The Republican vs. Libertarian Feud In Iowa Must End

photo1The battle between traditional Republicans and Libertarians that began in Iowa on Caucus night in 2012 has risen to a destructive level and needs to be addressed.  If it weren’t so publicly obvious I would call this an opinion—but the reality is it’s a fact.   What has transpired to this point is a lot of bomb throwing from each side and very little, if any, attempts to search for the potential common ground that would result in, at the least, a truce—and perhaps even a mutually beneficial alliance.

Some Background

The feud started when, after having a relatively modest presence in 2008, Ron Paul inspired Libertarians organized and made a concerted effort to acquire as many county central committee seats as possible on caucus night.  Perhaps surprising even themselves, they encountered very little resistance and were hugely successful in many precincts.

Since that night in June the hostility level has ratcheted up several notches, and I believe both sides share some responsibility in what has become a very non-productive situation.  Initially I understood the reaction and the lashing out from Republicans—they were taken by surprise, infiltrated, lost a good deal of influence they had taken for granted, and their tone at first was a reasonable natural response.

On the other side, Libertarians went on to essentially take over RPI and gain a presence at the county leadership level.  In the aftermath I feel there was a lack of reaching out to traditional Republicans that could have lessened the wounds, resulted in more unity, and ultimately led to more victories in November.  The bottom line is they came up short on election night, and if they thought prior they didn’t need inner-Party cooperation to win House and Senate races they were clearly proven wrong.

What makes this battle so maddening is that each side could have benefited greatly by working together.  This was proven by the returns from the Iowa Senate races where only a few hundred more votes would have led to Republicans winning a majority—and thus controlling the Governor’s Office and both Legislative Branches in Iowa.  Had this come to pass, both factions would today be much closer to implementing their principles into legislation.  At a minimum traffic cameras would be banned, taxes would be lower, and the proposals being debated on education reform would look much different.

Each Side Shares Some Blame

For what it’s worth here is how I see each side’s culpability in this conflict:

Where Traditional Republicans are to blame

• Not enough interest at a grassroots level on caucus night to even fill central committee seats.

• Rhetoric has been too harsh and focused on a small number of political operatives—by extension this has served to alienate libertarian leaning voters who may be persuaded to support the Republican candidate in their district.

• Lack of success in building the Party base and, so far as I know, doing very little youth outreach.

• Especially at the Federal level, the chance was blown to control government expansion and spending throughout the 2000’s.

• Not realizing that Conservative and Tea Party Republicans are now closer on the spectrum to Libertarians than they are to traditional Republicans.

Where Libertarians are to blame

• Not enough reaching out by new leadership after taking over RPI.

• Rhetoric has been too harsh—sending mass e-mails impugning the personal integrity of media members is not the way to conduct yourself.

• Too many rank and file Libertarians in the movement don’t care about winning elections and are uninterested in working to shape the Republican Party—if a Libertarian is not on the ballot they disappear.  The all or nothing approach is irrational, and in fact is counter-productive if you hold strong convictions.

• Lack of realistic policy goals—the Federal budget isn’t going to be balanced in a year, nor will we go from marijuana being illegal to all drugs being decriminalized in a 2 year timespan.

• Complete lack of pragmatism from many rank and file in the Libertarian movement.  To me the litmus test for this are Libertarians who could not bring themselves to vote for Mitt Romney, even though he was running against a president that was the proven antithesis of everything they claim to stand for.  You can say what you want about Romney, and I get the criticisms, but the guy ran on the Paul Ryan budget for heaven sake—no more aggressive approach will ever be championed by a presidential candidate (prior to a total economic collapse that is).

Whether you agree with my specific assessments of blame or not doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that both sides start attempting to bridge this divide well before the 2014 elections.

Moving Forward

Personally I don’t have a dog in this increasingly silly fight.  What I want is for Conservative principals to be implemented and this can only happen if Democrats are defeated in elections.  When it comes to primaries I subscribe to the William F. Buckley philosophy of supporting the most Conservative candidate who can win.

If Conservatives, traditional Republicans, and Libertarians all followed this mantra in both primaries and general elections all would benefit and success would be had.  If segments of each faction continue being concerned about what kind of Republican is on a general election ballot (unless there is a specific and compelling reason to withhold support), then Democrats will win.  As long as Democrats win society will continue to get more progressive and taxes and spending will rise—it’s just that simple.

 

About the Author

Mr. Arnold is a long time constitutional conservative. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature from the University of Iowa. Over the last few years he has been involved in numerous political campaigns, most recently serving as campaign manager for an Iowa House candidate and serving as a city chair for Tom Latham. He is self-employed, running a small business in Ankeny, Iowa where he resides with his wife.

 

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