Tonight’s Republican Primary Debate was the best run debate we’ve had so far. The structure was better and Wolf Blitzer managed the back and forth between the candidates more effectively than past moderators have done. This made it more of a real debate, but my enjoyment was tainted by a nagging awareness that the eight candidates standing on the stage did not really represent the diversity of the Republican Party. I had to ask myself why the Republican Party of Florida and Tea Party Express allowed CNN to pick some candidates and exclude others based on arbitrary criteria which seem to serve their interests and not those of Republicans or the nation.
This was not a debate between candidates who represent Republican voters, but rather a debate between candidates hand picked by the media to play out their fictional version of what a Republican primary campaign should be like and what kind of candidates represent the factions within the Republcian Party. Weak Republican leaders have allowed the media to effectively take control of this election and pick which candidates we are allowed to see and ultimately who we can vote for.
At the heart of this problem is the systematic exclusion of former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson from every debate since the first one in South Carolina. Governor Johnson is as well qualified as anyone on the debate stage. He has an exemplary record as a two term governor in a swing state. He is the only governor in the race who still has the support of a majority of his home state voters. He comes from a business background and built a multi-million dollar company from nothing. He has one of the best defined issue agendas of any candidate. He has an active campaign with state organizations nationwide and a prominent presence in New Hampshire where he’s currently focusing his efforts.
Johnson has everything it should take to be a leading candidate, but for some reason the media seems to have singled him out for exclusion. Are they ignoring Johnson for not fitting their definition of a Republican because he’s not pro-war, pro-bailout and religiously conservative? Do they think having two libertarian-leaning candidates legitimizes that movement too much and might get either Johnson or Ron Paul elected? Are they afraid that as a candidate who strongly appeals to independents and crossover voters he’s too dangerous to Obama?
No one really understands their motivation, but their shunning of Johnson is blatantly transparent and became offensively obvious with this latest debate. Prior to this debate the trick for excluding Johnson was that he wasn’t scoring high enough in enough polls to qualify, a result which was accomplished by just not including his name in most of the polls and then claiming that even though he met the criteria in the polls he was in, he didn’t do well enough in the polls from which he was excluded. I know it sounds crazy, but this really was the argument made by NBC and Fox in the two previous debates.
In tonight’s debate CNN added a new twist. Up until two weeks ago they had been including Johnson in their polls, and while he wasn’t in the top tier, he was scoring a respectable 2 or 3 percent consistently. In their last poll before the debate Johnson scored higher than Rick Santorum and John Huntsman and tied Herman Cain. Yet despite this, CNN invited those three candidates to participate and did not invite Johnson to the debate. They could not be swayed by emails, letters or phonecalls from Johnson’s supporters. Then, as the jesters cap on this political farce, they dropped him fromt the list of candidates in the poll they took right before the debate, and in the results for that poll they removed him from the comparison listing from previous polls and replaced him with “someone else.”
Frankly, I cannot imagine a more deliberate or more obvious attempt to manipulate the primary process and effectively terminate a candidacy through the power of the media. As a Republican I find the idea that the media should exercise this sort of power over a primary which determines the future of the party and of the nation to be terrifying. Treat a candidate like he doesn’t exist and chances are that he will go away. It was troubling enough when the Democrats did it to George McGovern, but to have a media which isn’t even sympathetic to the interests of the GOP doing it is scandalous.
But where is the outrage? Why is RNC Chairman Reince Priebus not descending on Atlanta with an army of lawyers? There seems to be a passive approval of CNN’s meddling in the election from the party establishment, because they fear the challenge to their corrupt and ineffective leadership that Johnson represents. As a governor Johnson proved that he could govern without relying on special interests and corrupt bargains, and they know that the days of party insiders brokering elections and fattening their wallets at the expense of the people and in disregard to the grassroots would be numbered if Johnson was elected.
It’s likely that Johnson’s crime is that he is too good a candidate with ideas which are too likely to appeal to a broad spectrum of voters and the forces of the status quo in the media and in the party would just as soon not have him challenging their supremacy. They can tolerate Ron Paul because he has no history of accomplishment and can be dismissed as a bit squirrely and academic – he may stir up the rabble but he probably can’t win the election and if he did he’s such an ideologue he’d be unable to get anything done. What they can’t tolerate is is the threat of a younger, more dynamic and less easily marginalized pro-liberty reformer like Johnson. Johnson has a record of successful reform, has no skeletons in his closet and has practical solutions and the ability to be pragmatic enough to get them passed.
Johnson is the real thing, and like Teddy Roosevelt and Barry Goldwater before him, the elites of the media and the party have aligned against him. He’s too dangerous to be given a fair chance in a debate, and we’ve seen a corresponding dearth of coverage in the media when compared to lower polling candidates like Huntsman and Santorum. He is a threat to the status quo cannot be tolerated by the establishment or their media allies.
The debates are grand theatre and the people love their bread and circuses, but as Republicans and as voters we should to be outraged and we ought to demand better from CNN and from our party leaders.
Recalling My Experiences Running for, Winning, and Serving As Director at Large of the Davidson County (Nashville) Republican Party
I make for an unlikely elected Republican officer. As an experimental and avant-garde punk rock vocalist best-known for touring the countryside singing and screaming my head off with my band Look What I Did alongside grindcore, death metal, hardcore, and punk bands on 12 full United States tours, I hardly frequent the same events as many of those in the caucus that eventually chose me to represent them in the Davidson County Republican Party. I am and always will be a lifelong member of the punk rock community, the one which has given the world so many new ideas and fostered opposition to establishments for decades.
Throughout my life, I’ve spent far more time debating against anarcho-syndicalists and their wholesale endorsement of the use of violence to destroy very real private property rights in indie record shops or at benefit shows for initiatives like Food Not Bombs. My foray into Republican politics probably started more as a form of protest than anything else, but once I got my foot in the door, it became clear that, for those interested in freedom, only the Republican Party has the appropriate organizational structure to give rise to an insurgent libertarian mainstream movement. I wasted plenty of time supporting third parties (see: discussion clubs, unfortunately, due to the unfair laws in every state that prevent third parties from competing) given that they produced all the presidential candidates I voted for prior to 2008.
After the success of Congressman Ron Paul’s presidential campaign in ’08, our local libertarian crowd had blossomed into a full-fledged movement, so we organized and decided to try to run for office in the GOP’s county board which essentially governs the platform and finances of the party. There was a spirit of protest as we are not and never were George Bush-style Republicans, but at the same time, restoring the GOP to the legacy of Barry Goldwater or Robert Taft isn’t half bad in the mind of anyone who cares about freedom. With leaders like Ron Paul and Gary Johnson on the national stage, it was clear that the Republican Party was and still is ready for libertarian influence.
Running for Office
Matt Collins, known as “The Collins” among many in the liberty movement, was preparing a run for chair of the Davidson County Republican Party. He asked if anyone would be willing to serve on the board if he were to be elected as there was a possible but unlikely outcome where the chair appoints the board. At this point, I presumed this outcome would not occur, but few people seemed to be willing to step up to take on this challenge, so, being the risk-taker that I am, I agreed.
