The GOP’s Redheaded Stepchildren
Every party has its wings–different sub-groups that are part of the larger organization. The Republican party has three wings that the Republican leadership believes is so dangerous to the future of the party, that they tried to suppress their influence in the last election, and pointed fingers at them as the reason for the GOP’s poor showing in the 2012 election cycle.
The Tea Party
It originally sprung up in opposition to out of control government spending. It has become a grass-roots movement centered around government fiscal responsibility. It has a tendancy to work outside the Republican party machinery, which has engendered the wrath of the GOP establishment.
It’s not unusual for a primary candidate to be scorned by the GOP establishment, simply because the candidate is considered a tea partier. Tea partiers felt like they were locked out of the 2012 convention. The GOP is highly critical of any tea party slip ups and magnifies them into major failures. Conversely, the GOP establishment seems to conveniently fail to give the tea party credit for its successes (Marco Rubio for example). It seems as if the GOP establishment now wishes the tea party would just go away.
They are concerned about government using its influence to push the country socially to the left. While they get pigeon-holed as the pro-life/pro-traditional-marriage group, in the larger sense they are concerned about government policies that undermine family integrity (such as the welfare state) and an activist judiciary that (1) creates new rights out of thin air that push the country socially to the left, and (2) thwarts any attempt to reign in government social activism.
And, the GOP establishment hates them. They want their votes, but they don’t want them to speak. The aftermath of the 2012 election produced another flood GOP consultants blaming the loss on social conservatives.
You sometimes forget there is a libertarian wing of the Republican party (because it is so loosely tied to the party), but it’s there. When a libertarian leaning candidate emerges (as Paul did in the last primary), you realize how sizeable (and vocal) this group really is. Unfortunately, this group tends to pack up its toys and go home when it doesn’t get its way. Which, is exactly what the GOP establishment wants. If a group can’t be controlled, they would rather it not be part of the GOP. Libertarians (because they are so focused on individual liberty) are the least controllable of all. This is why they (like tea party activists) were shut out of the 2012 convention.
The core philosophy of libertarians is (1) the government should be limited to its constitutional functions, and (2) individual rights trump government and group “rights.” Not that far out there at all, really. Unfortunately, it’s easy to confuse the libertarian messenge with the libertarian messager. Both Ron Paul and the actual Libertarian party are much farther out onto the edge on a host of issues than the typical libertarian leaning Republican, giving many people the impression that libertarian is a code word for wacko. It’s not. It is though, the only wing of the GOP that attracts large numbers of college students and young voters (something conservatives of all stripes should be very aware of; if you can’t pull in young people, your movement will grow old and die).
The GOP establishment sees all three groups as more trouble than they are worth. Hence its constant maneuvering to silence, shut-out, and shut-down all three. But, without these groups, what would the Republican party be left with? Without tea partiers (fiscal conservatives), without social conservatives (family values and judicial restraint), and without libertarians (individual liberty and adherence to the Constitution) what would be left; what would the Republican party become?
The party of business and defense.
Is that enough? Can the GOP survive (much less flourish) emphasizing business and defense, while deemphasizing everything else? Obviously not, but that would seem to be the path the GOP establishment is taking the party down, as it continues to attempt to suppress the influence of the tea party movement, social conservatives, and libertarians.
Maybe it’s time the red-headed stepchildren focus on working with each other, instead or working with the GOP establishment. I’m not sure if this would take the form of another party, or a redheaded coalition within the GOP, but whatever form, it would certainly be more effective than the current situation.
Don’t think the three groups can work together? Social conservatives tend to be fiscal conservatives, which lines up the the tea party. Tea partiers want government to stay within its constitutional bounds, and so do libertarians. Libertarians are concerned about judges who legislate from the bench, as are social conservatives. When you lay it out, the three groups’ goals, they mesh nicely. Not perfectly, but there is a lot of overlap. Enough, certainly, to form a coalition.
Perhaps it’s time the redheaded stepchildren get together and quit being children.
And, for those that think libertarians are inherently pro-abortion, consider that Ron Paul (the libertarian wing’s poster boy from 2012) is pro-life, Bob Barr (the 2008 Libertarian party nominee) is pro-life, and Michal Bardnarik (the 2004 Libertarian party nominee) is pro-life. Support for abortion does not seem to be a litmus test for libertarian thought. Most libertarians believe that Roe v. Wade should be overturned and the matter returned to the state level. A position a significant number of social conservatives also agree with.