Am I Being Unfair to the Republican Liberty Caucus?

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At the end of December, I received a postcard in the mail from the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida advertising their upcoming convention in Kissimmee, Florida. Because I thought it was too kind to the Republican Party, I blogged about the postcard on January 3 in a post titled “The Liberty Wing of the GOP?

My post caught the eye of Dave Nalle, the chairman of the national RLC, Aaron Biterman, the vice chair of the national RLC, Will Pitts, the state chairman of the Florida RLC, and Philip Blumel, another member of the Florida RLC. They all wrote to me about how unfair I was to the RLC. I was even asked to remove my post. Some Florida RLC members saw things differently, including one that invited me to speak to a regional RLC group.

I’m glad that members of the RLC read LRC. After reading and rereading the comments I received, corresponding with some members of the RLC, and taking a closer look at the mission and principles of the RLC, I considered updating my post. But because I wanted to clarify and expand what I had written, I thought it best to do so in an article.

Here is the text of the postcard I received from the Florida RLC:

RLC OF FLORIDA, 2011 CONVENTION, 1 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 15, Ramada Celebration Resort & Conference Center, 6375 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee, FL 34747

This year we will be building the RLC within an ascendant Republican Party that won big on libertarian themes on Nov. 2. It’s our time! “The RLC has to be in ship shape to represent the liberty wing of the GOP and hold party leaders to the message that elected them. Help us choose new RLC leadership in the elections, pick our top issues for 2011, plan this year’s grassroots lobbying effort – and visit with friends, old and new. The banquet speaker is incoming Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who will discuss the prospects of getting a TABOR-style spending cap – a signature RLC issue since 2006 – passed in the 2011 session. Join us!

Meetings $20 / Banquet $40 – Register now at www.rlcfl.org

I was primarily attacking the worthless and evil GOP and only secondarily criticizing the RLC for the dishonest postcard. My first criticism was: “It says that the Republican Party u2018won big on libertarian themes’ in the recent election. That’s funny, I don’t remember any libertarian themes in the Republican u2018Pledge to America,’ just empty promises.” My second criticism was: “The RLC postcard also mentions u2018the liberty wing of the GOP.’ There is a liberty wing of the Republican Party, but it only has one member: Ron Paul. The RLC must be referring to the fake liberty wing of the GOP that rears its hypocritical head when a Republican is trying to get elected, reelected, or convince the gullible that he is less evil than a Democrat.”

So, did the Republican Party win big on “libertarian themes” in the last election?

First of all, the Republican Party victories in the last election were in a great measure because of voter discontent with the Democratic Party. Just like the Democratic Party victories in the previous election were in a great measure because of voter discontent with the Republican Party.

Second, if the Republican Party won on libertarian themes then I wonder which libertarian themes those were. It certainly wasn’t on the libertarian themes of end the war on drugs, no more foreign wars, stop stationing U.S. troops all over the world, abolish the welfare state (including Social Security), dismantle the national security apparatus (including repealing the PATRIOT ACT), end all foreign aid and farm subsidizes, and eliminate most federal departments and agencies.

Third, the Republicans did campaign on repealing the health care bill, which is certainly a libertarian thing to do. However, there are two problems with the Republicans when it comes to health care. One, they want to replace Obamacare with Republicare. And two, they don’t support the libertarian theme of medical freedom. I recently pointed out both of these inconsistencies when I mentioned how Eric Cantor, the new Republican House Majority Leader, expressed support for two of the worst provisions of Obamacare. See also my articles “Health Care Hypocrisy” and “Republican Hypocrisy on Obamacare.”

Fourth, the Republicans, as we read in their “Promise to America” and saw in their election campaigns, talked about more liberty, less government, the free market, and following the Constitution. These are broad libertarian themes, but so broad that Democrats could say the same things. The problem is that the Republicans, like the Democrats, actually believe in more liberty only for themselves and those who agree with them, less government of the other party and more government of their own party, the free market in certain areas with government regulation of the rest, and following the Constitution when it suits them. I have documented this in The Revolution that Wasn’t.

And fifth, the Republicans actually campaigned on some decidedly unlibertarian themes like supporting the war on terror, saving Social Security, and restoring Obamacare’s “cuts” to Medicare.

I think it is a great overstatement to say that the Republicans “won big on libertarian themes” in the last election.

The other question is this: Is there a liberty wing of the Republican Party?

When I said that the liberty wing of the Republican Party had only one member, Ron Paul, I was referring to Republican officeholders and politicians – the very people I mentioned in the next sentence in my original post. I did not mean to imply that no one in the entire Republican Party was a libertarian except for Congressman Paul. The homepage of the national RLC says: “Welcome to the Republican Liberty Caucus, the small government, liberty-loving wing of the Republican Party.” This wing is actually much bigger than the RLC. In fact, on the grass-roots level, I’m sure there are many people still in the Republican Party who, although not members of the RLC, are liberty minded, libertarian leaning, or even hardcore libertarians. Party leaders and candidates may sometimes use libertarian rhetoric, but I suspect that anyone in the Republican Party with any libertarian inclinations whatsoever only votes Republican because he thinks he is voting for the lesser of two evils, not because he believes what comes out of the mouth of lying Republican politicians.