I attended Republican events to begin this process. I started off by largely just being quiet and being seen. I dressed as nicely as I could, which is difficult for me as I am used to being able to wear obliterated jeans and ratty T-shirts everywhere in my daily life. However, taking the time to dress respectably does prevent political insiders from making huge assumptions about you.
I feverishly studied Republican political rhetoric. I learned exactly why the seasoned activists who got their start in Young Americans for Freedom went wild at Goldwater’s call for “extremism in the pursuit of liberty” against the then establishment-Republicanism of Nelson Rockefeller in 1964. I pored over the speeches written by Pat Buchanan that made so many sitting US presidents look like anti-establishment rebels. The respect for things Republican-past paid off as many of those old Goldwater faithfuls became fast allies of the insurgent libertarian Republicans. They had been fighting against the centralization of power in the party structure for decades, and, to them, we seemed like the reinforcements.
Winning Has Its Complications
After two controversial and hotly contested conventions, Matt Collins won the first Vice Chair position, and many of the rest of us were elected to our respected positions from the floor. I was able to secure enough votes to be declared the Director at Large of the Davidson County Republican Party. I hadn’t expected to win, so when the news was announced to the couple hundred bona fide Republicans, I was deeply shocked.
What now? I was elected to do a job, so it was time to learn how to do it. For those who may be thrown into the same position, here are a few things I learned:
• Be friends with everyone. Political differences are best when debated politely and in the right context. Even if you feel someone has political views that cause harm to others, it is important to realize that your only hope of changing their mind is found in friendship.
• Just because someone voted for an establishment Republican in the past or was in favor of the Iraq War does not mean they are a “neoconservative.” Neoconservatism has a specific definition, and, by applying it liberally to anyone who endorsed the Iraq War in those confusing and heated moments of emotion after 911 creates more neocons than it destroys. People in local politics do not get phone calls from the Bilderberg Group or the Council on Foreign Relations, so there is no reason to make a conspiracy out of everything and start calling people names. I thought the war was a mistake back then too, but nobody’s perfect and blame won’t make friends or stop the next war from happening.
• Choose your battles, and make sure you have the political capital to win them. It’s one thing to vote your conscience and your principles, which I would absolutely encourage, but initiating motions or pushing for resolutions should be done in a focused manner. Pick around three major issues to focus on, and then spend the rest of the time highlighting where you agree.
• Spend the first few months observing and saying as little as possible. Watch for who is friends with whom, and which caucus influences which elected officials. This information will prove useful.
• Do the job you were elected to do. If you run for party leadership, then your job is to increase the party’s power. Obviously you don’t want to spend your time doing things that disagree with your principles, so just don’t show up to those events. It is a volunteer type of thing, so you can just withdraw consent from certain types of functions. I received plenty of emails to attend functions that were totally outside of my principles, and I did not go to those.
• Use the “Reagan Card” when necessary. The Reagan Card is any quote or reference from Ronald Reagan which affirms your point. In Republican politics, this functions somewhat metaphorically like a stun grenade that silences opposing arguments.
Ultimately, I became friends with a lot of people that I initially thought would try to drive me out of the party. Those who were at first decried as establishment neocons by people I knew were later working on the campaign for our first higher-profile local libertarian-Republican candidate, Dr. Steve Dickerson. As a fiscal conservative who is an anesthesiologist with unconventional positions such as being in favor of gay adoptions, he was an absolutely solid candidate that deserved the hard work I put in to help.
When we were planning the Republican picnic, I noticed that our straw poll was missing a noteworthy potential candidate named Dr. Ron Paul. I reminded the board that Ron Paul supporters would attend the picnic and donate money to attempt to win the straw poll, which the party would then have. Seconds later Dr. Paul was added to the straw poll. That meeting barely had a quorum, so no one else probably would have offered his name that day.
Given the difficulties we experienced when Matt Collins was voted out of the party for making comments about Zach Wamp during the primary season, I would ultimately suggest that friendly and cooperatively-spirited activists should work inside the party while more protest-oriented activists work outside. This is not to say that Matt Collins’ activism was ineffective. I think he is one of the most successful advocates for pure freedom in Tennessee, but from the inside, you can change minds, so that is an important opportunity to take advantage of by engaging in friendly discourse.
The Rand Paul style rhetoric works great inside the party, and that type of thing is what most GOP faithful want to hear. For example, if you believe that the War on Drugs is not only a failure but a moral crisis deserving repeal, it might be best to describe those views by saying that you would prefer policies that are “tough on violent and property crime.” The GOP electorate likes tough political rhetoric, and, when you are advocating for the cancellation of a policy, it is best to describe it in terms that sound like an increase in value to the taxpayer.
So, looking back on my successful and now-complete two-year term as Director at Large of the Davidson County Republican Party, I feel like I understand much better than most why the South Carolina GOP debate audience cheered an end to the wars and the War on Drugs. It is because, behind the scenes, people like myself and others have been hanging out with Republicans and changing their minds.
I got to write speeches for candidates. I helped initiate a set of morning breakfast events called “Eggs and Bacon” Summits with State Executive Committeewoman Beth Campbell and former Metro councilman Rod Williams, both of whom I now consider great friends. The state party chair Chris Devaney personally complimented me on those summits, and other counties began to copy our formula. Nearly every Middle Tennessee Republican politician spoke at those events that I helped start, including current governor Bill Haslam. Ultimately, I wanted Nashvillians to be able to talk to these candidates so they could make an informed decision, but by having a hand in creating them, I gained a lot of credibility in the party, and my views were thusly considered to be a part of the “big tent.”
I made lots of great friends across many ideological divides, certainly too many to name here, and, in the end, the experience was worthwhile and valuable for liberty. I would encourage others to follow suit. I did not choose to run again as I have become busy both with playing music and starting a new online and mobile music service called gazzmic which is now in the developmental stages. This is a personal side note, as I had intended to run for city council in Nashville in 2011, but, given that I have an opportunity to create private sector jobs during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, I think it would be more productive to focus on that than to try and run to create a single government job for myself. However, I will only be postponing my campaign, as I still intend to run for Metro Council in 2015 when I have more time.
In conclusion, to those who want to join the Republican Party for the express purpose of driving it back to the true roots of freedom, the Constitution, fear not! If I can do it, a punk-rocker with nothing socially in common with the stereotypical Republican, anyone can. It just takes an open mind, a friendly attitude, and careful attention to political rhetoric and technique. We will have liberty in our lifetime.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official positions of the RLC.
Several developments within the Republican Party were readily apparent during the presidential debate last Thursday evening. Predictably, the talk beforehand had centered around the lack of “big names” that would show up, which presumably was our media’s way of dutifully drawing the parameters of public discourse.
Obviously, the gatekeepers in the press view the majority of America’s voting public as incapable of coming to their own informed decisions, thereby (in their mind at least) leaving it incumbent upon them to tell them who is and is not “viable.” Any candidate who dares to stray from the tiny box of “acceptable debate” is instantly derided as a crank by opinion makers on both the left and right.
