The 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.Â If it werenâ€™t so publicly obvious I would call this an opinionâ€”but the reality is itâ€™s a fact.Â Â 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 truceâ€”and perhaps even a mutually beneficial alliance.
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.Â 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.Â Initially I understood the reaction and the lashing out from Republicansâ€”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.Â 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.Â The bottom line is they came up short on election night, and if they thought prior they didnâ€™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.Â 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 majorityâ€”and thus controlling the Governor’s Office and both Legislative Branches in Iowa.Â Had this come to pass, both factions would today be much closer to implementing their principles into legislation.Â 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 itâ€™s worth here is how I see each sideâ€™s culpability in this conflict:
Where Traditional Republicans are to blame
â€¢Â Not enough interest at a grassroots level on caucus night to even fill central committee seats.
â€¢Â Rhetoric has been too harsh and focused on a small number of political operativesâ€”by extension this has served to alienate libertarian leaning voters who may be persuaded to support the Republican candidate in their district.
â€¢Â Lack of success in building the Party base and, so far as I know, doing very little youth outreach.
â€¢Â Especially at the Federal level, the chance was blown to control government expansion and spending throughout the 2000â€™s.
â€¢Â 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
â€¢Â Not enough reaching out by new leadership after taking over RPI.
â€¢Â Rhetoric has been too harshâ€”sending mass e-mails impugning the personal integrity of media members is not the way to conduct yourself.
â€¢Â Too many rank and file Libertarians in the movement donâ€™t care about winning elections and are uninterested in working to shape the Republican Partyâ€”if a Libertarian is not on the ballot they disappear.Â The all or nothing approach is irrational, and in fact is counter-productive if you hold strong convictions.
â€¢Â Lack of realistic policy goalsâ€”the Federal budget isnâ€™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.
â€¢Â Complete lack of pragmatism from many rank and file in the Libertarian movement.Â 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.Â You can say what you want about Romney, and I get the criticisms, but the guy ran on the Paul Ryan budget for heaven sakeâ€”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 doesnâ€™t really matter.Â What matters is that both sides start attempting to bridge this divide well before the 2014 elections.
Personally I donâ€™t have a dog in this increasingly silly fight.Â What I want is for Conservative principals to be implemented and this can only happen if Democrats are defeated in elections.Â 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.Â 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.Â As long as Democrats win society will continue to get more progressive and taxes and spending will riseâ€”itâ€™s just that simple.
Itâ€™s been a brutal stretch for Republicans since November 6th and I hate to pile on, but one issue facing the Iowa Legislature this session reflects what a perilous situation we could be in as a political party.Â That issue is automated traffic enforcementâ€”which, at least so far, applies to only red light and speed cameras.
In spite of the disaster that was the 2012 election here in Iowa, perhaps the most depressing and telling sign of how far we have to go is that a clear majority of Legislators, and apparently Iowans, are not yet willing to say definitively that automated traffic enforcement is unacceptable.Â By default then we are saying we do not object to having cameras take pictures and videos of us in order to deliver substantial fines to our mailbox some 10 days later.
What I have heard from most legislators on this lately is that they believe from talking to their constituents this is close to a 50-50 issue.Â I donâ€™t know if thatâ€™s accurate or not, but if it is then a majority of Conservatives and Libertarians are going to be in for an even worse ride than we previously thought.
I know there are several smart and well-reasoned Republicans making arguments for these cameras who see nothing wrong with them.Â I have to believe that a majority of these folks havenâ€™t had the pleasure of receiving a $110.00 ticket in the mail from a non-memorable â€œinfractionâ€ that took place a week and a half before.Â And that these same people havenâ€™t gone to the website link listed on the ticket to have the spooky experience of watching a video of them driving on a public road days beforeâ€”yes this is how it works.
All the arguments against the cameras are well documentedâ€”no right to face your accuser, you may not have been driving, you could get numerous tickets before being aware you got any, questionable impacts on safety, the fact it is yet another increased revenue stream for government, etc.â€”but the biggest one to me is the overarching issue of what tactics we allow law enforcement and government to deploy against us.Â As we know too well, once we allow government to record us autonomously and levy fines against us for traffic violations, it is unlikely to stop there.
To all the proponents on this issue on both sides of the isle I ask the followingâ€”would you support having speedometers tied to computers in your vehicles which would use GPS coordinates to determine the speed limit and then issue you a ticket sent to your e-mail each time you went 8-10 mph over said limit? The analogy isnâ€™t perfectâ€¦but itâ€™s pretty close.Â Hard to imagine anyone saying yesâ€”let alone a majority.
The politics are interesting here too.Â In short, the Republican voting coalition needs, to a large degree, to include Libertarians or else they will win nothing moving forward.Â No matter how fiscally conservative they are, be assured that if the Republican Party here in Iowa and nationally will not stand up against video surveillance and mail delivered fines then Libertarians will never vote republican in a large majority.Â In fact, you would be hard-pressed to think of an issue that could more quickly lead to a third partyâ€”and hence the death of the Republican Party.Â Frankly, the truth is I wouldnâ€™t blame them.Â If, as the party of small government and freedom, we wonâ€™t even stand up on this blatant of a â€œBig Brotherâ€ issue, then the jig is up.
The reason why the Libertarian coalition is so crucial is perhaps even more interesting.Â First and foremost you have the stubborn friction between the traditional voting blocs Republicans rely on to win elections and the current electorate.Â The largest single coalition in the Party is the religious-wing (in a society that is, for whatever reasons, growing more liberal on social issues), and the fastest growing new members of the electorate by a landslide are Hispanic voters (which we consistently lose by 30+ points).Â This is of course added to the fact that Republicans routinely lose the women vote by close to double digits (and they have voted in a greater number than men in every Presidential election since the 1980â€™s).
In pointing these things out I am in no way saying that these differences and pitfalls canâ€™t be mitigated by the Republican Party, and am certainly not taking a position here on which coalitions should or shouldnâ€™t prevail.Â The point I make is that because of these problematic dynamics for the Republican Partyâ€”a clear majority of the pragmatic Libertarian vote is absolutely essential going forward.Â In terms of the â€œgoing forwardâ€, Libertarians are by and large younger Americans that will be voting for generations (a segment of the youth vote Republicans could actually win), as well as the fact that Libertarian leanings, by nature, will grow larger the larger our government itself grows.
Tying It All Together
To be clear, this is not to say that Republicans would ever run on legalized prostitution or drugs, but it is to say that not standing up against something as symbolic of government overreach as traffic cameras would be a major mistake.
Both politically and on principle, fighting hard for a bill next session in the Iowa Legislature banning all automated traffic enforcement is a no-brainer.Â Not doing so would be abandoning the mantra of our Partyâ€”which is to stand for more freedom, less government intrusion, and less confiscatory power from the political class.
If as a Party we either fail to lead this charge in the first place, or do so and find a majority of Iowans donâ€™t agree with us, there will be ramifications in future elections.Â As dim as the landscape looks now for Republicans itâ€™s hard to imagine how much uglier it could get…but I know it would be much worse than $110 ticket in your mailbox.