
Then there was the speech by Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, another CPAC rock star. Santorum made the revealing choice of referring to marriage as “the ultimate public good” — i.e. a product or service that the government must provide because the free market won’t.
Santorum, of course, doesn’t just support banning gay marriage (though that’s where all the energy in the so-called “pro-marriage” movement is directed), he also supports various government programs to promote the institution of marriage.
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But as one Log Cabiner asked, just when did the Republican Party become the party of Washington, D.C.? Just where in the Constitution is the federal government given the power or responsibility to manage citizens’ family lives?
To be fair, libertarian — or classical liberal — principles were not without representation. The Libertarian Party (ugh…) had a booth. The ACLU had a booth. The wonderful folks over at Bureaucrash had a booth.
But precious little libertarianism came from the stage, and what little did was seldom well received.
Now, perhaps CPAC just isn’t any place for libertarians. But that, in itself, is a problem. The conservative movement should be reaching out to people who, well, just aren’t as bothered by “Will & Grace” as some other people are.
Conservatism can’t survive by religious extremism and tax cuts alone.”
Before I address what Sager said, let me say that I do not dislike Libertarians, write them off as kooks, etc., etc. However, I am a conservative, not a Libertarian, which means that I, like the overwhelming majority of Americans, don’t see to eye with Libertarians on a lot of issues.
Two of those issues are gay marriage and illegal-immigration. The reality is that a large majority of Americans and most of the Republican base is staunchly opposed to gay marriage and illegal-immigration. Sager can (and did) complain about that, but it’s Libertarians, not Republicans that are on the wrong side of public opinion on those issues. So there’s not going to be a policy shift on those topics that is going to make Libertarians happy.
Furthermore, there are very practical reasons why Republicans tend to cater to social conservatives instead of Libertarians… first and foremost being that social conservatives probably outnumber Libertarians…oh, I don’t know…20 to 1? So who should Republicans be trying to please: the large group of people who have been proven to vote conservative or a much, much smaller group of Libertarians who are the political equivalent of the Greens, a group of radicals who are always fickle when election time rolls around because the Party ideologically closest to them can’t ever be extreme enough to please them? It’s no contest.
Moreover, let me add that the stereotypical way that people like Sager paint social conservatives — as religious zealots who only care about their pet issues — is complete bupkis. Even if you completely set aside social issues, you’d find that prominent social conservatives like Michelle Malkin, Cal Thomas, & Bill Bennett have far more ideologically in common with other conservatives in particular, and the American public in general, than Libertarians do. That’s why social conservatives are able to win elections even though they rub some people the wrong way while Libertarians almost always lose.
There are things that conservatives and Libertarians can and do work together on like shrinking the size of government, lessening the tax burden, & weakening government, but we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on certain issues like gay marriage and illegal-immigration. That’s just the reality of the situation and anyone who expects that to change any time soon is just barking up the wrong tree…
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