Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Conservatives, Liberals, and Libertarians... Oh My!

This lil blurb by David Boaz, writing at Cato@Liberty (Gallup’s Conservatives and Libertarians), caught my eye:

The word “libertarian” isn’t well known, so pollsters don’t find many people claiming to be libertarian. And usually they don’t ask. But a large portion of Americans hold generally libertarian views — views that might be described as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, or as Gov. William Weld told the 1992 Republican National Convention, “I want the government out of your pocketbook and out of your bedroom.” They don’t fit the red-blue paradigm, and they have their doubts about both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. They’re potentially a swing vote in elections. Background on the libertarian vote here.

And note here: If you tell people that “libertarian” means “fiscally conservative and socially liberal,” 44 percent will accept the label.

From my Blogger profile, first published in 2005:

Politically moderate, I'm conservative on foreign policy and national defense issues (surprise!) and liberal on social issues. I've voted Republican since 1980 but if the Libertarian party were viable I'd support them.
It looks like I'm more mainstream than I thought… but not in the Republican Party. And nothing brings this more to the fore in my feeble lil mind than the current brouhaha concerning the self-destructing GOP that is unfolding in Upstate New York… I'm speaking specifically of the special election in NY-23 for the US House.  That election is garnering a LOT of attention among those who follow politics closely. Let's quote The Other McCain, writing in The American Spectator:
In the past six days, Hoffman has been endorsed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, former National Republican Congressional Campaign chairmen John Linder and Tom Cole…

The complete list of Hoffman endorsers is a long one, and seems to include nearly every Republican except Newt Gingrich and Dede Scozzafava, the later (sic) of whom is Hoffman's opponent, and the former her only prominent supporter. According to the two most recent polls, the liberal Republican Scozzafava is now in third place, while Hoffman has pulled ahead of Democrat Bill Owens.

It's fairly unusual for an off-cycle special election to attract this much attention, let alone candidate endorsements from Party luminaries like Palin, Pawlenty, and Gingrich, et al. But if you (a) haven't been paying attention to this issue and (b) followed the link to The Fix above (which is highly recommended), you'll note the NY-23 election amounts to a serious litmus test of conservative bona fides. It's also quite troubling. Here's an excerpt from Ben Smith's blog at The Politico, where he quotes Gingrich (appearing on Fox News):

GINGRICH: Well, I just find it fascinating that my many friends who claim to be against Washington having too much power, they claim to be in favor of the 10th Amendment giving states back their rights, they claim to favor local control and local authority, now they suddenly get local control and local authority in upstate New York, they don't like the outcome.

There were four Republican meetings. In all four meetings, State Representative Dede Scozzafava came in first. In all four meetings, Mr. Hoffman, the independent, came in either last or certainly not in the top three. He doesn't live in the district. Dede Scozzafava...

VAN SUSTEREN: He doesn't live in the district?

GINGRICH: No, he lives outside of the district. Dede Scozzafava is endorsed by the National Rifle Association for her 2nd Amendment position, has signed the no tax increase pledge, voted against the Democratic governor's big-spending budget, is against the cap-and-trade tax increase on energy, is against the Obama health plan, and will vote for John Boehner, rather than Nancy Pelosi, to be Speaker.

Now, that's adequately conservative in an upstate New York district. And on other issues, she's about where the former Republican, McHugh, was. So I say to my many conservative friends who suddenly decided that whether they're from Minnesota or Alaska or Texas, they know more than the upstate New York Republicans? I don't think so. And I don't think it's a good precedent. And I think if this third party candidate takes away just enough votes to elect the Democrat, then we will have strengthened Nancy Pelosi by the divisiveness. We will not have strengthened the conservative movement.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is it that they have identified as why they think the independent candidate...
GINGRICH: Well, there's no question, on social policy, she's a liberal Republican.

VAN SUSTEREN: On such as abortion?
GINGRICH: On such as abortion, gay marriage, which means that she's about where Rudy Giuliani was when he became mayor. And yet Rudy Giuliani was a great mayor. And so this idea that we're suddenly going to establish litmus tests, and all across the country, we're going to purge the party of anybody who doesn't agree with us 100 percent -- that guarantees Obama's reelection. That guarantees Pelosi is Speaker for life. I mean, I think that is a very destructive model for the Republican Party.
(Bold emphasis by Smith) I chose Smith's blog for the quote above because the comments thread is VERY interesting for us political junkies. And I happen to agree with Gingrich… what's happening in NY-23 sets a dangerous precedent… which is to say an opening for knee-jerk Third Party candidacies whenever and wherever a significant minority of conservatives disagrees with the mainstream GOP. As Newt says: this sort of fragmentation almost guarantees The One's reelection. Newt and I also seem to be in the minority on this issue, as well. I'm not that much of a political junkie to claim I know what's going on in NY-23 but I know enough to see things don't look good for us Libertarian-type conservatives… and the GOP, as a whole. Shorter: What are we doing in this handbasket? And where are we going, anyway?

(Just as an aside: if you read blog-bud Morgan regularly you know that he and I have been sparring on this exact issue since last year's Republican primaries and well before. It all began when he backed Fred Thompson and I supported Giuliani; the discussion has continued full-tilt boogie since he's become a serious Palinista. Which I'm not.  See "libertarian," above.)


  1. Very interesting summary of the political issue du jour your side of the Pond. thanks. I hadn't understood what was going on with this really. Sounds like you guys are now about where we were with Thatcher.

    Not sure what I think of libertarian politics. Liberal and libertarian have been synonymous here and brought about the libertine social hues we have colouring society commercially to such a massive degree that it is influencing our society. But under libertarian politocs you cannot say anything about it else you are anti freedoms.

