TCS Daily


Is There an Elephant in Here?

By Ryan H. Sager - September 12, 2006 12:00 AM

Editor's Note: A little over a year and a half ago, TCS Daily sent New York Post columnist Ryan Sager down to the 2005 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to observe the state of the conservative movement in the wake of George W. Bush's reelection. In a column that sparked more than a little outrage in the blogosphere, Sager painted a picture of a party in electoral ascendance -- but also in ideological decay.

Now, in The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians, and the Battle to Control the Republican Party, out from John Wiley & Sons publishing today, Sager explores the full implications of what he saw at CPAC, and the worrying turn he sees the GOP as having taken in general. The danger, in Sager's view, is not just that the conservative movement will lose sight of why it came to Washington, D.C. But also, by abandoning libertarian voters, the party conservatives call home may find itself in trouble in the electorally crucial states of America's interior West.

Here, TCS Daily reprints the first chapter of Sager's book in its entirety. The chapter is also available for download as a PDF here. You may purchase the book here.

Chapter 1: Live From the Reagan Building

In February of 2005, less than a month after George W. Bush was inaugurated for his second term as president of the United States, more than 4,000 conservative activists from all over the country gathered in Washington, D.C., for the 32nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference -- or CPAC, for short. While most Americans have never heard of CPAC (it's pronounced like C-SPAN and features a similar number of congressmen), its organizers have called it "the conservative movement's yearly family reunion." That's a pretty accurate description. And with the Republican Party having just held onto the presidency by a convincing margin and increased its majorities in the House and Senate, this was one big, influential, happy family.

In fact, maybe it was a little too happy.

As the devotees of the party of small government and anti-Washington fervor pitched their tent for three days inside the palatial Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center -- a billion-dollar federal boondoggle in downtown D.C. that the Republican Congress named after the Gipper in 1995, in an act of unintentional irony -- a question hung in the air: What on earth are we doing here?

Not just in the giant government building, of course -- though these were the swankest digs the conference had ever had. But what was the party of Ronald Reagan ("Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem") and Barry Goldwater ("I fear Washington and centralized government more than I do Moscow") doing dominating Washington in the first place? What does a movement do when it's spent decades arguing that the government should have less power, and then it takes control of the government? Does it stick to its principles and methodically find ways to tax less, spend less and interfere less in the lives of Americans? Or does it slowly, but surely -- day by day, issue by issue, bill by bill -- succumb to the temptations of power and start to wield it toward new ends?

These were unfamiliar and uncomfortable questions for conservatives -- questions, quite frankly, that they had been doing their best to avoid.

For months after the 2004 election, the main pastime of the conservative movement was simply basking in the afterglow of a stupendously successful campaign season. And conservatives had every right to gloat. The Republican Party had certainly held its share of power over the past few decades, but it had never seen anything like this. Bush might not exactly have won in a landslide by any conventional standard, but 51 percent of the popular vote over John Kerry's 48 percent certainly felt like a landslide after four years spent living under the cloud of the 2000 Florida recount. And the Republicans now had 55 seats in the Senate (a gain of four seats) and 232 seats in the House (a gain of five seats).

President Reagan had to deal with a Democratic Congress in the 1980s; George H.W. Bush faced similar problems; the Republican Congress could only rein in President Clinton, not set an agenda of its own, in the 1990s, and even George W. Bush's first term was a wash for the GOP when liberal Republican Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont defected and became an independent, briefly giving Democrats back control of the Senate.

But now this was the Republicans' hour, and they weren't going to let anyone forget it.

Days after the election, presidential adviser Karl Rove took to the airwaves, trumpeting the president's "strong, convincing" vote on Meet the Press with NBC's Tim Russert. "This country was a narrowly divided country in 2000," he said. But no longer. "The country has slid to a 51-48 Republican majority."

Comparing Bush to Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- the last president to win reelection while adding to his party's numbers in the House and Senate -- Rove said that while there are no literal "permanent majorities" in American politics, there are some that last for a couple of decades. Or, as in the case of the Roosevelt coalition (which brought together small farmers in the Midwest, urban political bosses, intellectuals, organized labor, Catholics, Jews and African Americans in support of the New Deal), they can sometimes last 50 or 60 years.

"Would I like to see the Republican Party be the dominant party for whatever time history gives it the chance to be? You bet," Rove told Russert. In an interview with the Washington Post that appeared the same day as his Meet the Press appearance, Rove said that America was likely witnessing a "rolling realignment" toward total Republican Party dominance of national politics.

Cue scary music.

By smoothing off its rough, small-government edges, Rove's theory goes, the GOP can pick off ever-bigger chunks of the Democrats' base: working-class voters can be won over by dropping traditional Republican objections to generous spending on entitlement programs; black, Hispanic and Catholic voters can be won over with ever-harsher attacks on abortion and homosexuality; big business can be kept on board through ever-larger corporate subsidies and tax breaks, and so on and so forth. By being as many things to as many people as possible, according to the theory, the Republican Party may be able to eclipse the Democratic Party for decades to come. Bush is the test case.

If anyone was listening more closely to Rove than the president whom he'd twice helped elect, it was the Democrats, terrified that these rumblings about "realignment" and a "permanent" Republican majority -- which had been going on for years, and which had only been amplified by the tragedy of 9/11 and the American public's lack of confidence in liberals on national security -- were more than just rumblings.

In fact, it would probably be fair to say that liberals entered full panic mode. After the 2000 election, there had been a lot of talk about Red America vs. Blue America -- Red being Republican, religious and rural and Blue being Democratic, secular and urban. But after the 2004 election, people started drawing up new flags and currencies. One map circulated on the Internet annexing the West Coast and the Northeast to the "United States of Canada" -- located just north of "Jesusland."

On a slightly more serious note, the Stranger, a liberal alternative weekly newspaper in Seattle, wrote about what it called the Urban Archipelago. "Liberals, progressives, and Democrats do not live in a country that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico. We live on a chain of islands," the editors wrote. "We are citizens of the Urban Archipelago, the United Cities of America. We live on islands of sanity, liberalism, and compassion."

More mainstream moping by Democrats could be seen all over the American media landscape: from New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd ranting about a "jihad in America" that "controls all power in the country," to New York's Sen. Chuck Schumer appearing on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart the day after the election and complaining that Democrats keep getting "paddled" and "outfoxed," to the liberal online magazine Slate running a series of articles on the topic of "Why Americans Hate Democrats."

Despair was the order of the day for Democrats, jubilation the order of the day for Republicans. But did either side even begin to comprehend the fix that the Republican Party was now in? If only they could have seen the scene at CPAC.

* * *

If the conservative movement is a family, it's a far-flung, rowdy, dysfunctional one. But CPAC brings it all together.

If only for three days.

But for those three days, all the brothers and sisters, crazy aunts and sleazy uncles, barely-tolerated in-laws and disgruntled step-children, black sheep and golden boys and grandmas and grandpas of "the movement" (as those in the family are known to call it) are under one roof. It's a bit like the holidays -- inasmuch as there's a reason the suicide rate spikes around the holidays.

Various bizarre scenes unfold all around. An iMac plays footage of Ronald Reagan on a loop. Republican committeemen from the Midwest can be overheard debunking the theory of evolution while waiting in line for dinner ("What do you call an animal with a half-fin-half-wing? Kibble."). Al Franken and G. Gordon Liddy face off over at Radio Row. And books full of Antonin Scalia's dissenting opinions are given out as party favors.

Meanwhile, a walk around CPAC's convention floor takes one on something of a whirlwind tour of the Right. There, the 90-plus organizations and corporations that sponsor the conference set up booths to push their pet causes: Americans for Tax Reform ("reforming" taxes to within an inch of their lives), Americans for Immigration Control (keeping Mexicans in Mexico), the Family Research Council (keeping gays out of marriage), the Log Cabin Republicans (wedding gays to the GOP), the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute (grooming the next generation of Ann Coulters), the National Rifle Association (defending the right to shoot), the Drug Policy Alliance (defending the right to shoot up), the Objectivist Center (deifying Ayn Rand) and the National Right to Work Foundation (demonizing the unions). Just to name a few.

As in most large families, however, there is one marriage that undergirds the entire enterprise: For the conservative family, that is the marriage between social conservatism and small-government conservatism. There is no one group at CPAC -- or anywhere else, for that matter -- that fully represents either of these philosophies. Rather, these are the two main currents of thought that push the conservative movement along. Social conservatives (a.k.a. traditionalists, the Christian Right, the Religious Right) place the highest value on tradition and morality -- or "Western values," as they often put it. Small-government conservatives (a.k.a. libertarians) value human freedom and choice above all else.

