I have been on hiatus from politics, and that distance from the scandal o’ the week has given me pause to contemplate an issue which has persistently dogged the broad right coalition: namely, why is it so hard to unite the base come election time? It seems to me that in the past few elections, there have been very few candidates who have been able to successfully thread the needle to get support from libertarians (small “l”) and social conservatives alike. This is important for three reasons:
1) SoCons and libertarians are by far the most active Republican voters. They are the ones who are willing to man telephone booths, give money, go door to door for their candidate, and bug their friends. They are the ground troops, and we don’t want to go into battle without our full roster.
2) Neither group by itself outnumbers moderates. As I see it, the reason that moderates like McCain and Romney keep getting nominated by the party is because our base is fractured and rarely unites around a candidate — or by the time it does, it’s too late. By going it alone, either group risks getting nothing of what it desires.
3) Keeping a broad coalition means that we can be flexible and have overlapping arguments as the situation calls for it. A libertarian presence on the ground and on the airwaves rebutting the “War on Women” meme provides an alternate stream of argument against a slander which has been hugely harmful to social conservative candidates. SoCons help the party and brand not seem like a party beholden only to money and the Koch brothers, thus defusing a myth injurious to libertarians. Such flexibility makes it difficult for the left to use Alinsky tactics and pigeonhole us as one thing or the other.
As a conservative-libertarian, nothing is more frustrating to me than watching libertarians and social conservatives concentrating time and energy fighting one another rather than the statist and immoral leftists both in our party — and especially, outside of it.
So I’d like to hear from all ye who have a bone to pick with libertarians or social conservatives regarding three things:
1) Why do you feel the way that you do about libertarians/social conservatives? (Please be respectful and polite in framing your answer to this question; I don’t want to start WWIII in a post created with positive intent)
2) In what way could the opposing faction would help you to trust them more, whether on tactics or ideology? (e.g. “I would like libertarians to be less hostile to pro-life positions” or “I would like social conservatives to be more accepting of differences of opinion on gambling legislation”)
3) Which issues consistently prevent you from voting for and enthusiastically supporting a candidate of the opposite faction as part of a unity faction, whether in the primary or in the general? (E.g., “I can’t vote for a candidate who is not openly Christian” or “I can’t vote for someone who doesn’t understand economics”)
Candidates like Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz prove that there is a way to reconcile these two factions — and that doing so yields strong and conservative candidates who win primaries and general elections. Hopefully the responses to this post can help isolate precisely why these candidates were attractive to both libertarians and SoCons alike. To repeat, I have no interest in starting flamewars so please be respectful and polite to people who, like you, have found their interest piqued by the idea of working with you to defeat progressives.
I will write a follow-up when I’ve gotten some responses.