Today, despite the prescience of the Gipper, a rumble is growing in many free market, small government circles — a lurking sense that the two major parties in this country just aren’t cutting it. A new and fired up brand of conservatives, libertarians, constitutionalists, and tea partiers want something new. They feel that the Goldwater/Reagan revolutions have fizzled out. They want a legitimate third way. They want a banner to rally behind that sheds off the constraints of today’s GOP — a party left in philosophical tatters after eight years of “compassionate” government growth, adventurous militarism, moral hypocrisy, and skyrocketing deficits — all endorsed by Bush (and now gleefully exploded into the stratosphere by Obama).
It’s hard to argue with this sentiment. Whether Donkey or Elephant, today’s brain trust in Washington has pushed for too much intrusion, too many bailouts, too much nannyism, statism, protectionism, corporatism…too much “ism.” Frankly, it’s depressing to watch. Even some so-called conservative Republicans in Congress seem to have taken on an air of compliant defeat, realizing that the statist machine is not likely to stop its forceful lurch to the left anytime soon. Rather than sounding the alarm, they offer meek or ineffectual opposition and seem content to ride the coming wave of soft tyranny.
The “just leave us alone” crowd is fighting back. They are sick of the excuses and the spinelessness of the leaders on the right. Many are devising plans to abandon the GOP ship once and for all. Just last month conservative pundit Glenn Beck, when asked by Jay Leno about his party affiliation, said bluntly (in his typical hyperbolic fashion) “I hate both of them really…they both betrayed the country.”
Beck is wrong. While the ship may have lost its moorings a bit, the Republican Party has not betrayed the country…far from it. A better, more accurate characterization is that certain leaders of the Republican Party have betrayed their Republican principles. This may smack of nuance, but it’s undeniable. The people are the GOP…not the establishment, not the right-wing interest groups, not Pat Robertson, not even the elected leaders. At its core, the Republican Party remains a guidepost for our Founders’ vision of a smaller government respecting individual liberty and the Constitution. There is a choice between the parties. There is a difference with the Democrats. The GOP brand may be tarnished and its current leaders may be feckless, but its foundation remains strong because the foundation is built on ideas rather than on men. It will take a lot more than some hypocritical or boneheaded policy decisions to tear down a party based on the the simple and lasting concept of liberty.
While I don’t doubt their sincerity or their convictions, I would encourage those in the “jump ship” camp to stop and think before abandoning the elephant. Aside from taking a symbolic stand, what do you hope to accomplish in a third party? How do you expect to build a solid and lasting public consensus? True, the rules are somewhat rigged in order to protect the duopoly, but how do you expect to change that in our lifetimes? If we’re truly serious about spreading our ideals to as many people as possible, wouldn’t it be more practical to focus on transforming the Republican Party rather than ditching it? Why not fight to restore the modern party to its Goldwater-esque roots?
It’s not like we don’t have a game plan to follow. Just look at the presidential elections of the early 80’s. Reagan walloped; winning 44 states and over 90% of the electoral vote in 1980. He followed it up in 1984 with 49 states and 98% of the electoral vote.
Thats a lot of red. And yes, I know that Reagan was not always a paragon of libertarian virtue — but you can hardly call him a moderate or a centrist. He ran on big, bold, conservative ideas that we can all still rally behind today: lower taxes, more freedom, smaller government, individual responsibility. People heard his message, understood it, and voted for it in landslide fashion. There was no need for a watered down conservatism or a “go along to get along” attitude with regards to the statist agenda.
When the GOP ignores this plan and follows the “moderate” route (I hate that word) the party nominates flawed candidates with muddled messages. They typically run confusing campaigns that fail to gain serious grass-roots momentum, and go on to get crushed or barely squeak by. Then, instead of learning its lessons, the party establishment talks about further “moderation” and “big tents,” while the true believers end up more and more alienated from the party itself.
We can change this. We can take back the original republican message and bring it to the country as a whole. It’s not like we’re hawking a tough sell. Generations of failed statist policies have once again opened the door for an alternative national message based on reason, liberty, and proven results. But it is nearly impossible to spread this message broadly enough through a third party. Put simply, we need to fight for the right kind of Republicans instead of abandoning the party altogether. We need to fight for a Republican Party that captures the youth and the energy of the next generation. A party built on freedom and individualism. A party that sheds its Brooks Brothers suit and tightly parted haircut image and embraces the dynamic and changing American markets, technologies, demographics, and lifestyles. A conservative party with “the heart and soul of libertarianism.”
In the same 1975 Reason Magazine interview, Reagan held that “third parties have been notoriously unsuccessful; they usually wind up dividing the very people that should be united.” He was right. Washing our hands of the GOP and trying to concoct a new major party through a loose coalition of conservative or libertarian-minded interest groups is, unfortunately, a losing cause. While today’s third parties are relevant and play important roles, only their most stubborn members believe that the two party system can be challenged on a national stage. The system is just too entrenched, and the third parties are just too fractioned. Given this reality, we should focus on the concept that unites these groups — an unwavering commitment to liberty — and force this message back into the Republican Party spotlight.
It worked for Reagan…it can work for us.
Latest posts by Tyler Andrews (Posts)
- Pat Robertson swears a pact with the crazy - January 13, 2010
- To my fellow conservatives and libertarians: A third party is not the answer. - January 12, 2010
- Retaining our Constitutional culture - December 9, 2009