These two kinds of conservatives, whose fundamental views of the world are at odds as often as not, were brought together in the 1950s and '60s by a concept known as "fusionism," the brainchild of conservative thinker Frank Meyer, an editor at National Review from its earliest days and a tireless movement activist until his death in 1972. In Meyer's formulation, social conservatives and libertarians should be natural political allies. Not only are their goals compatible, he argued, but their philosophies are complementary -- if not codependent. Either philosophy, if not reined in by the other, risks veering wildly off the tracks.

At CPAC, watching anti-immigration activists frothing at the mouth and calling illegal immigrants "burglars" and "wage thieves," and watching libertarians selling t-shirts urging "Capitalists of the world unite," it's not hard to see how that might happen.

Meyer began expounding his theory in a series of essays in National Review in 1956. It boiled down to a simple formulation: No act is truly moral unless it is freely chosen. While Meyer agreed with social conservatives about the importance of moral order, he feared that they were so wrapped up in preserving Western tradition that they were willing to resort to authoritarianism to achieve their goals. At the same time, while Meyer was in sympathy with libertarians and their emphasis on the need for a limited state, he feared that their philosophy was prone to degenerate into the pursuit of freedom for its own sake, free of any moral boundaries.

As Meyer wrote: "Truth withers when freedom dies, however righteous the authority that kills it ... Free individualism uninformed by moral value rots at its core and soon surrenders to tyranny."

What's more, Meyer argued, social conservatives had a vested interest in the small government pursued by libertarians. It was the government, particularly the federal government, that was to blame for what many perceived at the time to be America's moral decay. As conservative writer David Frum summed up Meyer's thinking: It was federal judges who were banning prayer in schools; it was city planners destroying inner cities with their highways and public-housing projects; it was New Deal welfare programs that fostered illegitimacy. The way to achieve social conservatives' goals, Meyer argued, was to beat back big government. In other words, in a conservative society, libertarian means would achieve traditionalist ends.

It was a clever argument, especially in light of the threat from "Godless" international Communism, which was equally despised by libertarians and social conservatives. And to the extent that the conservative movement has congealed and succeeded in the decades since Meyer began pushing it, that success -- first within the Republican Party and then on the national stage -- has been due to the libertarian and social-conservative factions sticking together.

These partners got the Republican Party to nominate Barry Goldwater, a libertarian-conservative and militantly anti-Communist U.S. Senator from Arizona, for president in 1964. While Goldwater lost that race in a spectacular fashion, getting less than 40 percent of the popular vote, his candidacy committed the Republican Party to the cause of conservatism.

Out of Goldwater's failed campaign rose many of the pillars of the modern conservative movement. An out-of-work actor and former Democrat named Ronald Reagan launched his political career at the 1964 Republican national convention with a rousing, nationally televised speech, "A Time for Choosing," in support of Goldwater. Anti-feminist icon Phyllis Schlafly, best known today for her fight against the Equal Rights Amendment, first became known for writing a pro-Goldwater book, A Choice, Not an Echo, attacking the liberal Republican establishment that had elected Dwight Eisenhower and nominated Richard Nixon for turning the party into a weak imitation of the Democrats. And, last but not least, the idea for the American Conservative Union -- which founded and runs CPAC and serves as something of an umbrella organization for the conservative movement -- was born in a meeting just five days after Goldwater's defeat, with the idea of carrying on the fight begun in the 1964 campaign.

From these humble beginnings, the conservative movement went on to elect Reagan as president in 1980 and 1984. It turned over control of both houses of Congress to the Republican Party in 1994. It elected Bush in 2000. And it reelected him, with increased margins in Congress, in 2004.

So why was all not well in the Republican Party in the months after Bush's reelection? Why, as Democrats wept over the election returns, did a significant segment of the conservative movement weep with them? Why, as activists and students and journalists gathered for CPAC, was there a distinct sense that something was amiss?

Because the marriage at the heart of the conservative movement was falling apart.

To be sure, the relationship's had its rocky patches before. It's always been more Married With Children than Ozzie and Harriet. Whatever alliances have been formed, libertarians have always tended to see social conservatives as rubes ready to thump non-believers on the head with the Bible first chance they get, and social conservatives have always tended to see libertarians as dope-smoking devil worshippers.

The exaggeration's only slight. In 1957, Communist-turned-social-conservative Whittaker Chambers famously wrote of libertarian favorite Ayn Rand that "from almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: 'To a gas chamber -- go!'" In 1961, Ronald Hamowy, reviewing the first years of National Review's existence for the libertarian New Individualist Review, blasted editor William F. Buckley Jr. and his colleagues for plotting to reintroduce the burning of heretics. In 1969, a libertarian delegate to the conservative youth group Young Americans for Freedom, which was holding a convention in St. Louis, burned his draft card on the floor of the convention hall -- sparking a physical confrontation and the tossing out of 300 libertarian YAF members.

The split underway between libertarians and social conservatives today is less dramatic than those of the past -- there are no punches being thrown (yet), and Nazi analogies in contemporary politics are usually confined to the MoveOn.org crowd -- but it is far more profound.

This time, the split is not a spat. It is a slow-but-sure breaking apart.

The sides here are not arguing over one unpopular war, as they were during Vietnam. They are not arguing about any of the various vagaries and fine points of conservative thought that have fueled so many heated internal debates over the decades. They are not fighting over one administration's failure to rein in the size of government, as some conservatives did during the Reagan years.

Today, no longer bound together by the Cold War or opposition to Bill Clinton and having tasted power at the small price of bending their beliefs, the two sides are fighting over nothing less than whether the Republican Party will complete its abandonment of the very principle upon which their fusionist marriage has been based these many years: a commitment to limited government.

Will social conservatives continue to accept federally funded "character education" in lieu of education reforms that would let parents choose their children's schools? Will they continue to accept billions of dollars of government money channeled to religious charities in lieu of reducing the tax burden on Americans so that they could give more money to charity themselves? Will they continue to accept the idea of government as nanny, protecting children from sex and violence in TV shows, movies, video games and every other conceivable medium, in lieu of demanding a society in which parents are expected to be responsible for their own children? Will they continue to embrace the machinery of federal power that they once feared, simply because the "good guys" are the ones pulling the levers for the time being?

In other words: Can social conservatives and libertarians return to the common ground they once shared, or will their differences grow irreconcilable?

The early signs are less than encouraging.

The Bush administration, steered by the thinking of Karl Rove, has adopted a philosophy of big-government conservatism, which joins unrestrained government spending to an aggressive appeal to religious conservatives. It is a philosophy that has led Bush and the Republican Congress to create a $1.2 trillion Medicare prescription-drug benefit, making Bush the first president in a generation to create a new federal entitlement program. It is a philosophy that has led the president to support a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which would override the decisions of several state governments on a matter that has traditionally been left to the states. It is a philosophy that has led the president and Congress to undertake a highly politicized intervention into a painful family medical decision, in the case of Terri Schiavo in Florida. And, ultimately, it is a philosophy that has the Republican Party running hard and fast away from the ideas that have been the underpinning of the conservative movement since before Goldwater.

* * *

Rove arrived on the first day of CPAC, following morning talks on "How the Good Guys Won" and "How the Bad Guys Tried To Stop Us," to remind conservatives of how far they'd come and to present a plan for where he promised to take them next.

Rove -- the man the president had dubbed "The Architect" in his 2004 victory speech, delivered in the very same building just over three months ago -- reminded the crowd of how Lyndon Johnson won the presidency in a landslide 40 years ago. After that election, the Democrats held 68 Senate seats, 295 House seats and 33 governorships. Liberalism was far-and-away the nation's dominant political philosophy, and the Democrats were unquestionably the country's governing party.

Now, all that had changed. The numbers bore repeating: Republicans now had 55 Senate seats, 232 House seats, 28 governorships. They had won seven of the last 10 presidential elections. The Republicans of 2004 weren't quite the Democrats of 1964 -- but they were on their way.

How had they gotten there? Where were they going?

Rove's talk was as notable for what it didn't say as for what it did. Not once did Rove proclaim the importance of reducing the size and scope of government. Not once did he echo Reagan's warning that government is the problem and not the solution. Nowhere to be found was Goldwater's wisdom that "a government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take away everything you have."

Quite the contrary.

Far from reaffirming the Republican Party's past, Rove rebuked it. In the past, he said, the Republican Party had been "reactionary" and infected with "pessimism." He lamented that "for decades, Democrats were setting the agenda and liberals were setting the pace of change and had the visionary goals."

"But times change, and often for the better," Rove said. Now, "this president and today's conservative movement are shaping history." Whereas the conservative movement was once a "small, principled opposition," it was now "broad and inclusive" and "confident and optimistic and forward-leaning" and -- the word choice here might have been more revealing than Rove intended, so why not italicize it -- "most important of all, dominant."