The degree to which the rhetoric of the Republican Party has shifted over the last four years was tangible and welcome. 60% of the candidates on the stage were willing to either call for the outright withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan or signal strong reservations about the war; this would have been unthinkable during the 2008 election cycle. Although not representative of Republican primary voters at large (though the numbers who are souring on Afghanistan has seen a significant uptick over the last year) this put on clear display the degree to which many in the GOP can no longer reconcile the notion of limited government with the expensive nation building operation in Afghanistan.
Spending billions of taxpayer dollars on a country with little appetite to develop civil institutions and leaders that we rarely seem on the same page with looks more and more like a waste of resources as the years drag on. With the recent death of bin Laden, now would be the ideal time for a conservative candidate to articulate the rationale behind a speedy exit from Afghanistan; if not now, after the death of al Qaeda’s leader and America’s most notorious menace, then when?
Nor could the candidates on stage be heard chiming in on Iraq (at least not in a positive manner), reflecting the sober view of many Republicans that, in hindsight, the war was in fact a blunder. This softening of the war drums within the GOP is an excellent sign, as their abandoning of a restrained foreign policy following 9/11 cost them the trust of a significant portion of the electorate. Success in 2010 came with focus on a conservative economic message, not the preaching of a Wilsonian foreign policy.
Another welcome aspect (which many establishment Republicans were no doubt grimacing about) was the libertarian arguments presented on the stage in South Carolina. Ron Paul and Gary Johnson’s presence were double breaths of fresh air for those in the Republican Party who had become disenchanted with the authoritarian rhetoric espoused during the Bush years. On this particular night, it was Rick Santorum carrying the banner of statism.
The former Pennsylvania senator’s words contrasted starkly with the liberty-friendly arguments made by Paul and Johnson. It was as if Santorum was unaware his version of big government conservatism had long since been rejected by the party. Too many Republicans have wised up to the disingenuous practice of intertwining strong family values (which are a wonderful thing) with the federal government (which is possibly the worst instrument on the face of the earth for promoting those family values) for Santorum’s arguments to carry much sway.
Having two candidates like Paul and Johnson making a case for drug legalization in this venue was an encouraging sight. The conservative/liberal paradigm many on the right have looked at this issue from is simply an inaccurate approach. A majority of conservatives are likely unaware that William F. Buckley, a conservative stalwart if there ever was one, was no fan of the federal war on drugs.
Even if it is not a winning issue in 2011, letting conservatives correctly view our senseless drug policy as merely an extension of overbearing, nanny state government would finally allow us to end what has become another endless “war” (poverty and terrorism among others) which government seems curiously unable to win. That these views are at least getting a hearing is a giant step in the right direction; supporters of each of these men should be glad Republican primary voters got a double dose of free market and individual liberty based perspectives.
The debate also crystallized just how challenging it will be to break through to a critical mass of Republicans. Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh could be heard praising Santorum the following day on his program, demonstrating just how determined many of the Bush-style conservatives are to preserve the status quo.
It seemed that the 2008 election provided many of the talk radio hosts, who had lost so much credibility over the preceding decade, an opportunity to make a clean break and embrace a genuinely conservative platform. But they are willing to double down and continue as apologists for the same tired talking points, ignoring everything from the monetary policy and civil liberties questions to failing to facilitate a reasonable debate over our overseas policies.
We need to acknowledge that many are simply using the Tea Party as a vehicle to get the same sort of Republicans who gave us Iraq, Medicare Part D, and back into power. But with more debates like the one in South Carolina, there is much hope for the future trajectory of the conservative movement. Presenting clear, concise arguments on how to truly restrain government will see to it that the needle is slowly moved in the right direction.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official positions of the RLC.
Welcome to the Blogcritics live online event for the South Carolina Republican Presidential Debate. The debate begins at 9pm eastern time and our live coverage will begin a little bit before that. We’ll have live chat commentary which you can participate in with capacity for hundreds to take part and share their observations during the debate, plus a post mortem after the debate which may feature a special guest. Drinking games during the debate are not only authorized, but encouraged. The chat application is right below and some information on the candidates fills out the rest of this article.
There are five candidates participating in this debate and they really cover the spectrum of the Republican Party, from the extremely socially and fiscally conservative Rick Santorum to Liberty Republicans like Ron Paul and Gary Johnson. Here’s a little info on each of them.
Herman Cain is the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, a syndicated columnist and a former federal reserve board chairman.. Until recently he was a nationally syndicated radio talkshow host, but is on hiatus during his campaign. He is from Atlanta and has degrees in mathematics and computer science. He is a strong fiscal conservative with relatively pragmatic positions on social issues. He is an experienced and dynamic public speaker and brings powerful credentials as a very successful businessman to his campaign.
Gary Johnson is the former two-term governor of New Mexico who earned a nationwide reputation as an opponent of government waste. He vetoed over 700 bills in his two terms in office. Johnson was a very successful businessman before going into politics, taking a small handyman business and turning it into a multi-million dollar corporation with thousands of employees. Johnson is also an avid outdoorsman and has climbed Mount Everest. Since leaving office he has become notable for advocating libertarian political issues, including ending the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. His positions are not terribly far from those of Ron Paul, though he is personally somewhat more socially liberal.
Ron Paul is probably the highest profile candidate. He is a 10 term Congressman from Texas known by his colleagues as “Dr. No” for his consistent opposition to any growth of government spending or programs and any legislation of questionable constitutionality. Paul ran for president in 2008 and his campaign launched the Tea Party movement and pioneered non-traditional fundraising methodology which has been adopted by other insurgent campaigns since then. Paul is a conservative libertarian politically who believes in minimal government and strict adherence to the Constitution and for his outspoken, sometimes irascible style.
Tim Pawlenty just left office after his second term as Governor of Minnesota. He is popular with the Republican Party establishment and has a successful record as governor, although many of his positions are outside of the norm of the party and unpopular with fiscal conservatives. He has been a supporter of unions and socialized medicine and combines fiscally moderate positions with strongly socially conservative views. He has earned praise for successfully balancing his state budget and for his pro-business policies as governor.
Rick Santorum served two terms as Senator from Pennsylvania and two terms in Congress representing suburban Pittsburgh. He is Roman Catholic and has a reputation as an extreme religious conservative. He tried to legislate the teaching of intelligent design at the federal level and has made controversial statements on a variety of social issues. He is known for his aggressive and confrontational style and for not shying away from controversial positions.
Several potential candidates who are viewed by many as frontrunners in the GOP primary did not qualify for the debate or chose not to enter. Some of them have not officially filed exploratory committees or are not polling over 1% in recent polls, or just didn’t want to pay the $25,000 entry fee. They include Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Donald Trump who have relatively high poll rankings and others like Mitch Daniels, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and Newt Gingrich. Huckabee, Romney and Trump have high media profiles but there are serious questions about their electability in the primary or in a general election against President Obama.
Watch While You Chat
The debate will be broadcast live on FoxNews starting at 9pm. If you don’t have cable then you can watch the broadcast through the live stream on the Fox Website. The chat application is below. It will also be accessible through several other sponsoring websites. You can even embed it on your site if you like. You can also download the client App and join the chat on your smartphone. Search for CoverIt Live.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official positions of the RLC.
