Where the Libertarians Fall

There’s been a lot of analysis recently about the GOP’s demise, if it was in part due to losing the libertarian vote, if it was just reaction to the war, or just because people grew tired of scandal and bad news. It’s futile to to try and pinpoint exactly why people vote how they vote, but suffice it to say that people wanted the GOP out for a number of reasons, and that the fact that they failed to live up to what a conservative party is supposed to be all about, is probably one of them. Argues Brink Lindsey:

Libertarian disaffection [with the GOP] should come as no surprise. Despite the GOP’s rhetorical commitment to limited government, the actual record of unified Republican rule in Washington has been an unmitigated disaster from a libertarian perspective: runaway federal spending at a clip unmatched since Lyndon Johnson; the creation of a massive new prescription-drug entitlement with hardly any thought as to how to pay for it; expansion of federal control over education through the No Child Left Behind Act; a big run-up in farm subsidies; extremist assertions of executive power under cover of fighting terrorism; and, to top it all off, an atrociously bungled war in Iraq.

This woeful record cannot simply be blamed on politicians failing to live up to their conservative principles. Conservatism itself has changed markedly in recent years, forsaking the old fusionist synthesis in favor of a new and altogether unattractive species of populism. The old formulation defined conservatism as the desire to protect traditional values from the intrusion of big government; the new one seeks to promote traditional values through the intrusion of big government. Just look at the causes that have been generating the real energy in the conservative movement of late: building walls to keep out immigrants, amending the Constitution to keep gays from marrying, and imposing sectarian beliefs on medical researchers and families struggling with end-of-life decisions….

Sebastian Mallaby suggests that the GOP implosion has been caused by growing divisions between conservative/libertarian republicans and the religious right:

…Christian conservatives now press for affirmative state action on behalf of traditional values: amendments to the constitution to bar gay marriage, government efforts to teach abstinence, federal payments to faith-based groups. All these policies appall libertarians.

And concerning the red state / big government collusion of supreme irony:

The most solidly red states in the nation tend also to be the most reliant on federal handouts — farm subsidies, water projects and sundry other earmarks. It’s hard to be the party of small government when you represent the communities that benefit most from big government. George W. Bush tried to straddle this divide by pleasing libertarians with tax cuts and traditionalists with spending. The result is a huge deficit.

I’ve thought for sometime now that this is the perfect time for the Democrats to reinvent themselves as the small government party. They don’t have to sell it like that, they could bill it as the more efficient government party, whatever. But it’s the perfect time for them to steal the (truly) conservative thunder and run with it. Do I think it will happen? Probably not. Already it looks like business as usual, or worse. But ya never know.