April 02, 2005

The GOP Big Tent and Libertarianism

With the various articles going around on the joys and follies of libertarians in the GOP, the suggestion ought to come around to the practical: who are libertarians going to support in the presidential primary process?

Obviously there's a good two and a half years before this has to be settled, but it's never too early to start the talk. Good buzz leading into 2006 can help position libertarian-friendly candidates for 2008. Plus it's important to remind libertarians - always an abstract-minded bunch - that a little attention paid to the real world can go a long way.

I think the libertarians, both in and out of the GOP, out to decide who they like and don't like for the 2006 and 2008 races. After all, we'd hate for it to be October 2007 and then realize the libertarian-friendly candidates are already dead in the water - no money, no press, no volunteers, no buzz.

If I can advance a few negative endorsements:

Not Tom Tancredo - He seems like a nice enough guy, but frankly his position on immigration is well beyond reasonable. He's not just against illegal immigration, he's against legal immigration. He fights worker visas - the very thing that are helping US industries from agriculture to hospitality to computer technology to advanced medicine. Immigrants have an important and continuing role to play in the US society and economy. Say what you will about our much-neglected, horribly mismanaged border situation, but Tom Tancredo is well beyond anti-illegal immigration - he's more or less the symbol of being anti-immigrant. He also voted against the free trade agreements with Singapore and Chile (yet for the one with Australia). But then, he's only a Representative and so not likely to make a serious play for the nomination.

Not Rick Santorum - He also seems like a fairly likable person, but frankly he's got too much social conservative baggage. He's far too personally invested in the fight against gay marriage and in general I think a Pennsylvania social conservative is a poor fit for libertarianism. He also seems like he would be all too willing to pile onto Bush's deficits.

Probably Not Jeb Bush - He seems like a decent enough candidate, but I have to say the family thing is just creepy by that point. If Jeb ran in 2008 it would mean a Bush ran for President on the GOP ticket five out of the last six times - and that a Bush was on the ticket (including VP) seven out of the last eight times. Just imagine if he won and ran again in 2012. I think we can spread it around a little more than that.

But rather focusing on negative endorsements, I'd prefer trying to find values and ideas to affirm.

Perhaps Bill Owens - He's got a good record from Colorado, including top marks (the highest rating) from Cato on gubernatorial fiscal policies, establishing health savings accounts (tax shields to buy health insurance) and an executive order to stop payroll deductions of state employees from going to unions (thus dropping public union membership over two-thirds). Colorado is also a state that passed the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) with Owens' strong support that puts strong limits on spending and budgeting. Owens seems like a very committed budget hawk and free marketeer. He supports the Patriot Act, but then more or less any Republican is going to have to support it to be viable (just as any Democrat has to oppose private accounts to be viable).

Perhaps George Allen - He has a pretty good fiscal record, he's been both a Governor and a Senator, and living in Virginia means he's already been partially vetted for major scandals by the Washington Post. He resided over the successful 2004 Senate election where the GOP gained in several key races.

Perhaps Chuck Hagel - He has a very strong record on cutting taxes and supporting free trade, he's a dedicated fiscal conservative, he voted against McCain-Feingold, proposed a personal account plan and in general he's good on market issues. His foreign policy stance has been considered against Bush, but this is partly his maverick identity and partly Nebraska's desire for independents. Believe it or not, his foreign policy tends to emphasize democracy and liberty to stop failing states from being breeding grounds for terrorism.

I think we have a number of options open to us, but we should a) decide what we want, b) decide where each of us is willing to settle, c) decide who is the best person to support in 2006 and 2008. Every libertarian has opinions and ideas on the world and well-reasoned arguments for them all. It's simply a matter of exerting a little bit more energy on real-life candidates. It would be a lot easier to affect the primaries than to have to decide between a moderate Republican or the Democratic nominee.

There could be a world of difference in the next few years, but there's no harm getting the ball rolling now. We can always change our minds later.

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