As liberty voters we’re very lucky this year that we have a better choice of candidates than we have had since the days of Goldwater and Taft. With both Governor Gary Johnson and Representative Ron Paul running some of us are finding it hard to figure out which candidate to support and others are bickering and squabbling over their choices rather than celebrating how lucky we really are. Liberty is catching fire in the hearts of America and this campaign proves it.
At this point, early in the primary process, it benefits us to have as many candidates as possible talking about cutting back the federal government and reclaiming our rights. Right now there are no delegates at stake and no serious establishment frontrunner to focus on defeating. That will probably remain true through the primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire, where it’s all about exposure and there aren’t many delegates to win. After that the race gets serious and there are more and more delegates to be won. At that point we’re going to have to make a choice of who to throw all our efforts and resources behind and it seems obvious to me that the right choice is Ron Paul.
I’ve reached that conclusion for reasons which are both pragmatic and political, and from both perspective he is the gold standard for liberty in 2012.
Paul’s practical advantages are obvious. He is better known, has a large established base of followers and a national organization which is well established with an extraordinary record of fundraising success. Fundraising will be particularly important in a race where the Democrats have promised to spend a billion dollars. Paul is already all over the media, especially the cable news networks. He is better known than the other hardcore conservative candidates like Rick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty. He has multiple bestselling books in print and his followers promote him tirelessly. The level of love and support he has generated says a lot about the man and his ideas. Plus we saw his success at spreading his message in 2008 and now he can build on that base to go even further. Paul has shown he’s a strong debater and an energetic campaigner despite his age, and we need that enthusiasm to beat Obama.
Paul also has long-term associations which will benefit him in the election. He has long been a supporter of pro-liberty groups like the Von Mises Institute and the John Birch Society and was a founding member of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has a wide base of support on the internet from groups like Justin Raimondo’s AntiWar.com and Lew Rockwell and the many political writers at LewRockwell.com, and has built powerful tools for communication on his own networks like RonPaulForums.com and for grassroots support in Campaign for Liberty. Plus it can’t be forgotten that the idea of the Tea Party originated in Paul’s 2008 campaign and many Tea Party voters are still drawn to him.
The Right Ideas
On his political positions Paul is also superior. People keep comparing him to Gary Johnson, but it’s a false comparison. They’re not nearly as similar as Johnson supporters would like us to believe and they really aren’t even competing for the same voters. Ron Paul is a true constitutional conservative and it’s a mistake to call him a libertarian, even if he has a lot in common with that movement. Gary Johnson is more of a moderate libertarian. He’s a minarchist who is a liberal on social issues. He’s closer to Ronald Reagan or the old Rockefeller wing of the party on many issues and he’s too liberal on social issues for Republican primary voters. Paul has a more clearly defined constitutional position and an established reputation for standing on principle.
Ron Paul’s positions are more appealing on a number of issues. He’s the only candidate who is willing to stand up and call for an end to the Federal Reserve, which is a dangerous cabal run by foreign bankers with no basis in Constitutional authority. He’s the only candidate who believes in sound money and a return to the gold standard rather than fractional reserve banking. He’s also the strongest candidate supporting states rights and state sovereignty and an end to federal tyranny under the 14th Amendment.
Perhaps most importantly, Ron Paul is the only candidate brave enough to have a foreign policy which admits the mistakes we’ve made overseas and the disastrous and parasitical nature of our relationship with Israel. It is Israel and it’s powerful lobby which have drawn us into war after war and made us the target of terrorism, and Ron Paul would end that relationship and he would withdraw all of our military bases outside our border and stop spending money to prop up dictators and intervene in the affairs of countries all over the world. He’d get us out of the United Nations, thumb his nose at the New World Order, and strengthen our borders to protect our workers and our jobs.
What is absolutely essential for the primary election is that Paul’s personal values can win over GOP primary voters. While he believes that states rights are sacrosanct and is willing to leave many things up to the states to decide, Paul personally believes in fundamental moral values. He believes in the sanctity of human life from conception, opposes the immorality of gay marriage, supports the right of students to pray in school and the posting of the ten commandments on public property. He believes in economic liberty, but also the liberty to practice religion freely and maintain a traditional Judeo-Christian moral code in our society without the interference of the federal government.
It is these values which do the most to differentiate Paul from Gary Johnson, and it is these values which will win him the support of key voters in the religious right so that he can win a primary victory. When traditionalist Christian voters discover that Johnson personally supports gay marriage and abortion and letting the federal government dictate social policy to the states they will turn against him in droves. Unless Ron Paul is there for them to turn to they may support a socially conservative candidate who is terrible on other issues like Mike Huckabee.
Winning in 2012
Gary Johnson is a great spokesman for libertarian ideas, but he is out of step with many in the Republican party and while he might draw Democrats and independents in the general election, he cannot win in a Republican primary because of his controversial views, and you don’t get to the general election without winning the primary. As a true constitutional conservative Ron Paul does not have that liability. Once his message gets out most Republicans will realize that he’s got the right ideas for them.
If you believe in the Constitution, states rights, ending the Fed, sound money and a non-interventionist foreign policy, then Ron Paul is your candidate. He will end the abuses of the last two administrations, cut back the overgrowth of the federal government, get us out of hock to foreign bankers and end the Bush-Obama era of imperialism, torture and murder.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official positions of the RLC.
The important Republican Party primary process has begun and two candidates with unapologetic libertarian leanings have entered the Republican field: the elder statesman-country doctor Ron Paul and the former Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson.
The case has been made that you should support both candidacies by leaders in the liberty movement including Nick Gillespie and Peter Schiff. Ultimately, you can only cast one primary vote.
Conventional wisdom supports the notion that Congressman Paul has the organization and fan base to compete. There’s no denying that he has an impeccable ability to fundraise and a fervent fan base. Whether these items will translate to votes is a different matter entirely.
What are the differences between these candidates, who should you pick, and why?
Gary Johnson started a company from scratch in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1971. The business, Big J Enterprises, eventually grew to employ over 1,000 New Mexicans when he sold it in 1999. It is still among the largest job creators in the state. The Big J way — Gary Johnson’s approach — is simple. He lays it out in his forthcoming book, “The Seven Principles of Good Government.”
His first principle is to become reality-driven. Gary Johnson gathers data, analyzes it, and determines the costs and the benefits. While governing, it’s no surprise that Governor Johnson weighed the costs and benefits of government programs and ultimately made the tough choices that were unpopular with special interest groups and partisans, but created a period of unmatched economic prosperity for New Mexico.
Johnson’s second and third principles are to be honest to all people and always do what’s right. Numerous people have told me that Governor Johnson should simply “switch” his position on the abortion issue to gain popularity, but that would be a far cry from honest. As Governor, Gary Johnson supported legislation that banned late term abortions and allowed parental notification for minors seeking an abortion. He was not only endorsed by the Right to Life Committee, but he also signed on as a supporter to every bill supported by New Mexico Right to Life. President Johnson would appoint judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade, believing that states should make their own determinations on the controversial and personal question. He also supports a woman’s right to make a decision during the early stages of pregnancy, making him personally pro-choice — a position also held by libertarian Republican hero Barry Goldwater.