It was not my intention to be unfair to the RLC, and I don’t think that I was.

Now, about the Republican Liberty Caucus. Its membership is probably full of great people, many of whom are hardcore libertarians. I disagree that “the most effective way to advance libertarianism is within the Republican Party,” as the RLC chairman told me, but am glad for the work they do in introducing Republicans to libertarian principles. I personally think the most effective way to advance libertarianism is through the work of LRC and the Mises Institute. I have no faith in electoral politics. Okay, fine, so we differ on strategy.

But as I wrote to the RLC national chairman, vice chairman, and, I think, someone else, the RLC is a mixed bag. Although the RLC has some good advisors, some of whom I know personally or at least know of, one of the advisors is fairtaxer Neal Boortz, who also loves the airport porno scanners and is a Patriot Act apologist. I hope the RLC doesn’t take any advice from him. The RLC endorsed Jeff Flake (R-AZ) for Congress in the recent election. While he is certainly better than most Republicans, he did favor extending the Patriot Act – something very unlibertarian. The RLC endorsed war hawk Mike Pence for Senate in the 2008 election. The RLC statement of principles is weak in some areas. For example, drugs:

We recognize the harm that drug abuse causes, but also that the “drug war” has been ineffective and has led to terrible abuses of personal liberty. We favor flexible alternatives at the state and community level to combat the harmful aspects of drug use.

This is evasive. Does the RLC favor the full legalization of all drugs or not? If not, then it is not libertarian. Which is fine, but don’t expect to not be criticized by libertarians for being inconsistent.

And then there is the chairman of the national RLC, Dave Nalle. He is a monetarist who attacks gold and defends the FED. He wrote a defense of John McCain. He defended Bush’s ridiculous “pro-American” statement about the 9/11 attackers hating our freedoms. And he recently had some very unkind words about LRC and its writers:

Paleocon and Southern Nationalist Thomas DiLorenzo has made a career of writing books with the objective of redefining the causes of the Civil War and rewriting the history of the Lincoln presidency. While he has been scoffed at by mainstream historians, he has gathered a following among deluded quasi-libertarians through his association with the Von Mises Institute and Lew Rockwell’s peculiar brand of post-libertarian, anti-government extremism.

Put me down as one of those deluded quasi-libertarians who counts among his friends Tom DiLorenzo and Lew Rockwell.

Finally, regarding the RLC of Florida. As I have heard from those in and outside of Florida, the Florida RLC does not march in lockstep with the national RLC, just as the regional chapters don’t always mirror the state organization. The same is no doubt true of the national, state, and local Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian Parties. There are some hardcore libertarians in the Florida RLC organization. I know because some of them have recently written to me. The Florida RLC supported Ron Paul in his bid for the presidency and did not endorse conservative darling Marco Rubio in his recent Florida Senate campaign. Aside from the postcard, my criticisms of the Florida RLC are minor.

Their upcoming banquet speaker, Mike Haridopolos, the new Florida Senate president, seems like a decent guy for a Republican politician. However, he is neither a libertarian nor a member of the RLC. I did note on his website that he is a big supporter of public education and that he has “been proud to support” the Florida Forever program, of which he says: “Our state is blessed with abundant natural resources and since the program’s inception in 2001, our state has purchased and protected over 500,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land at a cost of almost $2 billion to Florida taxpayers.” As a Florida taxpayer, I object to the state of Florida buying up land with my tax dollars.

The Florida RLC website is very out of date.

Their statements about the historical roots of the Republican Party are not accurate. Under “upcoming events” on the website homepage we read:

The 2012 election cycle will be one of the most important in our country’s history, and the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida is sure to have a profound impact. Join us at our biennial convention to learn more about our organization and how you can play a role in getting the Republican Party back to it’s core values of Constitutionally limited government, fiscal conservatism and free enterprise.

Under “events,” we read this under “About the Republican Liberty Caucus“:

The Republican Liberty Caucus (RLC) works from within the Republican Party to return the party to its Jeffersonian roots. The RLC seeks to restore liberty, not restrict it; shrink government, not expand it; reduce taxes, not raise them; abolish programs, not create them; promote the freedom and independence of citizens, not the interference of government in their lives; and observe the limited, enumerated powers of the United States Constitution.

It is just not true, as Tom DiLorenzo, Tom Woods, Clyde Wilson, Anthony Gregory, Lew Rockwell, and other LRC writers, including myself, have shown, that the Republican Party’s core values are “Constitutionally limited government, fiscal conservatism and free enterprise,” and that it has “Jeffersonian roots.” Historically, it is the party of Lincoln, not of liberty. Libertarians may want to make it into a party of liberty, and I hope they succeed, but the Republican Party will not go down that road without a fight. As it stands now, it is no friend of liberty. The Republican Party of Florida even purged some Florida RLC members from its ranks, including some who held elective office.

And as I replied to someone from the RLC: The Republican Party is hopelessly corrupt, evil, statist, and pro-war, but I applaud every individual Republican who is not. And I applaud the work of the RLC when it is consistently libertarian.

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