There is, of course, always a trade-off in politics between "small and principled" and "broad and inclusive." The trick, for people who care about the principle part of the equation, is to balance the two in such a way that one's party has the support to win elections and the integrity for those wins to mean something. The question, then, is whether the Republican Party and the conservative movement have come to believe that simple dominance really is "most important of all."

There's significant reason to believe that they have. Having lost confidence that they can sell the American people on the need for smaller government, both the party and the movement have shifted their strategy from fighting big government to trying to co-opt it.

If Rove was doing anything up there on that stage at CPAC, he was forcefully rejecting the image and agenda of the Republican Party as it existed during the Gingrich years. In those heady days back in 1994, the GOP took control of both houses of Congress -- after 40 years of unbroken Democratic rule in the lower chamber -- on the strength of the Contract With America, which promised "the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public's money." The Republicans seemed ascendant, back then. Not only had the American people elevated the GOP, but they had also slapped down Clinton for his overreaching national-health-care plan. But the revolution went off course, and, in doing so, it provided a cautionary example that convinced many conservatives to see small government as a losing political proposition.

As conservative commentator David Brooks wrote in the New York Times Magazine in a piece ahead of the 2004 election, if one wanted to put a "death date" on the tombstone of the Republican Party's commitment to small government, it would be November 14, 1995. That was when the newly minted Republican majority shut down the federal government as part of a dispute with the president over the budget. The Republicans, proposing a number of cuts, were spoiling for a fight over the size of government. Clinton let them have it -- in more ways than one.

While each side tried to blame the other for the impasse, the Republicans just couldn't get the better of Bill Clinton. They expected the public to be on their side. "People who know the facts overwhelmingly support our view that it is time to end big government," Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey said, a few days into the shutdown. Republican Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, never one to back down from a fight, said at one point that the government could stay shut down as far as he was concerned, joking, "Have you really noticed a difference?" The public wasn't amused. The Republican Party got slammed in the polls, and the Gingrich Revolution was set back irreparably -- traumatizing an entire generation of GOP legislators.

(Fittingly enough, it was also during the government shutdown that Clinton began his affair with Monica Lewinsky, setting in motion another chain of events that would end badly for the Republicans -- cementing their image as, to use Rove's words, pessimistic and reactionary.)

After the government-shutdown debacle, the Republicans began searching for a new approach. The American people might hate big government in theory, the new thinking went, but at the same time they don't have much appetite for seeing government programs that they've become attached to get slashed.

Thus, Texas Governor George W. Bush came onto the scene in 1999, groomed by a woman named Karen Hughes and backed by a shadowy figure named Rove, with something called, "compassionate conservatism." The phrase made conservative stalwarts bristle (was conservatism in and of itself somehow less than compassionate, they asked), and it made liberal partisans titter (did Republicans really think they could disguise their cold-hearted agenda behind a linguistic trick, they asked) -- but there was far more substance behind the phrase than any of the skeptics realized at the time.

This wasn't the old Republican agenda of cutting taxes and the government programs they fund gussied up with a little rouge and lipstick. This was a different animal entirely. "Too often, my party has confused the need for limited government with a disdain for government itself," Bush said during the 2000 campaign. He derided the idea that "if government would only get out of our way, all our problems would be solved." He called this a "destructive mindset" with "no higher goal, no nobler purpose, than 'Leave us alone.'" Instead, Bush said, America needed less "sprawling, arrogant, aimless government" and more "focused and effective and energetic government."

To skeptics, that sounded an awful lot like saying America needed less bad big government and more good big government -- with "bad" meaning Democrat-controlled and "good" meaning Republican-controlled.

The skeptics are still waiting to be proved wrong.

Judging by CPAC 2005, which dedicated virtually its entire middle day to the issue of out-of-control spending (panels included "Cutting Spending Is Tough Work, But Somebody Has To Do It" and "They Take and Spend What We Earn, But Won't Let Us Save It"), it sure didn't sound like Republican big government had turned out to be any more "focused and effective and energetic" than Democratic big government.

In fact, quite the opposite. If anything, one-party big government run by Republicans has turned out to be a massively bloated endeavor. According to the conservative Heritage Foundation, federal spending grew twice as fast in Bush's first term as it did under Clinton -- and the bulk of the growth was in non-defense spending. What's more, the spending hasn't been turned toward any particularly conservative ends. The president's signature education law, No Child Left Behind, boosted federal spending on education 137 percent from 2001 to 2006, while all but abandoning free-market education reforms such as vouchers and charter schools. There was nothing conservative about the massive giveaway of subsidies to farmers in 2002. There was precious little conservative about the Medicare prescription-drug benefit in 2003. And there was absolutely nothing conservative about the tariffs implemented to protect the steel, shrimp and lumber industries in Bush's first term.

Some conservatives may believe they are co-opting big government. In reality, it is co-opting them.

What's striking, however, is just how dependent big-government conservatism is on the War on Terror. Bush's compassionate conservatism lost the popular vote in 2000. And to the extent Republicans succeeded electorally in 2002 and 2004, it was based on the president's decision to take a hard line in the War on Terror far more than on any domestic policy innovations.

Just what would have happened to a George W. Bush administration in more placid times? He entered office badly damaged by the election controversy in Florida. A liberal Republican senator defected, giving the Democrats control of the Senate. If not for the boost in support Bush gained after 9/11, his party may well have lost seats in the 2002 midterm elections. Come 2004, the "soccer moms" turned "terror moms" would still have been soccer moms, inclined to vote Democratic. Conservatives would have been unimpressed with Bush's conservatism; liberals would have been unimpressed with his compassion.

Of course, that's not how it happened. And to say that the Republican Party is winning elections because it's right on the War on Terror is hardly an indictment. What's worrying, however, is that conservatives who have long pined for activist government have found in the War on Terror the key to crafting an overarching theme.

In his speech at CPAC, Rove explained that the primary factor behind the realignment he sees occurring in American politics is that the Republicans are "seizing the mantle of idealism." Idealism used to be the preserve of liberals, he said, but Reagan changed all that when he vowed to end Communism, not just to contain it. Now, Bush was building on that legacy. "President Bush's eventual goal is the triumph of freedom and the end of tyranny," Rove said. "This vision ... is consistent with the deep idealism of the American people."

What's more, having seized the banner of idealism abroad, it was now possible to connect Bush's domestic agenda to a more sweeping vision: spreading freedom abroad and at home.

"Our goal as conservatives must be to put government on the side of progress and reform, modernization and greater freedom, more personal choice and greater prosperity," Rove told the CPAC crowd, echoing any number of speeches Bush gave on the campaign trail in 2004. "The great goal of modern conservatism is to make our society more free, more prosperous and more just."

These lines received light applause from the crowd. Republicans were going to need more energy than that to fulfill Rove's ambitious agenda. The Republican Party, he said, needed to "reform" the tax code, health care, pension plans, the legal system, public education and worker training; it needed to "build" an Ownership Society of homes and businesses, and it needed to "prepare" Americans for meeting "the challenges of a free society." But that's not all. It also needed to "build" a culture of life, "support" religious charities and "foster" a culture of "service and citizenship."

If this wasn't activist government, it's hard to say what would be. But Rove wasn't quite done. "Republicans cannot grow tired or timid," he said. "We have been given the opportunity to govern, and now we have to show that we deserve the respect and trust of our fellow citizens."

This was all a long way from 30 years ago, when California's Governor Ronald Reagan told the libertarian magazine Reason that "the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism," the desire for "less government interference," "less centralized authority" and "more individual freedom."

Conservatives had backed a wartime president in a tough reelection campaign, but were they really comfortable with resuming the era of big government, so long as it was all under conservative auspices? Was this really the new heart and soul of conservatism?

* * *

Over the course of three days at CPAC, it became clear that while conservatives were ecstatic over their recent victories, they were deeply divided as to whether to move into the new edifice the Architect was busy building.

Some were quite eager.

Take, for instance, Ohio's secretary of state (and Republican candidate for governor in 2006), Kenneth Blackwell, who spoke on "Marriage as a Winning Issue in 2004 and Beyond." Blackwell, who is African-American, credited gay marriage -- along with the Republican Party's general social conservatism -- for boosting Bush's vote among Catholic and black voters far above his 2000 showing. Bush's share of the black vote in Ohio, he noted, went to 16 percent in 2004, up from 9 percent in 2000. "I want to be sure that there are no revisionists here among us," Blackwell said. "The reality is that the values voters won Ohio and won the presidency for George Bush."

This was a recurring theme over the three days, that "values voters," social conservatives, religious conservatives -- whatever one wanted to call them -- were now the real lynchpin of the Republican coalition. These voters had often been ignored and treated shabbily by the Republican Party, the argument went, but now they'd proven that when the GOP caters to them on issues like gay marriage, stem-cell research, abortion, obscenity on TV and judicial nominations, they can deliver the vote.

