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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Let's take back our party - Part 2

Last week I wrote an introductory post about the supposed breakup of libertarians and social conservatives. This week I'm going to focus on the commonalities and how each group needs each other. I decided to use the yin yang graphic to show how the conservative movement needs each group in order to succeed.

Social conservatives

So what do social conservatives bring to the table? Aren't they just a bunch of moralizing religious fruitcakes? As a conservative evangelical myself, I too am sometimes concerned about some of the moralistic language used by many of the leaders of this group. However, if you can get past some of the language, this group does bring a lot of moral clarity to many conservative issues. There is a perception out there that libertarians are an amoral bunch.(notice I said perception, not reality, so calm down). However, whatever you may think of conservative evangelicals, they often act upon their convictions when it comes to caring for the poor. This type of action gives much creedance to the conservative movement particularly on economic issues. In fact, Christian charities often prove libertarians' point that private groups rather than the government are the best means to care for the poor.

Even though I am an evangelical, I tend to hold a lot of libertarian views as well, particularly on economic issues. I am a big fan of Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell and have read "Atlas Shrugged" multiple times, so hopefully that is enough street cred for you libertarian types. The libertarian wing of the conservative movement is a vital part because they provide the cogent economic principles. Some will say "what about non-economic issues?" I would argue that there are very few non-economic political issues. Economics is not always about money. It is about how to use the limited resources we have. It is about managing scarcity. As Thomas Sowell says, there are only trade-offs not solutions.

If social conservatives were left to their own devices to push the "oxymoron of big government conservatism", they would fail. As much as I want to shelter my two kids from a lot of the vulgar media out there, the only real way to do that is good parenting. Not only is the government unable to do this, but there would be too many unintended consequences as a result.

Stumbling blocks
Both of these groups hold some positions that are out of the mainstream of common political beliefs in this country. These issues also keep each group from holding its own without the other.

There is certainly the perception that evangelicals want to dicatate what goes on in people's bedrooms. I don't expect many evangelicals to change their minds about sexual mores nor should they necessarily, but I think that evangelicals would be better served by focusing on other issues that are more important. Aren't Christians to be known for love? Evangelicals can and should be speaking loudly about issues like abortion, poverty, and human rights violations like the genocide going on in Darfur (I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the US should
take all steps necessary including military action to stop the killing in Darfur; wasn't Rwanda enough?)

While there is the perception that evangelicals don't compromise, my experience tells me that libertarians can be just as stubborn. One of the issues that hurts libertarians is the legalization of drugs. The reality is that most people in this country are opposed to drug legalization. Unfortunately, the Libertarian Party allows this issue to be used against them as an albatross. Libertarians need to focus more on those battles that are more realistic to win now.

While many old-school Republicans are often too pragmatic, both libertarians and socials conservatives could use a little pragmatism rather than always making the perfect the enemy of the good.

A third party?
I often hear people talk about throwing their support behind the Libertarian party in order to have a real challenge from a third party. However, I think this is a doomed idea. The very nature of our political systems pretty much dictates that we will have a two party system. That is what happens with majority rule.

The conservative future lies in a sharing of power in the Republican party between social conservatives and libertarians. Next week, I will conclude this series with a discussion of how to make this marriage work.

Update: David Brooks makes some similar comments today about the importance of diversity within the conservative movement.

Update: Someone pointed out that "libertarian" may not be the best term to use and suggested small government conservative. I actually think I prefer the term "classical liberal".

Update: Thanks Glenn!

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