Nick Gillespie has a very thoughtful reply to my WSJ Op-ed, The Mistake That Is the Libertarian Party, that ran on election day. I highly recommend his reply, which you can read here. I still believe that the 40 year experiment with the Libertarian Party has only served to make both parties less libertarian. And I don’t see any response to that particular point in Nick’s piece. But his piece scores on other issues, and there are parts with which I agree.
Yes, someone like Rand Paul – the most interesting man in the Senate, we’ve called him – is huge. He’s pulling (pushing?) the GOP in a more libertarian direction and he’s being joined by younger characters (such as Rep. Justin Amash and Sen. Mike Lee) and older ones (Sens. Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn) who get the reality that the future of the Party of Lincoln requires getting more libertarian.
But the Tea Party – which is widely hated among the GOP establishment – has been the real engine of change precisely by refusing to go along with the status quo to eke out another near-term election win. The Tea Party is the reason that Rand Paul is in the Senate (they are the reason he won against the handpicked candidate of the Senate Majority, fer chrissakes). And it’s the Tea Party’s single-minded insistence on fiscal restraint uber alles that gives it power. This is a group of folks willing to nominate a nut like Christine O’Donnell over a sure thing, to primary eminent non-entities such as Orrin Hatch and Dick Lugar. That sort of focus has scared the GOP plenty and is the only reason the GOP is talking at all about reducing future spending. And still, the Tea Party has miles to go before it sleeps. The minute that the Tea Party – and Rand Paul, who takes regular abuse from Republicans for refusing to fall in line – eases off, the GOP will drift back to its worst tendencies.
Yes, which is why I was urging libertarian politicos to involve themselves inside both the Republican and Democratic parties that are less libertarian at the margin to the extent that libertarian activists absent themselves to work for the LP. I am just not as convinced as Nick that standing outside the parties shouting a pox on both their houses has proven to be an effective strategy. More effective has been the Ron and Rand Paul, and Tea Party strategy of pressuring from within. Take the social conservatives as a case in point. Were they largely outside the tent pissing in, the Republicans would not feel so great an obligation to conform to their demands. If the libertarians inside the Republican and Democratic tents were large and demanding enough — like the Tea Party — then they could making their own demands. I think that is a better strategy than collecting 1% of the national vote, or tipping a senate race to the Democrat.
But none of this is a matter of libertarian first principles. It is all a matter of prudential judgment, which is why I am always willing to listen to the reflections of Nick Gillespie.