Living his fourth principle — determine a goal, develop a plan, and act — he emerged from obscurity to win the primary and general elections when the deck was stacked against him. In his recent article “The Guy That Barack Obama Should Worry About,” author Brian Ross, a journalist who was living in Santa Fe in the ‘90s, observed that Johnson won in part by going “after the old-boy political machine” — a necessary piece of the victory puzzle. Johnson introduced himself to the Republican Party, was told he had no chance to win the primary, won, and then went on to win the general election by 10 points.
He won, in part, because of his fifth principle: Communicate to your audience. A recent op-ed from a New Mexico newspaper (El Defensor Chieftain) opined, “In these times of the coached, coiffed and vacuum-sealed candidate with the entourage of handlers and spinners, the candidate who manages to be just himself is a breath of fresh air. His message will appeal to independent-minded Republicans, Independents and anybody else who’s fed up.”
This principle will help Johnson in early GOP primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire, which require candidates to actually have conversations and sell themselves to primary voters. Governor Johnson is going to take the time to meet with people one on one. He is able to connect with those he talks to and can convince people through conversation to embrace the liberty message. After all, connecting with people is what allowed Governor Johnson to succeed in business and in state politics.
Principle six for Governor Johnson goes along with his direct nature: Don’t hesitate to deliver bad news. Governor Johnson has zoned in on the debt issue and has made it his signature issue. Every speech he gives hones in on how 43 cents of every dollar the federal government spends must be cut. He hammers at the debt problem and delivers the bad news with the optimism that our economic woes can improve — with the same libertarian solutions he implemented in New Mexico from 1994 to 2003.
Gary Johnson’s seventh and final principle: Do what it takes to get the job done. Johnson has invested the last year and half to meet with liberty activists and concerned Americans all across the country. He is determined to have his voice heard in the 2012 debate and insists he would not be running if he didn’t have something to add to the race.
You’ve already met Congressman Paul. Here are Governor Johnson’s comparative advantages, as I see them:
Both Paul and Johnson have the same policy prescription at the federal level regarding abortion: get the government out of the issue. They largely agree on economic policy, with both subscribing to the Austrian school of economic thought — but there is variation. Unfortunately, Paul opposes NAFTA, while Johnson supports it. Congressman Paul is one of the most aggressive earmarkers in Congress, even while often — though not always — voting against the final versions of the bills in which the earmarks are placed. Both support auditing and abolishing the Federal Reserve, although Paul has made it his signature issue. Both candidates support the repeal of the income tax and replacing it with nothing, the flat tax, or the Fair Tax. Johnson favors term limits for politicians at the state and federal levels, while Paul does not.
Regarding foreign policy, Paul supporters have argued that Governor Johnson supports “humanitarian wars,” which I previously explored and refuted. Both candidates have opposed all recent interventions — Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya — but Johnson says we should assist foreign nations in select cases where genocide is occurring. He recently stated that he supports keeping Guantanamo open because prisoners would have to be kept somewhere else if it was closed. His statement did not discuss the treatment of those being held, despite misleading attempts by Johnson critics to insinuate otherwise. Recently, Gary Johnson clarified his stance on Guantanamo:
“- No criminal or terrorist suspect captured by the U.S. should be subject to physical or psychological torture. This includes water-boarding and other interrogation techniques that may yield inaccurate information or permanently damage a suspect. Likewise, no criminal or terrorist suspect captured by the U.S. should be transferred to foreign agents who may resort to treatment methods deemed cruel and unusual by the U.S.
- Individuals incarcerated unjustly by the U.S. should have the ability to seek compensation through the courts.
- The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba must be closed after all detainees have been tried by courts that presume innocence before guilt.”
It’s interesting to note that four of the aforementioned issues of disagreement — earmarks, term limits, Israel, and Guantanamo — are areas where Congressman Paul’s son, Senator Rand Paul, agrees more with Gary Johnson than his father.
Gary Johnson entered politics for the first time in 1994. After approaching the GOP about the gubernatorial nomination, he was told he should run for the legislature. Undeterred, he instead spent his own savings to promote his common sense, business approach to government. His platform emphasized tax cuts, job creation, halting the growth of state government, and a tough line on law and order. His campaign slogan was “People Before Politics”. He first won the primary against a state legislator and subsequently won the General Election against incumbent Democratic Governor Bruce King, 50% to 40%. Party registration in the state of New Mexico at the time was 2-to-1 Democrat.
While serving in office, Governor Johnson vetoed 200 of 424 bills put in front of him in the first six months — 48% of all legislation — and used the line-item veto on most of the remaining bills. According to former New Mexico Republican National Committee member Mickey D. Barnett, “Any time someone approached him about legislation for some purpose, his first response always was to ask if government should be involved in that to begin with.” This was not only because of Johnson’s personal principles, but also in keeping with his campaign promise of approaching government from the perspective of costs versus benefits. In 1995, he called on the Republicans in Congress to eliminate the budget deficit through proportional cuts from the entire federal budget .
Hear Johnson’s approach in this recent interview with CNN:
In 1998, Governor Johnson ran for re-election against Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez. He campaigned on continuing the programs of his first term: improving schools while cutting state spending, taxes, and bureaucracy, along with using “common sense” veto power to rein in on waste. Fielding a strong Hispanic candidate in a 40% Hispanic state, Democrats expected to oust Johnson, but he won 55%-45%, illustrating his broad support base among independents, fiscally conservative Democrats, voters of different ethnic backgrounds, and Republicans.
Johnson proposed wide-ranging tax cuts — repealing a tax on prescription drugs, cutting income taxes by $47 million, and cutting the state gasoline tax by six cents per gallon. He set state and national records for his use of veto powers, vetoing nearly 750 bills (not including thousands of line-item vetoes), gaining him the nickname “Governor Veto.” He also worked diligently in his second term to implement a school voucher system, which never occurred due to inaction from the legislature. In 1999 and again in 2000, he proposed the largest school voucher system in the country to enroll 100,000 students in its first year.
Congressman Paul has run numerous campaigns from the mid-1970s to present, so there’s no doubt he’s an experienced campaigner – having won election eleven times. In addition to losing the U.S. Senate race against Phil Gramm in the early 1980s, Congressman Paul also lost two Congressional races, one in the mid-1970s and another in the late-1970s. He has also only won election in his Lake Jackson/Victoria area district in Texas (whose district number was changed various times over the years), where citizens largely already agree with him on policy issues and the population is roughly 650,000 and far less diverse than New Mexico’s population, both in terms of ideology and ethnic background. Johnson, by contrast, campaigned in a state of 1.9 million people in a majority Democrat area and a majority-minority (non-white) state. Johnson’s electoral successes illustrate a strikingly broad appeal.
While Dr. Paul has stayed true to principle, he has been far less effective in the legislative process, i.e., his attempts to pass legislation have not been successful. He now chairs the House Subcommittee overseeing the Federal Reserve, which is a long-awaited and well-deserved recognition of the popularity of his views on the Fed resulting from the 2008 campaign.
Governor Johnson is a tested candidate, since he had to actually run the state of New Mexico. He did it with tremendous courage and conviction, proving that he can be trusted to follow through on campaign promises and is committed to principle.
Selling the Message and Growing the Movement
Who is attracted to the messages being sold by Congressman Paul and Governor Johnson?
