Sunday, December 13, 2009

De-Coopting the Freedom Movement

Liberty Republicans need to think about strategies to counteract the cooptation of the newly revived liberty movement that Rockefeller or Progressive Republicans will attempt. The Tea Party movement's explosion shows that there is potential for success for liberty Republicans. As well, the failure of Rockefeller Republicanism under the Bush administration might well keep big government Republicans from success if we liberty Republicans refuse to cooperate with them.

Because the Tea Party movement is composed of many fine and well meaning but inexperienced activists, it is susceptible to the same tactics that coopted the libertarian movement in 1980. If a Progressive Republican calls himself a "libertarian" or a "capitalist" and offers symbolic gestures, he can sufficiently cloak his commitment to the status quo. It doesn't help that many mistakenly call the pro-freedom movement "conservative", which leads to a tacit assumption that it is the status quo to which we are committed. Nuh uh. We are moderate, but we are radical in the sense of getting to the root. The current system is extremist. The status quo is not normalcy. We represent a return to normalcy and moderation, which means a lot less government and a lot more freedom than currently.

Recently, Forbes Magazine, for instance, has been calling its pro-Wall Street, statist positions like support for the Bush-Obama bailout "libertarian". This reflects the ancient tactic of calling totalitarianism justice. Karl Popper argues that Plato was the first to do so 2,500 years ago. Some classicists dispute Popper's reading of Plato, but we can all agree that George Orwell was not the first to think of this idea, and Forbes will not be the last to apply it.

In a recent article in the Washington Post, reporters Dan Eggen and Perry Bacon, Jr. note that "the energized tea party preparing to shake up the 2010 elections". The Post article notes of the tea party movement:

"The strategy poses both an opportunity and a risk for the beleaguered Republican Party, which is seeking to take advantage of conservative discontent while still fielding candidates who appeal to independent voters." (bold added).

Websites such as Erick Erickson's and Dick Armey's and Matt Kibbe's are aiming to engage in direct political competition via primaries with the Republican machines in various states. The article makes a crucial point:

"...political experts in both parties say it is unclear if the movement can become the kind of unified force that can win, and not just disrupt, elections... The tea party movement is splintered into hundreds of local and state-level groups that have differing rules and goals and for the most part have not participated in big-money politics. Many of the groups have been torn apart by personal feuds in recent months; one major umbrella organization, the Tea Party Patriots, has filed a lawsuit against a founding board member who signed on with a rival, the Tea Party Express. "

The Republican Liberty Caucus ought to play an integrative role. We should be thinking about how to (a) win elections; (b) prevent the professional politicians from coopting liberty Republicanism in the interest of special interest pandering; and (c) cause them to defer to libertarians' aims.

The Post article quotes Senator John Cornyn of Texas, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, as to the importance of "tempering our conservative approach with pragmatism." In other words, the kind of pragmatism that causes 50% of the national income invested in failed government programs that, obsessively, must not be terminated when they fail. Rather, they should be expanded when they fail. That is "moderation" in the eyes of the Washington Post and Senator Cornyn.

Given the large amounts of money that government provides to its favored interests, such as Wall Street, government employees, and the military-industrial complex, there will be a slick, well executed thrust to neutralize and manipulate the liberty movement to make it palatable. We need to devise intelligent tactics to resist it.

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