There were some problems with this theory. Exit polls showed that 22 percent of voters named "moral values" as their "most important issue," a fact of which much was made in the days after the election, on the left as well as on the right. But the very same polls on which the moral-values storyline was based showed that those who said either "terrorism" or "Iraq," taken together, added up to 34 percent of the electorate. Moral values certainly weren't unimportant, but the 2004 election was clearly about the War on Terror. It was evident not just from the polls, but from the campaigns both parties ran, which overwhelmingly focused on who was better suited to protect the homeland and fight terrorism overseas.

Still, social conservatives weren't all that far off. Whether or not so-called values voters had been the deciding factor in 2004, they were certainly of primary importance to Rove's electoral strategy moving forward. One of his central insights was that the Republican Party had to start making inroads with minority voters, and while blacks and Hispanics have long voted Democratic based on economic issues and historical loyalty, they might be persuaded to vote Republican by an aggressive appeal to them on social and cultural issues. There were other components to the Republican Party's minority outreach strategy, of course, such as not harping on illegal immigration -- lest the GOP look hard-hearted or racist -- but God and family were the key.

What's more, one simply can't overestimate the religious fervor of the Republican Party's existing base. There was a sentiment among many at CPAC that George W. Bush had been picked by God to lead America. In fact, this claim was made so many times during the conference, both from the stage and from the audience, that the incidents were almost beyond counting. In one particularly partisan prayer before one of CPAC's formal dinners, God was thanked specifically for the Republican majority in Congress.

When God and government are on the same side, who needs restraint?

Of course, not everyone at CPAC was ready to go along with Rove's emerging God-and-government coalition. While many social conservatives are ready to make common cause with a party that's lost all concern with limiting the size of government -- that spends without restraint, that sees no area of American life as too intimate for Washington's gaze and that actively looks to expand the state to shore up its political base -- other conservatives are not.

Peppered throughout the conference there were signs of discontent.

Floyd Brown, executive director of Young America's Foundation and one of the organizers of CPAC, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that while conservatives were euphoric about the election, they were still troubled by the growth of government. "Bush is not the leader of the conservative movement," he said. "The conservative movement is going to stick to its roots."

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), in a talk titled, "Simply Talking About Runaway Spending Won't Cut It," blasted the president for his "failed leadership" in not having vetoed a single spending bill in his time in office. He also blasted some of his colleagues as "careerist" lawmakers, more concerned with getting reelected than pushing a bold conservative agenda. Coburn was introduced by former congressman and current MSNBC talk-show host Joe Scarborough, who had just written an election-year book blasting the Republican Party for having gone native in Washington and having abandoned the legacy of Ronald Reagan.

Pat Buchanan, never one for understatement, came out guns blazing. "We do not consider 'Big Government Conservatism' a philosophy," he told the crowd. "We consider it a heresy."

The biggest gap, however, was generational. If the kids at CPAC are the future of the conservative movement, then big changes are on their way -- at least when it comes to cultural issues.

Take, for example, two students from the College of New Jersey, at CPAC representing their College Republicans group, Thomas Sales and Eric Pasternack. Sales described himself as "a big fan of God" who finds homosexuality "reprehensible" because of his Christian beliefs. Asked his opinion on gay marriage, however, his response was simple: "From a liberty perspective, I can't find any reason you'd ban it." Pasternak, chiming in, added that most people their age are more in favor of civil unions than opposed to gay marriage. "It won't be an issue in 20 years," Sales added.

And these two were hardly a deviation from the mean. When Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) spoke on the first day of CPAC, he knew some of the younger people would be skeptical, so he addressed himself to those "economic conservatives who may not be cultural conservatives." He presented an argument that gay marriage would lead to social decay, which would in turn lead to a need for more government. But at least some of the students were unimpressed. Asked about the talk the next day by the St. Petersburg Times, 22-year-old Deb McCown identified Santorum as "one of the speakers everybody hated." McCown, editor of the Carolina Review, a conservative magazine at the University of North Carolina, continued, saying "he got up there and started talking about marriage, as if it was the biggest issues, but it's not. It's taxing and spending." She added that Republicans are not living up to their ideals of "cutting spending and smaller government and personal responsibility."

Perhaps most confounding to CPAC's organizers were the results of the straw poll held at the end of the conference, in which 600 respondents (two-thirds of them college students) picked the candidates they thought would win the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations in 2008. Hillary Clinton got the Democratic nod, of course. But the Republican nod went not to a traditional conservative, like Florida's Gov. Jeb Bush or Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, but instead to the fiscally conservative, socially liberal, tough-on-terror Rudy Giuliani.

What those voting probably didn't know was that American Conservative Union chairman David Keene had pointedly rebuffed an offer by Giuliani to come and address the conservative faithful, sans his usual speaking fee. "I would assume he wanted to come here to boost his conservative credentials, but we didn't think that would be useful," Keene told columnist Deroy Murdock after CPAC.

So just what is it about a Rudy Giuliani that so upsets the old guard of the conservative movement? Is it the potential for a new kind of fusionism -- really, a rejuvenation of the old kind -- that is committed to small government in economic and personal affairs and that, at the same time, is unflinching in the face of the terrorist threat?

Can the Republican Party and the conservative movement really conceive of no way forward other than to concede the bulk of their long-held convictions to the opposition? Do they have so little faith in the principles of the movement of Goldwater and Reagan?

* * *

The history of modern conservatism is the history of a marriage, with all of the attendant ups and downs, spats and make-ups, flirtations and frustrations and distance traveled together by souls sharing a common purpose.

Or at least something vaguely resembling a common purpose. If you squint real hard.

For as long as there has been a self-aware conservative movement -- that is, since roughly 1955, when William F. Buckley Jr. founded National Review -- a debate has raged as to whether its two main factions, traditionalists and libertarians, truly share the same goals or whether they share only common enemies. Surely, in the decades after World War II, people from both camps, as they wandered in the political wilderness, cursed the name of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They also despised the specter of totalitarian Communism. And they would instinctively band together to oppose any massive expansion of the federal government, such as Lyndon Baines Johnson's Great Society. But beyond that, it has remained a perennially open question just why these two groups would ever choose to be in a political movement together.

The traditionalists -- typified by political philosophers such as Russell Kirk and Richard M. Weaver -- placed the highest value (as their label might suggest) on tradition and social order. Repulsed by the rise of mass society and horrified by the depravity of the "total" war waged by and against Nazism and fascism, they radically rejected their own age. Seeking solace in the past, they exalted concepts such as a rigid class structure, elitism and obedience to authority -- especially the authority of God. As Kirk put it, this brand of conservative believed, first and foremost, that a divine intent rules society and that "political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems."

The libertarians, on the other hand -- typified by economists such as Milton Friedman and Murray Rothbard -- placed the highest value on human freedom. These men, too, were aghast at the age in which they lived, though for very different reasons than those of the traditionalists. They believed that, if anything, society had grown too authoritarian. In the march toward greater and greater state control of the economy, first during the Great Depression and then during the war, the libertarians made out what Austrian economist F.A. Hayek called, in a slim volume published in 1944, "The Road to Serfdom." Control over the economy, Hayek argued, meant control over every aspect of man's being -- which could only lead to totalitarianism. The government, libertarians believed, must be kept as small as possible, and individuals must be restricted in their actions as little as possible.

Libertarians considered traditionalists little dictators, aching to subject their fellow man to one particular view of God's will. Traditionalists considered libertarians imitation anarchists, isolating man from society and reducing him to nothing more than the sum of his material desires. Yet, somehow, by 1964 these two warring factions would ally to take over the Republican Party. By 2004, 40 years later, they would dominate the entire country.

On the road to dominance lay a cantankerous Arizona senator, a genial out-of-work actor and a swaggering pretend cowboy. Yet few conservatives -- and even fewer liberals -- remember the role played by a chain-smoking, home-schooling nocturnal ex-Communist named Frank Meyer, who, from his house tucked away in the Catskill Mountains near Woodstock, New York, showed the movement how it could fuse together into something far greater than the sum of its parts.

The world was a lonely place for conservatives only a little more than 50 years ago. But Meyer showed them it didn't have to be. Tradition and liberty were complementary. Freedom and virtue were inextricably linked. And "Godless" Communism was a moral affront and a mortal threat to traditionalists and libertarians alike. A limited federal government pursuing a strong national defense would be the ideal scenario for all.

Meyer's fusionism is a tradition and a formula that contemporary conservatives have largely forgotten or set aside, especially since the end of the Cold War. But as the Republican Party gains in power, and the old alliances shift and crack and twist and fray under the tumult of wielding that power, it's worth remembering just how the alliance at the heart of the party came to be in the first place.

