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A Libertarian Joins The War of Words Against the Republican Party

I’ve been far more interested in the underling principles and political posturing of the two parties since Obama was elected. I’ve always figured that even if I agree with one-third of what Obama does he would be a tremendous improvement over George Bush. His policies may or may not always work, but so far I would give him high marks for striving to both do what is best for the country and trying to get past the hyperpartisanship of recent years.

The Republicans, on the other years, continue to disappoint. I’ve quoted Andrew Sullivan, a conservative, and Joe Gandelman, a moderate, who express similar disappointment about the GOP. Of course conservatives (at least those still backing the Republican Party) tend to have a problem seeing the big picture and, regardless of how many times I said otherwise, could not interpret these posts as being anything other than a post in support of the stimulus bill.

While I remain an agnostic as to the value of the overall stimulus bill we have a lack of any meaningful alternatives from the Republicans. The dishonesty and use of scare tactics  by the Republicans in their attacks upon specific spending measures, such as that for medical information technology, also does not help their credibility with me.

Many conservative readers could not understand that the disgust with the Republicans is not based upon the stimulus package or any one issue. Another view which fits in well with those I have already quoted comes from Will Wilkinson. He is specifically responding to claims from the right that the stimulus package somehow limits the prospects of liberaltarianism–the fusion of aspects of libertarian and liberal beliefs:

Jonah here is guilty of a common mistake about the “liberaltarian” or what I like to think of as the “liberal” project. I’ll let Brink speak for himself, but I’m not that interested in short-term partisan politics. I’m interested in a much longer-term project. I want to help create the possibility of a popular political identity that takes the value of human liberty, in all its aspects, really seriously. As I see it, this project involves an attempt to reunify the separate strands of the American liberal tradition. I’m not sure what it is about that project that would that lead Jonah to think Brink or I should be vexed by the behavior of the Democratic Party and its operatives. The stimulus bill vexes me not at all. It’s what you’d predict knowing the current extent of Democratic power, the opportunity that the perception of crisis creates, and the composition of the Democratic coalition. As a student of James M. Buchanan, I’m no romantic about democracy.

Moreover, what is it about the era of George W. Bush that makes Jonah think that conservatives and libertarians see eye to eye on the large questions of political economy? I understand it is now politically expedient for Republicans to oppose whatever Obama is trying to do. But, frankly, the recent performance of the Republicans in Congress has been pathetic, managing to do little more than fight to get a bit more for their constituencies and a bit less for the majority’s. I do not remember hearing a plausible, principled alternative powerfully articulated by the Congressional Republicans. Maybe that’s because the great success of the GOP over the last eight years has been to destroy the reputation of free markets and limited government by deploying its rhetoric and then doing the opposite. Partisan Republicans choke on the truth that the emerging shape of the Obama era is the aftemath of the GOP’s successful, if unwitting, campaign to destroy the political economy they proclaimed.

There’s a lot of diversity within libertarianism. And the most common forms of libertarianism are, I think, still pretty well shot through with conservative reflexes bred by the long Cold War alliance between libertarians and the right. For many libertarians, hating the left just feels like home. So many libertarians will indeed come running home when called to service by the organs of partisan conservativism. Well, good luck to y’all, but I was never on the team, and I’ve never wanted less to be on it. I’d rather work the long angle.

I’m more agnostic as to the prospects of the stimulus package working while Will is more negative, but we do agree on the major points here. Both of us are interested in seeing similar changes in the Democratic Party to stress certain strains of liberalism with regards to promoting liberty. Both of us see the Republicans as being a force which opposes both freedom and free market principles.

Andrew Sullivan’s War of Words Against The Republicans

Andrew Sullivan’s post yesterday which I quoted here has received a considerable amount of attention. Sullivan presents some of the responses in a follow up post here. I intentionally combined two quotes from Sullivan in my previous post and concentrated on the overall criticism of Republicans. If you look at the stimulus bill and/or the Judd Gregg fiasco alone then it would be easy to accuse Sullivan of hyperbole. Sullivan’s criticism makes more sense when looking at total Republican behavior. I bet Sullivan was considering more than the specific incidents when writing his view of the Republicans.

Among those who seem to appear to see it in this context are Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice:

Some will quibble with how Sullivan words this, but it is indeed increasingly difficult to make an argument that the Republican party is acting in good faith with the White House and the American people as it continues to play to its base.

Most troubling: the tone for the party was set immediately by talk show Rush Limbaugh, who immediately threw down the gauntlet against cooperation with Obama (opening saying he wanted Obama to “fail” and alter trying to finesse the statement a bit)…and the party elite and base immediately fell into (all too familiar) lock step.

So is what Sullivan is predicting about to happen true? And, even more troubling, is this what the country is in for in the future?

Joe also writes:

Prediction: if the stimulus and other policies help the economy in any way, the GOP will lose a big chunk of support from independent and younger voters. It can make gains in 2010 only if Obama fails — and each day developments suggest that not only are some in the party hoping he does, but some seem to be actively working for it.

It is one thing to oppose specific acts by Obama on principle, but many of us believe that the Republicans are opposing Obama’s acts purely because they want Obama to fail for partisan reasons, regardless of the harm this might do to the country. They believe that voters have such a limited memory that if things are bad they will vote Republican in the future, forgetting that in so many cases it was Republican policies which got us into our current mess.