I have recently blogged about the ongoing tensions between liberty-minded Republicans and social conservatives:
• the post “Is it time for liberty to shine in the GOP?” discusses how some social conservatives — like Cal Thomas — are calling on his movement to ‘turn the other cheek’ on the issue of gay marriage. Mr. Thomas thinks the battle has already been lost;
• the post “Are Republicans shifting on gay marriage and the war on drugs?” discusses how we’re seeing a shift in Republican positions on gay marriage and the failed War on Drugs take place before our very eyes; and
• the post “Why must some social conservatives use government to enact their agenda?” calls on social conservatives to practice more tolerance in their interactions with those who don’t agree with them. (After all, it was Thomas Jefferson himself who said “I never will by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance.)
The tensions continue to persist.
But, as far as I can tell, the “Campaign for Liberty” organization (founded by RLC Adviser Ron Paul) is still pretending that there is no tension between social conservatives and libertarian-minded Republicans.
In fact, a search of the Campaign for Liberty website finds only 68 mentions of the word ‘libertarian’. Most of those references talk about the Libertarian Party or its candidates; none of those listings are from official Campaign for Liberty staff members. Additionally, no official literature of the Campaign for Liberty uses the word libertarian.
A key problem with the Campaign for Liberty is even more fundamental: they appear to be allied with social conservatives rather than libertarian Republicans.
The evidence: I recently received an invitation from the Campaign for Liberty in Virginia to attend an event in conjunction with the Republican Party of Virginia Convention called “Restore the Founders’ Vision.” The event took place a week ago Friday in Richmond. I did not attend it because I don’t attend events intended to prop up social conservatism.
The problem with “Restore the Founders’ Vision” is that it is run by known social conservative (and former Republican Party of Virginia Chair) Patrick McSweeney, who discusses in a recent letter to the editor that Bush won Ohio in 2004 because he “attracted social conservatives by taking strong positions on their issues”. Bush took the proper positions on social issues in 2004, according to McSweeney. Why he uses the word ‘their’ is unclear to me.
In a letter of endorsement written by McSweeney in the race between Patrick Muldoon and Bill Bolling in the recent Lt. Governor’s race at the Virginia GOP Convention, McSweeney says: “Bill Bolling has decided that Republicans should either hide or compromise their positions on social issues. He never consulted the grassroots about that. We want candidates who will unapologetically defend those [social conservative] positions, not act as if they are afraid of them.”
“Those positions” (of course, the right positions in the eyes of the author) for social conservatives like McSweeney (who was promoted by Ron Paul’s C4L org.) include: NO exceptions on the abortion issue; consistent opposition to “the homosexual agenda”; opposition to embryonic stem cell research; government censorship of pornography and other TV or Internet “indecencies” (as determined by government rather than families); government intervention on a plethora of issues relating to family values, including many “nanny state” provisions; and government intervention on drugs, prostitution, and euthanasia.
So much for preservation of individual liberty!
Of course, there are some social conservatives who understand the problem with using government as a tool of coercion. The best type of social conservative, to be sure. I give these social conservatives all the credit in the world.
So, is the Campaign for Liberty an organization intended to woo social conservatives, or is their target audience true blue libertarian Republicans? I wrote to the Campaign for Liberty’s senior staff members more than a month ago explaining that they would have to choose one of these two groups (rather than both) to work with.
I also informed them of the Republican Liberty Caucus event at Republican Party of Virginia Convention. I told them that they could inform their members of our event and we would be delighted to have their members at our RLC annual meeting. The RLCVA meeting was a huge success, but C4L senior staff chose not to inform their members of our meeting and instead chose to promote McSweeney’s event aimed at the religious right.
I never received any e-mail acknowledgment or reply from the Campaign for Liberty.
I am not the only one who has noticed these discrepancies in the C4L. In a recent Forbes Magazine article, libertarian Republican author Bruce Bartlett talks about how the Campaign for Liberty “pays lip service to the libertarian philosophy on foreign and social policy, but says little about them.” Says Bartlett, “The discussion of economic policy, however, is much greater.” He concludes, “Whoever wrote these [C4L] talking points is simply pandering to the stupid, the ignorant, and the unsophisticated.”
Fortunately, the Republican Liberty Caucus still maintains a fervent belief in defending both social and economic liberty. And our members are intelligent, sophisticated, and able to make inroads at the grassroots level of the Republican Party, as evidenced by our showing at the recent Republican Party Convention in Virginia.
Additionally, on Saturday, Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida Chair Will Pitts and Secretary Sarah Lovett participated in a “Drive the Discussion” forum in Live Oak, Florida. The event also featured Senate challengers Gov. Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio. The fact that RLC members were invited shows the type of influence they have in the Sunshine State.
According to an analysis of the event by a blogger for an organization called “Faith is the Foundation for Freedom” that is based in Florida, the RLC is “appalling” because of “the manner and language which the Republican Liberty Caucus attacked Traditional Republicans [sic] and the values that we hold near and dear.”
Traditional Republicans, in my estimation, are those Republicans that helped Barry Goldwater receive the Republican Party nomination in 1964. By that definition, the RLC is ‘traditional[ly] Republican’. Ronald Reagan said, “If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.” Again, by Reagan’s standard, the RLC is ‘traditional[ly] Republican’.
Additionally, as is expected, the Republican Liberty Caucus firmly upholds freedom of religion. What RLC members attack is the assumption by social conservatives like Mr. McSweeney or the “Faith is the Foundation for Freedom” blogger that they can use government to legislate morality or make choices traditionally meant for individuals or family units.
And we attack those notions with vigor.
At the Florida forum, the “Faith is the Foundation for Freedom” blogger maintains that he asked RLC Florida Secretary Sarah Lovett, “Why aren’t the Libertarians advancing their agenda in the Libertarian Party rather than the Republican Party?” Lovett and Will Pitts addressed the issue at the forum.
The RLC strategy — outlined throughout our website — is to work within the Republican Party, as we believe the two party system (however flawed it may be and however hard we work to change it) will always win out. Since we want liberty to win, we work to establish liberty via the two-party system.
The agitation that this social conservative blogger has with our group is to be expected because the Republican Liberty Caucus is having a real impact at the grassroots level — and those who have ruined the Republican Party brand with their RINO and neo-con policies may be running scared.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official positions of the RLC.