* * *

There are many in the Republican Party who believe that now is the time to enjoy the spoils of victory. In truth, however, this is just the beginning of a new war -- a war for the heart and soul of conservatism.

On one side are those conservatives who think that the cause of small government is lost. And if they can't beat big government, they might as well run it. They believe that the battles of the past have been a foolish diversion and that now is the time to adapt to the world as it is and to cease imagining the world as it could be. Some of these people have begun to simply seek power for its own sake. Others have sold their souls in the hope of buying them back one day. Still others have glimpsed a golden opportunity to impose their idea of morality on their fellow citizens. The road to victory has been long and arduous, all of these people recall, and so in their minds there can be no turning back to the discarded ideas of the past.

Yet, there are other conservatives. They are just now waking up to what it is that their party has become: an echo, not a choice. They are realizing that big-government conservatism is no longer an ill-conceived theory, it is the creed of the Republican Party. And they are realizing that far from being "confident and optimistic and forward-leaning," as Karl Rove would have it, this brand of conservatism is weak-kneed, defeatist and retrogressive to a time before giants fused together the coalition that in four decades defeated Communism abroad, halted the march toward socialism at home, lowered taxes and reformed welfare -- just to name a few of its accomplishments.

This is the story of a movement -- an extended family, really -- that rose from humble beginnings to heights it could never have imagined. It's the story of idealists tempted and eventually corrupted by power. And it is the story of old friends torn apart by the pressures and possibilities and pitfalls of success. Most of all, however, it is the story of how these old friends might renew the bonds that have tied them together these many years and recall the ideals and the ideas and the passions that once united them.

The Republican Party stands at a pivotal moment in its history, as was becoming clear to those on the convention floor at CPAC. It can learn to live with big government, determining that it's not so bad, just so long as it's Republicans intruding into the lives of Americans instead of Democrats. Or it can remember its roots and realize that a majority set against its own bedrock principles of limited government and individual liberty is not one worth having -- and, thus, not one that can long sustain.

The marriage between libertarians and social conservatives would certainly not be the first torn apart by power and fortune and success. But the consequences of such a divorce would be uniquely far-reaching. They would be of concern well beyond the expanses of the conservative family -- most acutely, perhaps, to those moderates and liberals already profoundly uncomfortable living under Republican governance, who can only dread what this new, expansionist conservatism might become.

Most aggrieved, however, would be those conservatives who have remained faithful to their small-government vows -- those who know the nobility of what conservatism can be when it holds to its ideal of a limited government that leaves Americans to work and prosper and love and pray, free from the daily diktats of the meddlesome minds in the nation's capital.

The differences between libertarians and social conservatives are not yet irreconcilable. There is a way open toward reconciliation -- a way that revives the old fusion of liberty and tradition, freedom and responsibility, small government and strong government.

But to find it, conservatives of all stripes will have to begin by acknowledging the elephant in the room.

Categories:

184 Comments

YA Libertarian Fraud
Every so often Libertarians get offended when Conservatives go about conserving American values, and threaten to take their toys and go home. Always included is a mafia-like threat:
"Nice political party you got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it."
This is always justified by their "commitment to personal freedoms," and hence their outrage at Republican efforts to block the Supreme Court from unilaterally rewriting America's marriage laws.
What goes unnoticed by Libertarians- who are just as unreflective and reactionary as Liberals- is that they have no commitment to personal freedoms.
Instead, Libertarians are devoted to expanding the power of the Supreme Court to an extent unseen so far. Not only would they preserve the vast majority of abominable Court decisions, like Roe v. Wade, but they would have the Court insert itself into every Libertarian hot-button issue, declaring everything they hate to be unconstitutional.
Anti-drug laws? Unconstitutional. Anti-obscenity laws? Unconstitutional. And so on, ad infinitum.
This is not an agenda of personal freedom, it's an anti-democracy agenda centered on getting hold of the levers of power and using them to rewrite the Constitution to Libertarian specifications. The hypocrisy of obsessively claiming to advance freedom, while really advancing the power of the national government, and only one wing of it at that, is breathtaking.
Conservatives have fought against Liberal judicial activism for 33 years, and we should never allow Libertarian judicial activism to replace it. If this position offends Libertarians, they should get over it. "Screw you guys, I'm going home," is a childish attitude apt only for fourth-graders, not responsible adults.
Jasyn Jones, http://obviouslyright.blogspot.com

apieros demonstates why Republicans deserve to lose.
First he assumes that the support of libertarians is "owned" by the Republican party. He even likens the desire of some libertarians to stay home, to a mob boss threatening to blow up buildings and kill people.
Imagine that, the desire to just live your life is equivalent to arson and murder.

As to the rest of his rant, he accuses of libertarians of being like liberals, in their use of the court to justify anything they want. Yet he does the same thing.

Drug Laws. Where in the constitution does the govt have the power to decide what I put in my body? At least those who backed prohibition had the decency to get a constitutional ammendment.

I love the way he declares that a philosophy of personal freedom is anti-democratic. Though in a way, he is right. Apieros seems to feel that whatever 50%+1 of the population wants, they are entitled to. And to think, this guy actually believes that he is a conservative.

Agreed and Sager is a One Trick Pony
The ranks of a great many "libertarians" are politically impotent advocates not of liberty but of libertinism. They promise heaven on earth, if we'll just deform the marriage franchise to fit around homosexuals, legalize prostitution and drugs, and overturn any law that happens to agree with any organized church. Yet for all the bluster, they can't win as much as single legislative seat on some townb council, where they could implement their ideas and PROVE that what they advocate is something more than anarchy.

The closest they got to having a kindred spirit was that offensive oaf with the boa-Jesse Ventura, who has mercifully been dispatched back to Vince McMahon's employment after a truly mediocre term in office. Had he dispatched himself with the slightest modicum of grace-he'd have been invited to some boardroom or thinktank.

There comes a point when you realize politics has to be guided by something more enlightened than "I should be able to do what ever I want to".

Sager needs another rap other than "yo yo yo, the GOP gotta stop disrespectin' us".



Hu?
Liberals- is that they have no commitment to personal freedoms.

I am somewhere between Liberal and conservitive. I would say this book is pretty close to a lot of one philosophies.

I have also been to my share of of Democrat meetings and yes, a few Libertrain meetings and *gasp* a socialist meeting. This does NOT mean I am in line with there Ideas, for the record, but...

hehehe Theres that Liberal Butt....

Every one I have ever met in these meetings talks about the Bill of Rights first and formost. How dare you talk about "Lack of comment".

Trust me I have heard about these things at such meetings. To the point that I wondered about where I was going to get bait for my fishing trip the next day.

Lack of comment.. Sheezzeee.

Process or Outcome? Liberty or Libertinism.
So are you complaining that you don't have unlimited personal license to pursue hedomism or self destruction, that you can't do what you want and your barometer of freedom is that you aren't able to ingest anything you want?
If you are suggested the federal government is arrograting power without proper amendment, I'm on board.However, if your suggesting that no level of government should be able to legislate anything that imposes on unlimited personal license, thats just unworkable.

In any case, the whole drug argument is leading with your chin. It is tantamount to a political temper tantrum. Organize effective arguments to the Department of Education, which is far more intrusive and burdensome than the DEA to just about EVERYBODY. Get rid of campaign finance laws, I'm with you. Tell me, as Harry Browne once indicated your top policy objective is removing all federal drug laws (funny, he was running for President, not emporer and left out how he'd get this done quickly, without legislative input and extensive debate), I start to wonder about the ability to govern.

Libertarians need to get elected to some municipal election, show that they can enact and enforce their agenda and produce a society where there aren't significant external effects attributable to their policies. You want to be considered a power player, you have to bring cash and votes-thats the way it works.







The political calculus- cutting off your nose to spite your face".
Is very simple. For all their lack of fiscal restraint, the Republicans won't embrace the agenda of the left with vigor.

Your choice is simple: Speaker Pelosi:

Higher Taxes, Endless investigations of the President, clubby deals for special interests masquerading as social programs, more power to public schools and trial lawyers,more taxes, more subordination of our sovereignty to the George Sorryass crowd.

Maybe the GOP doesn't deserve to win, but the opposition certainly deserves to lose. You don't get to screw the GOP without assisting the socialist left.

I believe my near centenerian aged grandmother refers to this as "cutting off your nose to spite your face".

Libertarian threat? Here you go!
>"Every so often Libertarians get offended when Conservatives go about conserving American values, and threaten to take their toys and go home. Always included is a mafia-like threat: "Nice political party you got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it."

Considering it is the Libertarians who have allowed the GOP, and with the Conservatives, to gain political power I would say we have a right to call it "our" party.

Conservatives often cross the line with what they define as "American" values while totally missing the point that the true defining American value is Freedom.