There’s no concrete data as of yet, but Johnson has a history of attracting moderates, fiscally conservative Democrats, Republicans (of course), Independents, and white and non-white voters. This is a broad base of potential supporters.
The goal of both campaigns is to grow the movement (and hopefully win election). Governor Johnson is best suited to do that because most GOP primary voters and 2012 GOP debate watchers will have already heard Congressman Paul’s message. By supporting a new messenger with a different approach to selling the message, there is a tremendous opportunity to turn more people on to libertarian principles.
Additionally, who do we want to sell the liberty message at the grassroots level? Johnson can attract new and different voices, such as women, gays, and Hispanics into the Republican Party and the liberty movement. Given the growing Hispanic population in our country, this demographic will be an important factor in future electoral successes, and Johnson has a proven track record of gaining their support.
“Gary Johnson has no name recognition,” some Paul supporters chant. Neither did Ron Paul when I first became active in his campaign in January, 2007. Fortunately, the first GOP Presidential debate is on Thursday, so Johnson will have the opportunity to increase his name recognition.
The GOP debates and the 2008 campaign dramatically increased Congressman Paul’s name ID and the same can hold true for Johnson in 2012. Given the age difference between Dr. Paul — who is 75 — and Governor Johnson — who is 58 — it’s very reality-based (using a Johnson principle) to assist the former Governor increase his name identification for not only his 2012 campaign, but also for future endeavors.
Most importantly, it is key to have a leader who can run in future elections should 2012 not be the year Americans embrace our message.
In addition to the vocal conspiratorial-minded supporters who are a challenge when trying to make a dent in electoral politics, Paul also has two items of baggage which his opponents in the primary or in the general election are going to raise to attack him.
First, he has not addressed criticisms in the media about accepting money from known white supremacists like Don Black, who donated $500 to the Paul 2008 campaign. Mr. Black was the former Grand Wizard of the KKK. It seems that keeping his $500 would have been less important than sending a message opposing Black’s views by rejecting that donation. That would have been a smart move for a campaign focused on winning.
Second, the media is not on Paul’s side and they gleefully targeted him for harassment and marginalization in 2008 because of material published in the Ron Paul newsletter. Those attacks have not been answered effectively and will be raised against Paul again in this campaign. These newsletter articles appeared under Paul’s name and included racist comments which clearly do not reflect his beliefs. They implied that blacks were more likely to commit crimes than whites as well as rants against the Israeli lobby, gays, AIDS victims and Martin Luther King, Jr., who is described as a “pro-Communist philanderer.” While Congressman Paul did not write or approve the articles before they were published, it is inevitable that they will be used against him again because he has not identified the author or held him responsible.
Given that Paul’s general election opponent would be Barack Obama, if Paul makes it through the primary his general election campaign might be over before it even begins when the media starts to play up these two items of baggage.
In comparison, Governor Johnson has relatively little controversial baggage. One issue that has been brought up is that he and his wife divorced in 2005 — which is true — and his then ex-wife passed away in late 2006 of hypertensive heart disease. Governor Johnson’s two adult children both support his 2012 Presidential campaign, so there isn’t any issue here except that the Johnsons divorced. It has also been mentioned that Governor Johnson is not presently married. While true, Governor Gary Johnson is engaged to be married.
The last time a member of the House of Representatives was elected President was James Garfield in 1880. It’s more likely that a former Governor would be elected President, and someone with real business and executive experience can more easily expose Obama’s unsuitable credentials. As I noted above, early primary state voters identify with candidates who are willing to meet with them and discuss issues in a face to face setting.
Congressman Paul is in impeccable shape and his mind is sharp. However, the fact is that he is in his mid-70s. Age combined with his responsibility to his district and in Congress require travel between DC and Texas — a lot. This reality makes it less likely that Congressman Paul will campaign for weeks at a time in key states like New Hampshire or South Carolina. By contrast, Governor Johnson is invested in the 2012 campaign, is unconstrained by a current elected position, and appears to have tremendous focus on making a dent in the New Hampshire primary.
Johnson has yet to be formally introduced to the GOP electorate nationwide, but when he is, I suspect he will be considered among the most likable of 2012 hopefuls. As John Avlon writes in The Daily Beast,
“In Johnson, libertarians might have their most accomplished modern advocate — a proven vote getter with demonstrated crossover appeal, a self-made millionaire and iron-man competitor who supports marijuana legalization (and let’s be honest, that libertarian plank has always been a source of the movement’s popularity on college campuses). More importantly, he has actually reined in government spending as an executive — leaving his successor a budget in the black.”
If your first choice and mainstream Republican Party members’ second choice — a position that Governor Tim Pawlenty, “everyone’s backup choice”, seems to be holding at the moment — then Johnson can do very well in 2012. Based on likability alone, Johnson’s chances are promising given the lackluster field. Even if he doesn’t win in 2012, he could run in the future — something that would be less likely for Congressman Paul due to his age.
Having two pro-liberty GOP contenders is better than having just one. In these two men we are fortunate enough to have candidates who will not talk negatively about each other, who believe in our message, and who can speak to different constituencies.
In Governor Johnson you find a man with clear principles, integrity, entrepreneurial, and executive experience. And he even climbed Mount Everest with a broken leg.
Our government is broken and people need their faith restored in the American dream, so look “big picture” when choosing a candidate.
Which messenger can help us restore in liberty now and in the future?
I urge you to let Gary Johnson sell palatable libertarian solutions to America so we can once again be a free people.
Without support from liberty-minded activists, Johnson’s campaign won’t be able to reach these folks with the liberty message, so get involved today.
Aaron Biterman was involved in the early stages of the Ron Paul 2008 campaign, participating in a conference call with Dr. Paul and the Republican Liberty Caucus in January, 2007 and subsequently creating the Ron Paul 2008 Facebook group that eventually gained more than 80,000 members during the campaign.
He has been active Republican politics since 2004. He is an Advisory Board member of the Northern Virginia Tea Party and writes for The Tea Party Review, the only print publication of the Tea Party movement. Send him mail.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official positions of the RLC.
The Republican Liberty Caucus has a specific mission, which is to restore liberty and Constitutional values in American politics through electing members of the Republican Party who have those values and ideals. For twenty years this mission has been gaining momentum, and can be seen picking up serious steam in the 2010 elections around the country.
Achieving the mission occurs through a very simple strategy that involves two core concepts:
1. Work within the Republican Party.
2. Make sure that the best candidate gets the party nomination in the primary.
The first step seems to be hard for some people to swallow, as it means narrowing your focus somewhat. To be most effective, RLC activists are encouraged to join their county’s Republican executive committee (REC). The REC is where Republican strategy is made and the agenda is set. It determines who the party will support, what ideas it will back, and generally how the local party is run. Obviously, this has tremendous strategic value for a caucus that tasks itself with reforming the party from the inside out.
Being a member of your REC isn’t enough by itself, however. You also have to be willing to work with the local party members and have at the very least a working relationship with them. To that end, all conflict and strife should be avoided if necessary, as it creates barriers and can lead to negative publicity. If a situation arises, it’s best for the RLC member(s) to back away from it and make it known that they aren’t interesting in any kind of trouble.
