Thursday, November 09, 2006

An open letter to libertarian Republicans

Dear libertarian Republicans,

It's been some time since I've used the term "libertarian Republicans" without quote marks around "libertarian," but Tuesday's election results opened a window of opportunity for reconciliation between the libertarian movement and its errant Republican offshoot -- a window that I hope both sides will hold open and use for the purpose of friendly communication and mutual support. For now, at least, I'm removing the quote marks, in the hope that libertarian Republicans will re-evaluate their priorities, place principle before party, and exploit the golden opportunity which the 2006 elections have placed before them.

Most of you, I suspect, are less than happy with what transpired on Tuesday. You shouldn't be. Yes, the Republican Party took a beating -- a beating it deserved in spades. But if you look at the results, what Americans rejected was NOT the residual libertarian strain in Republican thought, but the corruption and statism recently displayed in Republican action.

To put a finer point on it, libertarian Republican casualties on Tuesday were the exception, not the rule. Toby Nixon, Ken Lindell and others were taken down by stray shots; they were not the ones in the voters' sights.

Ron Paul handily won re-election versus an NRA-endorsed opponent.

At least two known friends of libertarianism in the GOP -- Butch Otter in Idaho and Sarah Palin in Alaska -- are now governors-elect of their states.

Of 12 states with initiatives on the ballot to rein in government abuse of eminent domain, nine passed them.

Anti-war-on-drugs measures passed in numerous localities, and although they failed at the state level, they garnered considerable support (and who, ten years ago, would have dared dream that they'd make the ballot, let alone command the votes of double-digit percentages of the electorate)?

What did libertarian Republicans lose on Tuesday?

You lost some "friends" who had exploited the libertarian label but who never deserved it. J.D. Hayworth in Arizona. George Allen in Virginia. Jim Talent in Missouri. In losing them, you lost ... baggage. These were folks you never should have been in bed with in the first place -- and in your hearts you know I'm right. Know-Nothingism, Mrs. Grundyism, crony "capitalism" and jingoism may make for a nice wave to ride in the short term, but the undertow's a bitch when that wave collapses. Thank your lucky stars that for the most part those who got sucked under were the ones who deserved it -- and that they didn't take the whole libertarian Republican movement down with them.

Right now, libertarian Republicans are the only faction in the GOP left standing. Everyone else has been drowned in the deluge or is still cowering on the beach, coughing up water and trying to figure out what the hell hit them. You guys are the only ones left with any credibility, any muscle, any ideas that resonate with the public. If the Republican Party has a future, YOU ARE IT.

I'd like to talk to you about the Libertarian Party for a minute. No, I'm not going to ask you to desert the GOP for the LP -- some of you may do exactly that, and you'll be welcomed with open arms if you do, but I'm going to take it as given that you're not ready to give up on the Republican Party, at least yet. And I'm going to tell you how the LP has made your position more tenable -- how Libertarian candidates put you in the catbird seat.

Get set for the whining to start, guys, because it's coming. Your fellow Republicans are looking for people to blame, and in the next week or so they're going to find two scapegoats: Frank Gilmour of Missouri and Stan Jones of Montana. Both of these gentlemen ran for US Senate on the Libertarian Party's ticket. Both of them lost -- and both of them garnered more votes than their Republican opponents (Jim Talent and Conrad Burns) lost by.

Your wounded friends are going to tell you that those damn Libertarians cost the GOP control of the US Senate. To the extent that I can speak for the LP (which is minimal), I'll answer that accusation: You're right. We did cost the GOP control of the US Senate. Now, do you want to straighten up, fly right and start earning those votes back, or do you want to wander in the desert for another 40 years like you did from the 1950s to the 1990s -- if you survive, which is unlikely? Those are the two choices the GOP has. There are no others. Blaming the LP for the GOP's failures may feel good, but it isn't going to accomplish anything productive.

Like I said, libertarian Republicans, this moment is YOURS. What are you going to do with it?

If you walk away from the GOP, it will circle the drain for awhile before disappearing into the sewer of history, and the Libertarian Party will be left with the challenge of trying to become America's second political party. I can think of worse things, but I doubt that your minds are turned in that direction.

If you continue to give the anti-libertarian elements in your party the support that they've never deserved, that they've never earned and that they've continually betrayed, you'll go down with them. I sincerely hope you won't do that. Your movement needs you more than you need your party.

The third alternative is to GO ON THE OFFENSIVE. There's never been a more opportune time to do so. A libertarian takeover of leadership within the GOP is the only thing that can possibly save it. Yes, your party will take some more losses in 2008. That's inevitable. But you can minimize those losses, hold the line in 2010, and lead a Republican resurgence in 2012 and beyond.

Mind you, I'm not talking about signing on with placeholders and fakes like Pence and Shadegg until the old "Play for K Street" crowd gets itself reorganized. I'm talking about a full-court press to take over the congressional minority leadership with the most libertarian Republicans you can find. House Minority Leader Ron Paul. House Minority Whip David Dreier. Senate Minority Leader Judd Gregg. Insert your own names, but make sure that you're sponsoring a real revolution, not just new wallpaper.

In the past, libertarian Republicans have freely applied the carrot, but hardly ever the stick. You've stuck with a party that has betrayed you time and again. Sometimes you've kept your silence; sometimes you've even cooperated in the charade. On Tuesday, the American people -- with a little help from the Libertarian Party in places -- applied the stick, hard. Are you going to whine and rub your asses ... or are you going to make the most of the opportunity?

For liberty,
Tom Knapp

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