>"This is always justified by their "commitment to personal freedoms," and hence their outrage at Republican efforts to block the Supreme Court from unilaterally rewriting America's marriage laws."

True Libertarians are against the Courts deciding the marriage issue just as much as we dislike Conservatives deciding it. It is a state issue and does not demand an Amendment to our Constitution. This is a case where both Liberals and Conservatives are wrong.

On a side note, NO marriage should be recognized by the state or federal government. Marriage is a religious concept and should remain such. Everyone should have the right to join into a union with another of their choice. Get married and then join your resources by signing a legally binding contract. This allow everyone to enjoy the material advantages, and disadvantages, of a civil union. The spiritual aspect is between you and your pastor/priest/whatever.

>"What goes unnoticed by Libertarians- who are just as unreflective and reactionary as Liberals- is that they have no commitment to personal freedoms."

Personal freedom is the main thing, and obviously not the only thing, that Libertarians understand much better than the Culture Warrior Conservative.

>"Instead, Libertarians are devoted to expanding the power of the Supreme Court to an extent unseen so far. Not only would they preserve the vast majority of abominable Court decisions, like Roe v. Wade, but they would have the Court insert itself into every Libertarian hot-button issue, declaring everything they hate to be unconstitutional."

What crack are you smoking? Libertarians are just as adverse to the Court, the Congress, and the Executive stretching its fingers into the personal freedoms of US citizens. All branches are to be minimized.

Just so you know, the Courts have the job of deciding if policy and law is Constitutional. The right to do with your body as you please is quite fundamental. I am against abortion but I would not make that judgement for another. I am sure to be labeled a "Liberal!" for such heresy but that is the nature of many Conservatives. It only takes one issue to be "Godless".

Which I am being an atheist and all.

Perhaps you could name some more Libertarian "hot-button" issues since you don't seem to know what it is you are talking about.

>"Anti-drug laws? Unconstitutional."

Check!

>"Anti-obscenity laws? Unconstitutional."

Check!

>"And so on, ad infinitum."

What ever happened to the wonderful notion that a person has a right to do as they wish unless it physically harms another? Don't Conservatives believe in personal resposibility?

>"This is not an agenda of personal freedom, it's an anti-democracy agenda centered on getting hold of the levers of power and using them to rewrite the Constitution to Libertarian specifications. The hypocrisy of obsessively claiming to advance freedom, while really advancing the power of the national government, and only one wing of it at that, is breathtaking."

Ummm... I think you missed the point of this article which shows how much Rove has steered the Republicans away from its base ideals in exchange for mere political power.

How does the Libertarian ideal "advance the power of the national government"? Isn't that exactly what GWB is doing right now? Believe me, Bush is x10 better than any Democrat around but he has fallen quite far from the small government ideal I like so much.

>"Conservatives have fought against Liberal judicial activism for 33 years, and we should never allow Libertarian judicial activism to replace it. If this position offends Libertarians, they should get over it. "Screw you guys, I'm going home," is a childish attitude apt only for fourth-graders, not responsible adults."

Add to your list of childish attitudes the one where you talk down and belittle those who don't share your ideas.

This is one of the main issues that Republicans and Conservatives have. They tend to demonize those who do not agree with them 100%. One would think the years of being demonized by the liberal media and Democratic politicians would have taught them that such repressive stupidity only lasts so long against an informed public. Such tactics make the Democrats look like uninformed morons and you do not do the GOP a favor by mimicing them.

You really don't want the Libertarians to jump out of your boat so quit treating us like children or you might find yourself with a Democratic majority once again.

And no one wants that.

arguments
I brought up drug laws, because apieros led with them.
Regardless, the war on drug is being used as the wedge issue to destroy many of the liberties we used to take for granted.
It was used to justify a law that banks must report to the feds any cash deposit or withdrawl that exceeded $1000.
It was used to justify the demand that banks keep records of everybodies financial transactions and report to the feds anytime something unusual occurred.
It has been used by the police as justification for seizing any large quantity of cash, even just a few hundred dollars, and forcing the person to sue the state to get his property back.

differences
To many of us, the differences between speaker Pelosi and speaker ... argh, the republican guy, get smaller every year.

Why shoudn't I do whatever I want, so long as I don't hurt someone else?
On what grounds do you declare a right to control which drugs I take, or who I sleep with?

Hastert, that's who I was thinking of
...

We're talking about small-L libertarians.
"They promise heaven on earth, if we'll just deform the marriage franchise to fit around homosexuals, legalize prostitution and drugs, and overturn any law that happens to agree with any organized church. Yet for all the bluster, they can't win as much as single legislative seat on some townb council, where they could implement their ideas and PROVE that what they advocate is something more than anarchy."

The Libertarian Party is doomed to the same wing-nut fate as all other third parties and is by definition not a part of this discussion, since it is decidedly not a part of the GOP.

This discussion is about libertarians within the Republican party being chased off. And we're being chased off by chauvanist conservatives that assume that because we are opposed to government involvement in social issues, that we are opposed to any and all moral codes. There probably are a handful of crazies who do belive that, but most libertarians simply prefer social mores to be enforced by churches, families, and civil organizations, not the government.

But that's not the worst thing. We'd probably tolerate the social conservatism a little more as long as Bush and the GOP would throw us a bone on fiscal issues. But they have shown that they think that the way to a soccer mom's vote is through massive spending on No Child Left Behind and the Medicare Drug Benefit.

Maybe there are some social conservatives that can stomach that kind of reckless spending without complaint, but I know fiscal conservatives cannot. Many will be voting Democrat this fall simply in the hope that a divided Congress and Executive will, at the very least, bring gridlock and put the kabash on the current spending spree.

Specificity Please
And we're being chased off by chauvanist conservatives that assume that because we are opposed to government involvement in social issues.

What does this mean? I really hate overarching generalizations, almost as much as I hate the word chauvinist, an invention of the radical feminists now dying off. What are the "social issues" for which you oppose government involvement.

The premise...
of the War on Drugs was that drugs are bad (m'kay.) and that they ruin your life.

So. What happens when you a caught with drugs? The government steps in and ruins your life. I would say that more lives are ruined by enforcement of drug laws than the drugs themselves.

Drugs
Because you don't live in a vaccuum.

By drugs, I'm assuming that you mean hallucinigenics. By definition, they cause you too take leave of your senses-you might act on an impulse, drive a car, operate machinery, walk in front of a car, spend all you money and cause your family to be "put out", a myriad of things that impair others. Of course, people being goofy will do something more if its legal.

Lets assume everybody "lives and lets live", when it comes to say pot. This was kind of the prevailing philosophy in the 70's and one product of that time was a locomotive engineer named Ricky Gates. Ricky took a toke or two, missed a signal, and, if memory serves me well, slammed his passenger train into the back of a freight.

As a result of course, everybody wanted something done and now everybody who's in an "hours of service position", is a suspect. Even guys like me who volunteer on tourist lines can be called both randomly and for cause to pee in a cup.

My freedom has been impaired because of somebody else's exercise of theirs. I don't like being frisked, treated as suspect, locked in a room, told not to flush or wash and then forced handling a container of warm urine (must be really bad for the nurse).

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the testing. The genie's out of the bottle and when I move in between two cars to "make the air", I want to be damn sure that train is welded in place. There are no repeats, no second chances. Metal beats flesh everytime and the crew needs to be fit for duty. In the old days, there was a lot of booze on the rails, but you knew somebody was lit. Not so easy to see somebody on other drugs.

In short drug use is a false freedom, not only to the individual who loses their informed free will, but their families and coworkers.

Your freedoms end where mine, your family's, coworkers and the public-at-large begin. More drugs will unevitably mean testing, police action and other elements of a police society.

Drug use is prevalent in Holland but not for long, see this canard in action, give it the "beta test", before you spend another ounce of energy worrying about it. You want to really get a bang? Go bungy jumping.


If you try to tell me how to run my life...
...you don't get my vote. Simple as that. It doesn't matter whether you're on the left or right.

My first allegiance is to personal liberty, which is granted to all of us by the grace of God. It is NOT granted by government, regardless of the religious affiliation or fervor of whoever is in power.

To me, this represents the sort of conservatism that used to characterize this country, but no longer. Unfortunately, far too many on the left and right (though definitely the former to a greater degree) have embraced the finger-wagging Nanny State.

It's like the old libertarian joke goes: "The liberals want to be your mother, and the conservatives want to be your father." Either way, citizens are viewed as children.

Crossing the Line
Libertarians who propose that that sound public policy is based upon a complete prohibition of any government regulation over personal behavior are not in favor of freedom, they are in favor of license or anarchy.

I'm in favor of Liberty, not anarchy.

Then you never vote
You don't work, drive a car, see a doctor or get a haircut, buy food, buy stocks without government "tell me how to run my life".

