Socialism on the left, corporatism on the right.
It is abundantly clear at this stage that calls for “unity” were hollow indeed. After the 2014 primaries where “establishment” Republicans muscled through their nominees, the self-evident proposition that Tea Partiers and social conservatives were no longer essential to the core GOP was made terribly abundant. Fiscal conservatives too lost their muscle as containment in the style of Eisenhower rather than resistance in the form of Goldwater and Reagan became the watchword.
Worse than this, the progressive left merely tugged the Democratic Party further and further to the left. The national question was no longer whether or not Obamacare would be the law of the land, but whether it would exist in a “reformed” structure under a Republican Congress or a “single payer” system under a Democratic one.
Healthcare teetered between the corporations and the government. On civil liberties, it was a wash — both parties committed themselves in essence (if not form) to the security state. Neither party seriously addresses debt spending much less the national deficit. Qualitative easing continues to march. Student loans become more and more unaffordable. A minimum wage hike drives more into the underclass, forced to take the handouts offered by their government that are barely enough to make ends meet and never enough to provide dignity.
Regulations on small businesses continue to mount. Gun laws are passed in the bluest of blue states offering vouchers for those willing to turn in their firearms by a date certain, which are feebly resisted by the national gun rights groups. Old promises are exchanged for new ones. Planned Parenthood cashes in mightily on providing abortions to low income families. Parents are charged with penalties if they don’t pack an appropriate lunch. Education standards remain mediocre at best. You joke with your children about Super Sized drinks at McDonalds while driving a car a little less powerful, a little bit tinier than the one you were used to back then.
Yes, 2014 turned into an absolute trainwreck. Democrats held onto the U.S. Senate, and amazingly enough made gains in the U.S. House. Establishment Republicans, too eager to wrest control of the party from the conservative wing while redefining conservative from its Goldwater-era definition to a version more recognizable by the Tories in England, had finally pushed what remains of the liberty movement to the sidelines. Or home, more accurately… as that’s precisely where they stayed on election day.
Yet the big problems haven’t gone anywhere. Free enterprise gets lip service, but not the confidence of our government. Free speech is lauded… until you speak against the wrong interest group. Free society becomes a matter of material freedom from want, hunger, and fear while the avuncular state pushes you into the condition of happy citizen. Meanwhile, savings are punished while the consumer market begs you to consume, consume, consume… never before have a people been so rich and yet so miserably poor.
What to do?
* * *
Meanwhile, not long after the 2014 shellacking, on a farm somewhere on the outskirts of Northern Virginia gather a handful of fiscal conservative, Tea Party, social conservative and national security leaders sit down with representatives of the liberty movement, leading lights such as Reason and CATO, and yes — representatives of the Libertarian Party.
Is this the moment?
All sides will argue whether or not social conservatives can co-exist with libertarians. Drug policy will be on the table. National security conservatives will grate at the idea of surrendering the security state, while Tea Partiers will have to swallow the concept of the Pax Americana. All sides basically agree that the Federal Reserve is in dire need of reform, that the entitlement system should be vastly drawn down, that school choice and federalism ought to be the watchwords of the day. Marriage and families should be the domain of the church, not the victims of government imprimaturs. Corporate subsidies will end. Laws that empower corporations over people will subside. Most of all — through the engine of the Libertarian Party — the folks gathered pledge to drive every ounce of energy towards their neorepublican ideals against the socialist left and the corporatist right.
Most of all, there is wide agreement that the omnipresence of government should dwindle away, with fewer regulators, simplified and understandable codes of taxation, and a clear emphasis on the ennobling nature of being a productive citizen in a free republic — not a social democracy, not a kleptocracy… but a republic again.
One voice might speak up.
“Are the American people truly ready for liberty again? Have we thought this through? What happens when we cut both sides off?”
There’s posturing at first… but reality sets in among these highly educated men and women. It’s not as easy as throwing a switch anymore — principles, like tools, tend to get worn and dirty when put to practice. Does the liberty movement have the patience to sustain what could very well be a 50 year fight? To hang together without having the advantages of the existing parties?
Stares back and forth. The old arguments begin to percolate again.
…maybe it might be best to stay with the GOP. Maybe the LP isn’t ready for destiny. Maybe it’s safer to wait and hope for better days…
* * *
So what would this hypothetical third party look like in the event that a “doomsday scenario” where the conservative movement broke with the liberty movement?
1. Tea Partiers consist of about 1 in 4 of all Americans. That’s 22% right off the bat.
2. Conservatives who identify themselves as “very conservative” consist of about 7-9% of all Americans. Not a very deep pool… and when you overlay the 35% of all Americans who ID as “fiscal conservative” with the 32% who identify as “socially conservative” that gets you a 75% overlay – roughly 27% of the American public according to Gallup.
3. About 22% of all Americans identify as libertarian. Of those, roughly half will still identify with a major party, but in much greater numbers (43%) with the GOP than with the Democratic Party (5%) — a 8% overlap of GOP-leaning libertarians with another 11% up as hardcore libertarians.
4. So how much overlap is there between disaffected conservatives and libertarians? Including Tea Partiers? I don’t know… but would 30% of the electorate be unreasonable? Probably not. Would 35 or even 40% be unreasonable if the camps within could set aside their differences and vote on what they agreed upon? Mathematically possible…
5. 60% of all Americans want to see the rise of a third party. The bottom line is that everyone is mad as hell, and they don’t want to take it anymore.
So what to do with all this angst?
In other words, we know what they’re against… but does the liberty movement know what they are for? Specifically? Have they considered what happens when you put the kill switch on big government? Typically, you get angry constituents… and by the numbers, they outnumber the Tea Party a good 3:1 at best.
Not good odds for victory. Which means folks need to put away the checks and start breaking out the chess boards.
* * *
Of course, this is all speculative. The Republican Party knows that it can’t win without the conservative movement and the libertarian wing of the GOP. Besides — the Republicans wouldn’t survive if the conservative movement were redefined in the way of the Tories.
Which is what makes the gamble with the liberty-movement so odd… the effort to push back conservative candidates in favor of moderates so banal and plain. Conservative and pragmatic? No problem… we all know it’s going to be a 50-year fight and it would most certainly be one of inches rather than miles were the liberty movement to break off and build it’s own battleship rather than wage a revolution on the Battleship Potemkin.
Yet the current detente cannot continue forever. Establishment Republicans need to pick a side. Conservatives need to choose between pragmatism and ideology. Both sides need to learn how to hold fast and back their brother’s play — too often, the liberals peel off “sensible” collaborators and laud them in the eyes of the public.
It’s an uphill fight… too much to the left, and a third party is inevitable. Too far to the right, and pragmatists may be relieved to see the Tea Party walk.
…but it’s all speculation for the moment.
For the moment.