    We have always tended to the conservative here. Legislation was clearly and rightfully balancing a conservative society with personal freedoms. Thatcher and Enoch Powell, political heroes of mine both voted for abortion and divorce legislation I am happy to say. Thatcher gave a good speech on this issue. I accept that there is a balance to be struck and debate around these points but I would hate to have politics where there is a litmus test of the kind mentioned in your post. Scozzafava sounds like Thatcher. Small government, low taxes, legislative balance on social concerns.

    So if Thatcher, Powell and Scozzafava define my politics as lib I would be very surprised.

  2. Buck,
    I find fault with Newt's assertion that the "local" party knows best. I have seen it here first hand and know that the people who do the endorsing locally are all in the business of politics for reasons that have nothing to do with Country wide politics. I think this is where Newt if mistaken; a Congress person will affect the country at a federal level, not at a local street corner level. Those endorsement committees are in it for themselves not for the larger Country. Again, I have seen it first hand, the lying and personal smears only because you disagree with a Party Boss on say, Zoning of a parcel they own (real case), or with another Party Boss because you challenge the way the screw the Township or County out of money (yes another real instance) or another Party elitists on the use of a park near his property (yeah, another real case). All of these people are polled to endorse candidates for election, it is why PA has the poster Boy of RINO’s, Arlen Specter for so many years. And I suspect this is the reason why the local Party up there in northern New York picked the RINO instead of looking around and thinking outside their immediate confines for an appropriate candidate. I hope this Hoffman guy beats them all.

    BT: Jimmy T sends.

  3. Hey Buck,
    Newt Gingrich is a smart cat, but I don't care for his sense of honor. Just like I can salute John McCain for his service to our Nation, but don't consider McCain a conservative.

    I choose my own way and vote thusly. No carpet baggers are needed to help guide me along.

    P.S. If you haven't already, read this link (written in 1937!) and tell me we aren't today sliding down the path to collectivism?

  4. Alison sez: Liberal and libertarian have been synonymous here ...

    Not so here... they are two entirely different animals. Our libs are very Big Government, libertarians are the exact opposite. Libertarians are generally ALL about small government and personal choice/responsibility. There's a lot to like there. I fall out with the Libertarians when it comes to foreign policy, as Big "L" libertarians tend to be isolationists... and I'm not.

    Jimmy: As I said... I have NO idea what's going on in NY-23, only what I read. But I don't like this movement towards Third Parties, as I'm of the belief it cedes power and control to the Dems... and THAT'S NOT good for the country. We can (maybe) stand four years of The One... I dunno about eight.

    Darryl: Newt does have some pretty heavy personal baggage, this is true. But he is one of the real "idea men" in the GOP. And thanks for the link.

  5. Three's a crowd. But people who think social issues are important are pretty adamant about it. They want a party who supports their views. I can see it becoming a decisive issue.

  6. Liberal means old fashioned liberal (libertarianish) as opposed to big government big state leftwingers. I think you guys say liberal overall for the Left.

  7. Do we see some Democrats leaning back to their 19th century founders, like Jefferson to Jackson, instead of following Rousseau and Marx, as we see with Obama and Pelosi? This is cited in THE CHANGING FACE OF DEMOCRATS on Amazon and IThose founding Democrats were the first libertarians, and many may be attracted to go back to those good ol' days.

  8. I think what's happening in NY-23 is symptomatic of what a lot of folks are thinking. I agree with you, Buck, on the concept of A Third Party. It won't work, nationwide.

    But it can work in some places, sometimes. In this case, the party bosses got together and anointed someone that conservatives/libertarians couldn't stomach. Hoffman stepped up, and they are flocking to him.

    He's said he will caucus with the Republicans in DC, and will seek the Republican endorsement next year. I think this is similar to the situation with the Florida US senate seat.

    The folks I talk to are done with eastern elites, no matter which party.

  9. Buck,
    I agree with you on the 3ard party issue as I do think it pulls voters from the R-side in most cases (look at the NJ Gubernatorial race where the Republican would be in a runaway race except for the third party candidate who may or may not be running as a surrogate for the Democrat candidate for the sole purpose of pulling those vote away from the Republican) but in this race there is a big chance that the Conservative candidate can pull this off and the value here is the message it sends to the RNC. It is time for some soul searching in that august body and since they are not listening to the tea party public, they need to get their “pee-pee” spanked, what not a better way than by having them get this election stuck straight up their noses. We need to have the Republican Party re-vitalized much the same way it was when Carter was president, it was what Ragan called for, not surrender like Newt.

    BT: Jimmy T sends

  10. Lou: I know you're right on the social issue thing, but I think it depends on how strident the social conservatives become. I'LL break from the GOP if they go too far. Which makes me wonder: are we that far from anarchy?

    Alison: You're right, of course. Most conservatives in the US are pissed at the Left for having co-opted the term. I like to call 'em "moonbats," myself. :p

    Clay: Thanks for dropping by. Unfortunately, I think only a tiny fraction of Dems are leaning to wards their roots.

    Gordon (& Jimmy): Yup: the smaller the election, the better the chance for a third-party candidate. I think NY23... or any US House district... is about as large a constituency that can support a third party, unless and until you talk about really small states like Rhode Island or Connecticut (think Ol' Joe).

    I agree with both you and Jimmy that there's quite a bit of dissatisfaction with the GOP these days and messages most certainly ARE being sent. The big question(s): are the messages being received? And what's going to be done about it?

    I like Newt, Jimmy. He's one of the few serious thinkers in the GOP today. Morally handicapped, true, but politically astute and correct (in the GOOD way) for the most part.

  11. I agree with you on Newt Gingrich, Buck. He's an ideas man, but I wouldn't want him running for office again.


Just be polite... that's all I ask.