But hey, if you can pay for sex, get high without fear of arrest, then your everything else is ok, right?

Then Oppose
The overreaching laws, the asset seizure and financial reporting statutes that make a mockery of due process.

Fantastic chapter
I think I'll get the book, this is good stuff.

I recognize Republicans are splitting at the seams, but never had the benefit of historical knowledge, etc. to understand why and how that is. Just that first chapter goes a long way to understanding. I thought it was the Bush-Rove group that caused all the strife, they're just the last straw, the fuse to detonate the whole thing. Here, let me light it. They've done their damage, lets return the favor.

A great discussion ensued as well. Its entertaining to see conservatives give libertarians the slime treatment. Big surprise, its all they got.

Sleeping Around
Last I checked, nobody was telling you who you could sleep with, just said you had to be suave and good looking enough to entice a woman you find appealing to "give it up".

However, I have no problems with controlling sex for several reasons-the first being that the people that are having the most sex are the most irresponsible.

Sex can cause pregnancy, spread disease, emotional distress, etc, etc. They might call it "fooling around", but it can be deadly serious business.








Slime
Like the not so veiled threats from the Senate Democrats to force ABC to edit (WHERE OH WHERE ARE THE CRIES OF "CHILLING EFFECTS", CENSORSHIP, ETC) their 9/11 docudrama served free speech and libertarian principles.

I can debate a libertarian and think they are wrong, but they don't try crap like the above.

but with the left (and especially you) I always get the feeling I'm dealing with a disordered and deranged individual driven by emotion (usually hate), incapable of reason, civility and maturity.

Thats the Choice
You can either vote for a guy you get some portion of satisfaction with or the one you'll get none from.

Its not a perfect world, sorry.

Drugs?
>"Because you don't live in a vaccuum."

I don't think that is a premise of our argument.

>"By drugs, I'm assuming that you mean hallucinigenics. By definition, they cause you too take leave of your senses-you might act on an impulse, drive a car, operate machinery, walk in front of a car, spend all you money and cause your family to be "put out", a myriad of things that impair others. Of course, people being goofy will do something more if its legal."

By drugs I mean all.

Any of the effects you describe can be attributed to alcohol, tobacco, gambling, online gaming, and sex. All of which are legal.

Drunk driving laws exist for a reason. I am not advocating dropping acid and going for a drive. Once again, this is personal responsibility and local laws would have to be obeyed.

>"Lets assume everybody "lives and lets live", when it comes to say pot. This was kind of the prevailing philosophy in the 70's and one product of that time was a locomotive engineer named Ricky Gates. Ricky took a toke or two, missed a signal, and, if memory serves me well, slammed his passenger train into the back of a freight."

So? This is the why pot needs to be illegal? I much prefer the "Reefer Madness" explaination to this one. What of the accidents that involve alcohol? Perhaps those who operate such machinery should be held accountable for the damage they do?

>"As a result of course, everybody wanted something done and now everybody who's in an "hours of service position", is a suspect. Even guys like me who volunteer on tourist lines can be called both randomly and for cause to pee in a cup."

No problem with drug testing. It is the business owner's right to insure that his business is not compromised. You don't want to be drug-tested, don't take the job.

>"My freedom has been impaired because of somebody else's exercise of theirs. I don't like being frisked, treated as suspect, locked in a room, told not to flush or wash and then forced handling a container of warm urine (must be really bad for the nurse)."

You always have the freedom to walk away as I said. If you own a business you have the right to hire clean workers.

SIDENOTE: For extra fun dribble warm water on the outside of the cup. The look on the nurse's face is priceless.

>"In the old days, there was a lot of booze on the rails, but you knew somebody was lit. Not so easy to see somebody on other drugs."

So very false. I have known many an alcoholic who could act straight even when drunk. At least enough for you to put a dangerous amount of trust in them.

>"In short drug use is a false freedom, not only to the individual who loses their informed free will, but their families and coworkers."

You have yet to make the case that drugs should be illegal.

>"Your freedoms end where mine, your family's, coworkers and the public-at-large begin. More drugs will unevitably mean testing, police action and other elements of a police society."

How is relaxing at the end of the day with a bong any more hurtful to the freedoms of others than doing the same with a smoke or drink?

How has the War on Drugs gone so far? What a waste of time, money, and effort. Legalization would mean less testing, less police action, and less police intrusion upon everyone's rights.

>"Drug use is prevalent in Holland but not for long, see this canard in action, give it the "beta test", before you spend another ounce of energy worrying about it. You want to really get a bang? Go bungy jumping."

Holland isn't the police state you predicted is it? Quite the contrary.

I don't do drugs myself as I find them harmful to my razor-sharp mind and keen wit. This does not mean that everyone has to live according to what I believe.

I see the total stupidity of enforcing a "healthy lifestyle" and I also see the slippery slope this has caused over the decades. People are now trying to tax fatty foods and ban McDonald's advertising by stating the exact dangers you do about drugs. Why destroy your life over a Big Mac? Why not go jogging? Don't you know your unhealthy lifestyle is causing healthcare costs to go up? If you die from a heart attack what happens to your family?

My God! Think about the children! Something must be done!

I absolutely hate that line of thought. So don't be upset if I suggest to you bungy-jumping sans bungy chord.

This is a familiar line
Now where did I say a complete prohibition of government regulation?

What to get high? Do it on your property or the property of a consenting friend or business owner. Arrest those who get behind the wheel while stoned. You still have personal responsibility to not endanger those around you.

It can be done intelligently.

Fantasically idiotic!
I doubt you have the ability to light that fuse considering your pilot-light went out so very long ago.

As I said before, the Republicans learned slime at the hands of liberals. Your post confirms this.

I do
I also oppose the politicians who support them.

Choices
I can support a candidate I agree with 80% of the time.
I can support a candidate I agree with 30% of the time.
I can support a candidate I agree with 20% of the time.

Not a tough call.

Way to respond to my post...
...without really dealing with anything I said. I was talking about where our rights come from more than anything else.

The sad thing is you seem to think it's perfectly OK that the gov't gets to madate/legislate/regulate virtually everything you do. Sounds like a liberal to me...

So I don't vote. Big deal. Occasionally, I'll cast a vote for the Libertarian or Republican candidates, but I've always recognized that voting and freedom aren't the same thing. Sometimes, they're even mutually exclusive. After all, Saddam Hussein was "voted" president in Iraqi elections before we overthrew him.

And how is this different from someone drinking a beer on the job.
If you work in a job in which physical impairment can cause injury to the public, then it is right that you prove you are not impaired.

If you don't like it, get another job.

You also seem to feel that if some people abuse a priviledge, everyone should loose the priviledge.

What other aspects of your life are you willing to apply this standard to.

Some people drive in an unsafe manner, therefore everyone should have their cars taken away.

Some people use their guns to hurt people, therefore all guns should be taken away.

Some people use their fists to hurt people, therefore all people should have their hands taken away?

Where does it stop?

letting people live their lives, is anarchy?
Why do you believe that the govt owns you?

just because govt controls everything, doesn't prove that it should
...

Will Democrats ever seize this golden opportunity?
If the Democrats got back to their Jeffersonian "Classical Liberal" roots or at least played it more like JFK, they would siphon off a lot of libertarians from the GOP.

Unfortunately, the Dems have neither the ability nor the will to abandon their Marxist leanings. Not to mention their weak national security credibility.

Mark my words, if the Democratic Party ever steers itself away from the loony, always-anti-war, anti-personal responibility crowd and meets the disenfranchised limited govt folks even half-way, they will be a decent party again.

oh tlaloc
You're making the most reasoned arguments in here, why are you turning on me?
Oh, I said something bad about your precious Republicans. boohoo You need to wake up.

How did Republicans learn slime from liberals? When was it? Who was it? I'm curious.
Politics has always been about slime, but I'd say it reached a new plateau with Gingrich and Republicans going after Clinton. And has now reached epic proportions with Rove. If Democrats were good at it, they would've won in 2004.
Besides, I said all conservatives have is slime, not Republicans. You don't agree superheater is flinging slime on you?

You know, your views on personal freedom are really quite liberal.

Never Said It Should
Bhudda made an absolute statement which painted him him/her in a logical corner

Then
You understand you have a constrained choice and I think we're on the same page.

Sophistry
So essentially, you're arguing with me over semantics and not principles? That's just so much sophism, and still doesn't address my point of where rights come from. Are they natural, or do they come from the state?

Responses
If you work in a job in which physical impairment can cause injury to the public, then it is right that you prove you are not impaired. Agreed, but how much proof do you want to furnish? Right now, cough syrup can land you in a EAP 12 step with persoonel demerits and loss of pay.

If you don't like it, get another job. Agreed.

You also seem to feel that if some people abuse a priviledge, everyone should loose the priviledge.

