In a FOX News opinion piece entitled, “Conservativism cannot survive a libertarian takeover,” political strategist Brad Todd accuses the growing army of libertarian-leaning conservatives of trying to dismantle Reagan’s winning coalition of economic conservatives, social conservatives, and war hawks. He claims that modern conservatives want to sing a “one-note kazoo song” that focuses only on the federal budget and the economy.
This is, of course, a gross misrepresentation. Modern conservatives care about social issues — we just have different opinions on social issues than the Republicans of four decades ago. We don’t believe that personal morals — what people do by themselves, without harming anyone else — need to be policed by the government. Modern conservatives believe in keeping America safe — we just happen to not treat the Pentagon budget as a sacred cow where no waste can be found, nor do we implicitly trust the same federal government we mock for the terrible job they do delivering mail and licensing drivers to fix every economic and diplomatic problem in any foreign country on Earth, nor are we willing to sacrifice every civil liberty on the altar of national security.
From the ruins of the old Moral Majority/neoconservative coalition (and “neoconservatism” might as well be called “morticonservatism,” as the virtually-dead philosophy has been thoroughly discredited and is only held to any more by a small number of pundits) is rising a new conservative coalition. This modern conservative coalition consists of:
1. Free marketeers who are much more serious about balancing the budget than their predecessors.
Nothing is so well calculated to produce a death-like torpor in the country as an extended system of taxation and a great national debt.
– William Cobbett
2. Culturally modern voters who practice and promote their own morals within their own homes and communities, but who–as far as the federal government is concerned–want to let individuals make their own choices and accept the consequences of their own actions.
The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly, is to fill the world with fools.
– Herbert Spencer
3. What I like to call foreign policy “owls” — neither “hawks,” who believe every problem can be solved by a missile, nor “doves,” who believe we can oppose tyranny at home but not outside the borders of America. Rather, foreign policy “owls” are wise in their use of strength and in their use of restraint.
I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.
– Thomas Jefferson
Furthermore, it is not as though this new modern conservative coalition is sawing off the social conservative and war hawk legs of the Reagan Stool. To the contrary, this transition has been a very organic one. Most of the foreign policy “owls” of today were the “hawks” of a decade ago. Many of the socially tolerant “live and let live” Republicans of today were the “legislate morality” social conservatives of yesterday. A great deal of the religious right and neoconservative camp also consists of elderly voters who are shuffling off this mortal coil, being replaced by younger voters who are decidedly more libertarian in their beliefs.
We libertarian-leaning conservatives are not commandeering the Republican Party. We are merely coming into our inheritance. Morality-policing, war hawk Republicans who approached the budget as Democrats Lite had their time. They had their opportunity to prove their philosophy in action. As a result, we have a mind-boggling national debt, a GOP that’s lost the popular vote in 5 of the last 6 elections, and a generation of young and minority voters who by-and-large despise the Republican Party.
In many ways, the old Republican coalition did much good. The Reagan coalition successfully ousted Jimmy Carter, revitalized the economy, and sparked a brushfire of freedom philosophy in a new generation. In this regard, the seeds of our new, modern Republican coalition were planted in the old Reagan coalition. Now, however, it’s time to let the new grow up from the detritus of the old, and blossom. The GOP cannot survive in its current form any longer. It must, and will, become a libertarian coalition.