"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Republican Party Reform And Libertarian Principles

Hard as it is to imagine, George Will, conservative columnist and longtime shill for the Republican Party has actually made some sensible observations about its future.  Few of us will forget his outrageously partisan prediction of a Romney landslide, and many more of us will no longer even bother to read his pseudo-academic, baseball intellectual, history-spouting, careful-but-deliberately impenetrable-to-the-masses prose paeans to reactionary politics.  However he has, in his column today in the New York Times (11.11.12) redeemed himself slightly and actually made some sensible suggestions.  Next time, he says, pick a candidate with some charm and empathy…

And one who tilts toward the libertarian side of the Republican Party’s fusion of social and laissez-faire conservatism. Most voters already favor less punitive immigration policies than the ones angrily advocated by clenched-fist Republicans unwilling to acknowledge that immigrating — risking uncertainty for personal and family betterment — is an entrepreneurial act.

The speed with which civil unions and same-sex marriage have become debatable topics and even mainstream policies is astonishing. As is conservatives’ failure to recognize this: They need not endorse such policies, but neither need they despise those, such as young people, who favor them. And it is strange for conservatives to turn a stony face toward any reconsideration of drug policies, particularly concerning marijuana, which confirm conservatism’s warnings about government persistence in the teeth of evidence.

Wow!  Of course one has to ask why it took such a clobbering at the polls for the GOP to realize these self-evident truths?  Or to realize that the numbers of the radical base groups to which they were directing their fire and brimstone simply didn’t add up?

I am particularly pleased that Will recognized the infinitely sensible Libertarian position, one that indeed combines classic liberalism and conservatism.  Libertarians reject the label of the “Neither Here Nor There” Party.  They have simply renounced the cant and ill-informed, and irrational proclamations of both Left and Right. 

It doesn’t take any remarkable insight, for example, to conclude that a more tolerant and open immigration policy is in fact a pro-business, free market solution that should appeal to conservatives. Libertarians have long rejected the notion that illegal immigrants are a bunch of Latino welfare queens, dropping ‘anchor babies’ on American soil; and have always respected the data – except in some areas of Southern California, immigrants produce more than they receive.  The bottom line is favorable.  As importantly, the immigration market is working just fine – Mexicans are returning to Mexico because that country’s economy is growing fast and offers more opportunities than our own.

This compelling economic argument pales in importance to the role of immigrants in America’s history, and Republicans should admit that hammering Hispanics showers the rest of us with racist sparks.  Why are Mexicans any different than the Italians, Poles, or Irish of 100 years ago?

Nor does it take a genius to figure out that the country has moved leagues away from conservative positions on ‘family values’.  To begin with, the most recent census confirms that nearly one-third of all households in America are headed by a single parent; marriage age is increasing significantly, age at first birth for mothers and fathers is rising, percentage of two-earner households has never been higher.  The Ozzie and Harriet days are over.

Perhaps even more significant is the rise in non-believers in America, with the number at a record high 20 percent.  For all the Republican fundamentalist fulminating about God, fewer of us belong to any religion or believe in God than ever before.  Libertarians have always believed that all this religious posturing has no place whatsoever in American politics, for under the Constitution and within the vision of the Founding Fathers, although this country was based on religious principles, one’s personal beliefs should be left alone.

The country is changing regarding social issues as well.  Libertarians have always argued for a liberalized, market-based drug policy and have rejected conservative arguments that such a policy would lead to an even more godless country.  True conservatives should do the same – reject social cant and turn to market solutions.

Americans are far more tolerant of homosexuality than ever before, and while many have legitimate questions about gay marriage, our opinions are evolving into a more Libertarian Live-and-Let-Live attitude towards social mores.

Finally, most Americans when rationally considering the issue of fiscal responsibility would agree to some reasonable combination of tax increases and spending cuts.  We all know, for example, that the mortgage deduction did not come from God, and that it has remained on the books for a very specific politico-economic reason.  If more of us knew that the interest on a mortgage on a second home on a Florida beach was also deductible, we would probably not object to eliminating the windfall.  We have moved beyond the wild oratory and unrealistic No New Taxes Ever pledges of Grover Norquist.  While there is legitimate disagreement on the benefit of tax increases or decreases to the economy, most of us would take a Libertarian stance – no a priori judgments, i.e.do not start with the premise that additional taxes are necessary, but demonstrate, based on objective data if, when, and where they are. 

Will suggests that the Republicans were doomed from the start because their candidate was not likeable, couldn’t relate to the common man, had little charm and natural empathy.  That may well be the case, and many voters would have preferred Chris Christie than the monochrome Romney; but two-term President Richard M. Nixon was not exactly a Hollywood charmer; nor was Jimmy (Turn the Heat Down) Carter.  Romney, by following the old-fashioned party line which ignored the facts and the numbers, looking at the changing demographics of the electorate through glasses that badly needed a correction, and by choosing a running mate that if anything narrowed the window of electoral opportunity, deserved what he got.

The verdict is in for Republican renewal – become more Libertarian, pay attention to numbers, nominate a charming, empathetic candidate who also reflects changing demographics (a Hispanic woman might be a good idea) in 2016, and lose the circus act of God-Family-Country-Small Government.

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