It’s also useful to help with campaigns of candidates (preferably ones you find enjoyable), or to do some other work to help the party on the local level (i.e. making phone calls, knocking on doors, helping organize a voter registration drive, etc.). There are a number of things you can do to actively help the party without sacrificing your principles.
One of the issues that faces some members is how much they can support candidates outside of the Republican Party. This becomes a particularly sticky situation when you have a party loyalty oath like that used by the Republican Party of Florida. Typically, RLC members openly supporting non-Republican candidates against Republicans can cause friction with their relations within the party. The RPOF loyalty oath actually states that those who sign it are forbidden from openly supporting any candidate running against a Republican in a partisan election, except in a primary. It’s worth noting that in order to join any of Florida’s RECs, you must sign the loyalty oath. This is no small matter; signing your name to a document is regarded by most as putting your honor on the line, and to go against an oath you signed your name to can create some serious issues. If you’re not comfortable with such a restriction, you should probably see about working from outside of your local REC if they have one in place.
In order to prevent RLC members from feeling the urge to vote against the Republican candidate, the RLC needs to win primary elections, getting the liberty candidate into the general election. Once they are pressed through, the party is typically forced to support them. Mike Yost is a solid example where a good primary push got a great liberty candidate into the general election, where he has earned the support of many of the Republican Party’s biggest names in his bid to win the Congressional District 3 race in Florida. Unfortunately, if the primary run fails, the opposing candidate will get the party’s support, and any further actions against them will incur some hard feelings within the party.
It is not the general election where the RLC needs to focus most of its efforts, but rather these primary elections. In the 10-18 months leading up to a primary election, RLC members need to identify good liberty minded candidates quickly within the Republican Party, and then support them as much as possible, putting all time, effort, and even money into that candidate to get them through the primary. In many regions this push will give a large boost that could see the candidate win and make it through to the general election. Once they’re in the general election, the Republican Party will take over, donating far more resources than the RLC could muster for the race.
The RLC has a good strategy, a winning strategy. Work within the party, and push liberty candidates in the primary elections. If RLC members can do these things – avoiding strife, breaking oaths, or being sucked into the concept they can “wait” to support a candidate until after the primary – then liberty candidates will win more races in the Republican Party across the nation, bringing the Republican Liberty Caucus’s strategy one step closer to success.
And with that success will come a new age of liberty and Constitutional values in America.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official positions of the RLC.
In Florida’s Republican Party, like many around the country, we are told that unity is always supporting the Republican Candidate who wins their primary race. When attending Republican Party functions, we are told that we are to “come together at election time” by the leaders of the party. It is rare, however, that these same party leaders do not see their candidate win in the primary. The win allows them, with immunity, to demand total support for the candidate that so many in the grassroots were working to defeat, which often leaves these workers in a state of utter confusion and wondering how they can be expected to so drastically change their support.
In the case of Governor Charlie Crist, many of the Republican Party leadership, who knew exactly what Charlie stood for, supported him and his decisions to the end. That end, of course, was when Charlie changed parties, and now Charlie is despised. He has become a talking point for Republicans in the 2010 state elections for what is wrong with Florida; however, many of those same Republicans supported and demanded that others support him before his party change. Did Charlie’s actions or beliefs change? Did Charlie suddenly morph into someone that aspired to beliefs that were not in line with the Republican Party? The Answer is no. Charlie did not change; rather, simply his affiliation with the Republican Party changed.
In Duval county we have a mayor that claims to be a Republican, yet has proposed tax increases the last two years. These increases were supported by the mostly Republican City Council, but were protested by many of the hardworking, grassroots people of Duval County. Meanwhile both years the Republican Party leadership declined to participate in the discussion, because to do so would have been to go against a fellow Republican. What issue pertains more to the Republican Party than low taxes? Yet, Republican leaders would rather remain silent, then true to principles.
At a time when so many within both parties are disenfranchised and ready for another option, perhaps demanding loyalty to a party is short sighted. It is because of these types of demands that so many organizations and groups have sprung up. From the Tea Parties and 912 groups to the Republican Liberty Caucus and Campaign for Liberty, these groups are now standing for what the Republican Party was always supposed to be: The Party that represented small, limited, Constitutional Government, less taxes, a strong national defense, and State and National Sovereignty.
Now is the time to examine the political system to determine if, perhaps, the idea of loyalty to an organization or party, that often asks the people to dismiss their personal convictions and standards and offer their blind loyalty to the title “Republican”, is somehow missing the big picture. Does supporting someone like Charlie Crist, only to have them prove that they have always stood for different principles, lend credibility to the Republican Party leadership?
Many serving on the executive committee take a loyalty oath to support the party. This oath has often been enforced with a stern hand. Meanwhile, who is enforcing the oath to the Constitution that our elected officials take? Should their failure to uphold their own oath to their constituents void any oath to unconditionally support them? They have forgotten that they serve the people, and their primary duty is to uphold the US Constitution. If we continue to blindly support them, forcing loyalty on those working to get them elected, we are creating an infrastructure that will collapse on itself.
To pretend that America’s problems started the day that Obama was sworn into office is to dismiss the damage that Republicans, such as John McCain and Olympia Snow, have been doing to the party for years. It was the Republican Party that supported them and enabled them to continue their harmful ways without accountability. The Party needs to figure out what it stands for and what it stands against so that the people working to get “Republicans” candidates elected in the fall will know exactly what these candidates stand for.
Organizations such as the Republican Liberty Caucus stand for accountability within the party at all levels and with every elected official. When officials fail to uphold their oath to the Constitution, or to support the principles that the stated Republican platforms claims to uphold, they deserve to be called out and in turn voted out.
If those in party leadership would unite under principles, they could harness the growing power of the Tea Parties, the RLC, the 912 groups, and thousands of disenfranchised voters.
Now is the time to decide if uniting under a title is more important than returning this country to its roots and seeing real change take place in our cities, counties, states, and Nation.
When I declare that there is something seriously wrong with our government and our legislative process there are few who would disagree. Left and right, Democrat and Republican, more and more of us are convinced that our government is broken and that it no longer serves the needs or the interests of the people. We may disagree on the source of the problem and we certainly disagree on the solutions, but there’s clearly something wrong.
Some of us are trying to find a way to put our government back on track — to once again make government the servant rather than the master of the people. We’re demanding integrity and accountability and a new commitment from our leaders to restore our Republic to its founding values as expressed in the Constitution. This is the mission of the Republican Liberty Caucus and we have a strategy to achieve it.
After a decade which has seen our rights legislated away by the PATRIOT Act, big business bailouts, needless foreign wars and costly occupations, some have abandoned any hope of putting the government back on track. We’re now paying the price for a long series of misguided policies from two administrations. They have wrecked our economy, usurped our rights and sold us out to special interests, but it’s still not too late to save the republic if we can take our government back in the next two elections.
The Democrats are a lost cause. They are drunk on power and are using the government to plunder the people and enrich their allies. They have become the party of government excess. But we can still salvage the integrity of the Republican party and it can become the vehicle through which we change Congress and restore the republic, if we can rededicate it to its traditional values of individual liberty, free enterprise and limited government.
