In my previous post, I took umbridge at faux-conservatives who repudiate core conservative beliefs in small government, and instead argue for the power of the state to achieve their aims. These people – the Mike Huckabees of the world – are a cancer on centre-right politics, and are anathema to the core values that we as a movement believe in.
The question remains however, how traditional conservatives – by which I mean people who believe in small government, but have socially conservative values, can reconcile such views with libertarianism within the Liberal Party, and work together towards a common goal.
I would suggest a possible way forward for the fusionism of conservatives and libertarians revolves around the “Leave Us Alone Coalition” – a direct opposition to the “Takings Coalition” of the left.
This dichotomy was first articulated by Conservative Guru Grover Norquist, and can be expressed as follows:
The Reagan Republican party and conservative movement can best be understood as a coalition of individuals and groups that — on the issue that brings them to politics — want the federal government to leave them alone.
The “Leave us Alone” coalition includes taxpayers who want the government to reduce the tax burden, property owners, farmers, and homeowners who want their property rights respected, gunowners who want the government to leave them and their guns alone, homeschoolers who wish to educate their own children as they see fit, traditional values conservatives who don’t want the government throwing condoms at their children and making fun of their religious values.
The Leave us Alone coalition also includes those Americans who serve in the military and police as they are the legitimate functions of government that protect Americans’ right to be left alone by foreign agressors or domestic criminals.
The modern American left is a “Takings Coalition,” a coalition of groups and individuals who view the proper role of government as taking things from one group and giving to another. This often is in the form of money. And the recipients of others money are usually the leaders of the “Takings Coalition.”
The Takings coalition consists of the Trial Lawyers, the corrupt Big City Machines, the Labor Union Bosses and the two wings of the Dependency Movement — those who remain trapped in dependency and those who make $80,000 a year managing the dependency of others and making sure they don’t get jobs and become Republicans. They are joined by the various coercive Utopians who want to reorganize society through force to make us stop wearing leather or driving sport utility vehicles or owning large toilets or otherwise run our lives as they see fit.
The Left puts forward the fiction that the Right want to force their morality on others. However, the homeschooler movement does not demand that homeschoolers be recognized as an alternative lifestyle. Gunowners do not insist that schools teach ten year olds books entitled “Heather has Two Hunters.”
Grover has spent at least the last decade building this movement, and expanding on these principles. Late last year, he released the book “Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government’s Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives“, which I strongly suggest you all read.
Here’s a video clip of Grover elucidating on this principle:
What we see is a vision that conservatives and libertarians can agree on 90% of the time. One of a government that leaves people free to spend their money how they choose, leaves people free to practice their religion and does not force socially progressive programs down their throat.
Conservatives often rail about the breakdown of the family unit and call for government intervention to ‘fix’ this. Yet this ‘breakdown’ can be traced directly to government actions imposed upon soceity, through things like top-down changes to the Marriage Act. Similarly, one can make the case that sexual permissiveness was formulated through government mandated educational programs. Indeed, virtually every complaint on family issues by conservatives was caused directly by government action.
However, there is a clear and present danger here if social conservatives become social authoritarians. To quote Grover once again:
“In the 1980s, conservatives looked at polling data, and 70 percent of the people in the country were for prayer in school. And they introduced bills in Congress and constitutional amendments to legalize prayer in school. But most people who are for prayer in school think everybody else is for prayer in school, and therefore it’s not really a threatening issue.
But there’s a strong contingent who fear prayer in school because they’re pretty sure the prayer won’t be one they like. Some of these people may be antireligious, but some are other religious people who don’t get enough votes to be in charge of writing the prayers: Jews, the Amish, religious minorities. They hate prayer in school. So even though 70 percent tell you that they’re for prayer in school, 3 percent of the people in the room will say, “I hate you forever.” On Election Day, those 3 percent remember what you did, and you just lost votes on a 70 percent issue, as impossible as that sounds.
The answer, therefore, lies in fusionism:
“When you go from prayer in school to school choice, where you can send your kid to a school with exactly the kind of prayer you want—or no prayer at all—then all of a sudden the 3 percent you scared to death will be going, “Hey, I’m for that.” You’ve just turned opponents into allies.”
Another issue that often divides libertarians and conservatives is that of immigration. Libertarians often call for complete free trade in labour – ie open borders. Conservatives on the other hand are concerned about community and assimilation. This could lead to tension. However, if we look at the concerns conservatives have, again, it is government action that is to blame.And a similar solution can be applied. To once again quote Grover on the problem:
“People don’t become assimilated. They don’t learn American history. They don’t learn English. They don’t learn what it means to be an American. Well, that’s because we have a public school system that’s run by a monopoly, a unionized set of bureaucrats, and they don’t teach the people born in Nebraska how to be Americans and American history and how to speak and write English very well. So we have a problem with our government monopoly education system, and we have a problem with the welfare system.”
Fix that, and many of the concerns about immigration will become moot.
Perhaps more controversially, let us look at the issue of gay marriage:
“Sometime around 1600s, religion allows the state to nationalize marriage. So when people say, “We can’t let the state change a sacrament by allowing same-sex marriage,” I go, “Where were you 300 years ago, when you handed the state control of this issue?” So the proper political answer is: Churches, synagogues, and mosques should write marriage contracts, and the state should enforce contracts. You shouldn’t have sacraments organized, managed, and defined by the states. Communities of faith ought to be into denationalizing marriage, just as I want to denationalize healthcare and education, rather than trying to get the federal government to run the post office correctly or manage marriage correctly.”
Again, an outcome conservatives and libertarians can be happy with. And the list goes on.
Sure there are some things that conservatives and libertarians will disagree with, yet if we place politics into the dichotomy of a Leave Us Alone vs Takings Coalition, we can focus our energies on the 90% of things we agree on – and make a difference!
Obviously this will involve some compromise. Libertarians will have to accept that a total end to drug prohibition is unfeasible anytime in the foreseeable future, and conservatives will have to accept that they can no-longer support any financial or other discrimination against same sex couples, to use but two examples. But at the end of the day, this is a model that works.
Conservative/libertarian fusion formed the basis of the Reagan & Thatcher Revolutions. It achieved real results. Working together, we can make it happen again. But it involves a recognition that the heart of true conservative values are those classical liberal/libertarian principles of small government, individual freedom, and free markets.