No, I said because somebody used drugs an entire level of new government had to be created. Pot wasn't a priveledge, like it or not its been a controlled substance for decades. When its use became "critical mass", it wasn't going to be long before somebody did something that required more laws, intrusion, etc. The point is, no freedom is absolute, there'll always be exceptions like operating public transportation, etc.

What other aspects of your life are you willing to apply this standard to.

Anywhere my rights impede another's primary right.

Some people drive in an unsafe manner, therefore everyone should have their cars taken away. No, but when everybody's toked up, it won't be long before the government requires cars to be equipped with operator impairment detectors, because the technology exists and now is applied.

Some people use their guns to hurt people, therefore all guns should be taken away.

No. I can use a gun responsibly, it doesn't enter my bloodstream or impair or degenerate my mind.

Some people use their fists to hurt people, therefore all people should have their hands taken away?

See above.

Where does it stop?

When people stop attempting to reduce every public policy debate to an argument reductio asd absurdum.

Sorry
If you try to tell me how to run my life...

Date/Time: 12 Sep 2006, 1:02 PM



...you don't get my vote. Simple as that. It doesn't matter whether you're on the left or right.


You made an absolutist statement, got backed into a corner.

Although what I'm thinking is that you don't mind being told what to do in a million ways every day, but if somebody suggests some "hot button", then you'll not vote.

Personally, I have a much bigger problem with the feds saying how much water my toilet can use, than the city cracking down on hookers. I've never understood why people waste their energy on arguing prostitution should be legal when they could advance their cause in a far more palatable, productive and acceptable way.




Amen McGruv!
My views are sitting in the room you're talking about- "Classical Liberal". Am I sitting here alone or what?

What makes the Dems have Marxist leanings? Is it government programs, welfare and such? I'm opposed to big government, and I'll fight the Dems every chance to come back to reason. But are they really Marxist?

What makes Dems weak on national security? Is it something they do or is it the successful propaganda of Repubs? Because they criticize Bush? Because they don't support illegal wiretapping? I don't see it, I don't understand what makes you say it.

Whats wrong with being anti-war? I mean, war is bad, we should avoid it, right? Sometimes its necessary, like when we've been attacked. Has there been a somewhat recent example when we should've gone to war and didn't because of Dems? Is it the Iraq war that colors your perspective? Thats a voluntary war, I support the deposing of Saddam, but I don't support the way it was handled.

Speaking of the anti-personal responsibility crowd. Has Bush taken responsibility for the mess in Iraq, has anyone? Now, I can see where you get the idea that Dems are anti-personal responsibility, again because of policies like welfare, etc. But I don't think the harsh brand is deserving only because of that. Other reasons? This point bothers me because I consider personal responsibility a top value for humans overall. Its notoriously absent in our political leaders, of both parties, so why does the brand stick to the minority party only?

Even if there are good reasons for some of these perceptions of Dems, I can't help believe that Republican propaganda has contributed heavily to the lopsided view. Then again, TCS is predominantly an environment for Repubs/Libertarians/Conservatives, so maybe a lopsided view just comes with the terriroy in here.

Once again
Your rights end where mine begin. I tolerate government only to the extent it provides me with order, continuity and reasonable (not absolute) security.

Also, any argument has to be logically coherent. My favorite argument of SOME libertarians is that prostitution should be legalized so it can be REGULATED and TAXED. Huh?

(which of course will be the ultimate outcome, as soon as enough wives get the clap and the politicians realize they can villianize "seedy brothels", the way they've discovered there's gold in them thar hills of big terbacky"

questions

Why do you care if the feds dictate how much water your toilet can use?

Otherwise you could have a toilet that uses 20 gallons per flush, it would be a huge waste of water, a commodity important to human civilization. Water is not scarce in most of America, but there are places it is. Why would you want to waste water?


Why shouldn't prostitution be legal? And what cause are they advancing when you refer to people who argue it should be legal?

What logical reasons are there for making prostitution illegal?

Oh Bobby!
>"You're making the most reasoned arguments in here, why are you turning on me?"

For the simple reason you are an idiot.

>"Oh, I said something bad about your precious Republicans. boohoo You need to wake up."

Actually, it is you that needs to wake up. The reason the Republicans are the dominant party is people like you. The only position you have is hatred and obstruction. Not to mention a healthy dose of leftist ideology which is as far from personal freedom as you can get.

As I said before, the GOP ain't perfect but it beats the hell out of the alternative that you represent.

>"How did Republicans learn slime from liberals? When was it? Who was it? I'm curious."

Oh just the five decades of Democrats in power in Washington as well as having control over the media. Now that the veil has lifted people are able to see the flim-flam dance of the Democratic party. People see how the liberal mindset works and its destructive nature.

Consider what happened once the Democrats lost power. If you wish to "Boo Hoo" please do so with all the other liberal Democrats who thought the majority was their birthright.

>"Politics has always been about slime, but I'd say it reached a new plateau with Gingrich and Republicans going after Clinton."

I would say going after one of the most corrupt, incompetent Presidents in history is something to be proud of. Remember, it's only slime if it isn't true.

>"And has now reached epic proportions with Rove."

Every conspiracy theory out there has Rove as the lynchpin. If anyone has been slimed it is Rove. All that fuss over that liar Wilson and his wife only to find out it wasn't Rove at all. Perhaps you would be the first liberal to apologize to him?

>"If Democrats were good at it, they would've won in 2004."

But they aren't. This isn't because of Republicans and Conservatives being good slimers. This is because the public has more access to the truth and the truth is that the Democrats are weak and have no plan.

>"Besides, I said all conservatives have is slime, not Republicans."

Then check out the first line of your post. Try to keep up with the adults okay?

>"You don't agree superheater is flinging slime on you?"

I agree that the last thing I need is to have the assistance of a liberal apologist like you.

>"You know, your views on personal freedom are really quite liberal."

Classical liberalism perhaps. I prefer to call it Libertarianism to differentiate my views from the idiotic sloganeering and childish hate that is modern liberalism.

Pot isn't a priviledge?
Then in your mind, nothing is a priviledge and anything the govt wants, the govt has a right to take?

You seem to think that since the govt has been ignoring the constitution for "decades" that this justifies continuing to ignore the constitution?

Since you can use your gun responsibly, guns should not be banned.
But because other people can't use pot responsibly, pot must be banned.

Nice double standard there.

other people using pot doesn't take away any of your rights.
...

Time to call Universal Rundle, Twit
I'm an adult male and that means I have to double clutch,(blunt enough for you)

(moron alert: the standard crapper used 3.5 gallons, not 20 and if I double cluth that saves next to nothing)

and second, I'm getting tired of turds like you misusing the commerce clause to intrude in my bathroom.

Get the government out of the bathroom and the bathroom out of the government.

Prostitution = VD stupid.


how does that differ from your absolutist statements
That because somebody does something that bothers you, govt has a right to ban it.

Argh! The stupidity of it all!
>"But are they really Marxist?"

Yes.

>"I don't see it, I don't understand what makes you say it."

Perhaps because it is not "illegal" wiretapping. The Dems have not stood behind the President as Republicans have stood behind Dems in times of war. Even going so far as to air their propaganda in front of foreign audiences. Quite shameful. Until the Dems purge themselves of the Kerrys, the Clintons, the Gores, and the Kennedys I doubt they will see a massive influx of Libertarians into their ranks.

>"Whats wrong with being anti-war? I mean, war is bad, we should avoid it, right?"

The stupidity behind such a question is telling.

>"Has Bush taken responsibility for the mess in Iraq, has anyone?"

War is a mess. An adult understands this. Why should he apologize for deposing a tyrant and freeing 50 million people?

Semantics, again
You are WAY too hung up on that single statement. It merely conveys my feelings towards pols who are unfriendly to personal liberty. I don't vote for them. That doesn't mean I can't vote, ever. It doesn't mean I can't drive a car. It doesn't mean I can't buy food.

You say I can't do any of these things without the government having a hand in it. I'm not disputing this as fact, but I am arguing the principle of it. You then make a non sequitur that suggests I patronize drug dealers and hookers because of this view, and would drop all my objections if these two trades were legal. That's sophistry -- it presumes to be clever, but isn't. You've also evaded the point I've tried to make about the origins of rights.

My objection is to gov't control over our lives, and the sudden belief on the part of conservatives that the state -- no matter how well-meaning -- has the right to tell us how to live, even when our actions threaten no one else's lives, property or liberty. And my personal beliefs about prostitution, drug abuse, gambling or even toilet water levels notwithstanding, I will continue to speak out against the government as it continues to dictate to me and you and everyone else in this country how we should behave. This is a country, not a g0dd@mn nursery school.

translation
As long as the govt is screwing with other people's lives, I won't object.
But when they start messing with my toilet, then they've gone too far.

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