This seems like a monumental challenge, especially if you assume that you need to take over the whole party and replace the leadership to before real change can happen, but it may be more realistic than it seems.
You don’t need to actually take control of the party or its leadership to change its priorities. You just need to elect a nucleus of principled leaders who will influence those around them to make the party what it ought to be.
The reality is that in Congress, as in any organization, most of the members are naturally inclined to be followers. There is powerful pressure to go along with the prevailing attitudes in your party. To bring about change you don’t need to replace everyone in Congress, you just need to change who they look to for leadership and the principles which they find advantageous to follow.
If our representatives in Congress see that the prevailing attitude is shifting, their natural inclination will be to follow whatever appears to be the new dominant trend. If a particular stance seems to be wining popular support and getting new members elected, everyone but the most corrupt will follow that trend.
You can’t do this by introducing an alien ideology. You can’t do it with ideas which members of the party don’t already respect. But if the ideas are those which created the party, the ideas of Thomas Jefferson and Robert Taft and Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan and you can demonstrate that you have made them popular again by electing candidates based on them, then the advantage of jumping on the bandwagon will be obvious.
This is the strategy which has given other minority groups influence out of proportion to their numbers. It worked for the religious right. It worked for the neocons. It will work even better for Liberty Republicans, because the ideas they are promoting have a natural appeal to all republicans.
The specific plan of the Republican Liberty Caucus is to replace 20 percent of the Republicans in the House and Senate with principled, pro-liberty legislators by 2012. That means at least 10 Senators and at least 45 Rrepresentatives, on the assumption that the overall number of elected Republicans grow during the next three years.
With the efforts of the tea parties and other groups and the general anti-incumbent sentiment in the country a lot of Republicans will be elected n 2010 and more in 2012. They may not all be Liberty Republicans, but by the time that Republicans return to the majority there will be enough liberty Republicans among them that they will take a position of ideological leadership, which will change the basic character of our government.
This goal may already be in sight. It seems likely that at least 5 Liberty Republicans will be in the senate by the end of this year, with new Senators like Utah’s Mike Lee and Kentucky’s Rand Paul joining returning incumbents Jim Demint and Tom Coburn. Liberty Republicans will also be heading for the House of Representatives, with at least 30 of them joining representatives like Ron Paul and Jeff Flake after November. Similar numbers in the next two year cycle will make the RLC’s goal a reality and lay the groundwork for real change.
With that core group of principled Liberty Republicans in a position of influence we will begin to see real change very quickly. RLC candidates are united in their dedication to reducing the size and the burden of government. They will eliminate unnecessary government departments, programs and spending. They will roll back government intrusions on our liberties as individuals and on the sovereignty of our states. They will work towards tax reform and reduction and sensible alternatives to Obamacare and Social Security. Ultimately they will reasses the war on terror, homeland security and the war on drugs and effect a realignment of government priorities. Foreign policy will focus on free trade and the military will once again be dedicated to national defense.
It may sound like a utopian vision, and certainly the whole agenda will not be implemented overnight, but it starts with electing enough Liberty Republicans to form a voting block in both houses which will change the direction of the Ccngress.
If you want to be part of that change, you can help by spreading the word about the Liberty Candidates endorsed by the Republican Liberty Caucus and demanding reform and accountability from your other elected officials. Every Liberty Republican who is elected brings us one step closer to reclaiming our nation for liberty.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official positions of the RLC.
Reports coming from the Maine Republican Convention this past weekend are that Tea Party activists and Liberty Republicans, who were elected as delegates in large numbers, have outvoted the party establishment and passed an alternative party platform stressing party reform and emphasizing traditional Republican and conservative values.
After their suggestions submitted through the platform formation process were ignored, the delegates on the floor rejected a platform proposed by party leaders which was virtually identical to the party's 2008 platform and then voted on and passed a much more libertarian and anti-government platform which passed easily. Then when it was challenged on procedural grounds it passed again with an even larger majority.
In the preamble they issue a challenge to the corruption of the party system, writing that "Years of neglect have allowed factions detrimental to the core principles of this nation, to entrench themselves in both political parties, and undermine the education of Constitutional principles vital to the survival of the republic." They also stress constitutional values and announce that:
We, the citizens of Maine united by free association as Republicans, dedicated to seeing the principles which brought forth the birth and ascendance of this State and these United States once again made dominant and pledge our unwavering allegiance, not to a political party, but to the Constitution of the State of Maine and the Constitution of the United States of America. The Republican Party is the vehicle through which we seek to better unify and promote those in pursuit of these goals.
The principles upon which the Republican Party was founded, to which we as Citizens seek return, and to which we demand our elected representatives abide, are summarized as follows:
The Constitutions, both State and Federal, are the framework to which any and all legislation must adhere.
State sovereignty must be regained and retained on all issues specifically relegated to the States by the constitution.
National sovereignty shall be preserved and retained as dominant over any attempted unconstitutional usurpations of such by international treaty.
It is the responsibility and duty, of “We the People”, to educate both ourselves and others; to demand honest elections free of corruption, and to hold our elected officials to the highest standards of honesty, integrity and loyalty to the constitution."
They then go on to address many specifics, although the platform is relatively short compared to those of other state Republican parties. Their concerns include protecting state sovereignty, national sovereignty, and individual rights, opposing federal interference with free speech in the media, opposing card check and forced unionization, prohibiting public funding for advocacy groups, opposition to cap and trade, ObamaCare and any kind of tax expansion, term limits and other limits on congressional power, and some socially conservative positions including opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.
Not everyone is happy with the new platform. The state party has yet to actually put it on their website, with the old proposed platform remaining in its place. Dan Billings, former attorney for the Maine GOP, called the new platform "wack job pablum" and "nutcase stuff." Yet the content does not really focus on the kind of conspiracy-related issues, hardcore anti-globalism or other radical agenda items of the Tea Party movement. Most of what it contains is very mainstream and widely supported by Republicans. It's just more specific and less moderate than many insiders would have preferred.
Response has been positive but qualified from party reformers and Liberty Republicans. In a comprehensive examination of the platform, Matt Gagnon of Pine Tree Politics applauds the substance of the platform while criticizing the cobbled together nature of a document essentially written off the cuff on the floor of the convention hall. R. Kenneth Lindell of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Maine commented, "It would have been better if the Platform Committee had done its job and taken the proposals for changes to the platform seriously. The end result would have been better written and more presentable. That said I think that it is a very positive development that activists who are new to the party have been able to succeed where earlier they were simply ignored and dismissed."
Critics on the left have been quick to attack the Maine platform as radical and the product of political amateurism, pointing to the criticism of the Federal Reserve and of globalist groups as "conspiracy theories and making much of the favorable mention in the platform of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). Some have been eager to make fun of the conflict between the "teabaggers" and the Maine GOP. Nonetheless, even they admit that this may be a sign of things to come as grassroots activists gain a larger voice in Republican politics.
With state Republican conventions scheduled all over the country in the coming months, we may see more large-scale movements towards a more purist Republican ideology and an ongoing reaction against big government. Even if other state parties don't see outright takeovers of their platforms, they may respond to this grassroots pressure by shifting farther right voluntarily to address the increasingly loud demands of constituents.