The New Republican Party: Libertarian Fusionism in Virginia

Mon, 06/03/2013 - 12:20pm | posted by Matthew Hurtt

republitariansThe rise of the so-called “liberty movement,” which sprang out of the early days of Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign, and of the tea party movement, which was a reaction to the one-party Democrat rule in Washington after the 2008 elections (with Obama’s victory being the likely spark) has forced the Republican Party to wrestle with warring factions in an attempt to establish a winning coalition.

Those in the media love to paint the GOP’s internal struggle as evidence of a party in the throes of extinction; as a party out-of-touch with mainstream America. But I think the “growing pains” the GOP are experiencing could potentially strengthen the Republican Party.

I am of the opinion that we have two political parties in our first-past-the-post electoral system. Few candidates have won major office in recent history under the banner of any party other than the Republican or Democrat parties. There are exceptions, but they’re rare, and those candidates usually win because of their personality, rather than a set of ideals on which a party platform could be constructed. Think Maine’s Angus King or Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman.

It is with that understanding that many within the “liberty movement” in Virginia have begun working within the Republican Party to move it in a more (small-L) libertarian direction. Our reasoning is that political parties do not hold a certain philosophy; they are vessels through which their members advance a set of ideas and beliefs. As the GOP looks for a path forward, it should look to the way the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) has embraced liberty activists.

Prior to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, the RPV selected its 11 at-large delegates and 11 alternate delegates as a reflection of its March Presidential primary results: libertarian Republican Ron Paul garnered 40% of the primary vote and Mitt Romney captured 60%. No other candidate met the ballot access requirements.

The committee that selected at-large delegates and alternates at the state convention picked a number of Ron Paul-aligned delegates (myself included) and a set of more “Establishment”-types.

Most of the delegates from Virginia were bound to cast their first vote for Mitt Romney. 3 delegates from the 3rd Congressional District, where Paul received nearly 53% of the vote, were the only delegates who cast their votes for Ron Paul in Tampa. The other 46 delegates (3 from each Congressional District, 11 at-large delegates, the RPV Chairman, and National Committeeman and –woman) each cast their votes for Mitt Romney. In fact, a slight majority of the delegates from Virginia were aligned with the “liberty movement.”

Those who make the rules and the important decisions within a political party are the ones who show up to those meetings. For example, the Arlington County Republican Committee (ACRC), of which I am a member, voted whether or not to support four separate local bond issues in their August 2012 meeting. Would the ACRC endorse the county’s desire to take on additional debt for special projects?

While each vote was close, the younger, liberty-minded members opposed all four bond measures. (Noteworthy: ACRC member and Republican National Committeeman Morton Blackwell sided with young liberty-minded Republicans on each vote.) All but one of them passed, and the ACRC endorsed more spending and more debt. The debate was lively, and we would not have had it without the involvement of a new generation of right-of-center activists.

Additionally, the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans (AFCYR) is now led by a majority of these liberty activists (I’m the Vice Chairman), and our club has seen explosive growth. One in four Young Republicans in Virginia is a member of the AFCYRs. We have worked tirelessly to bridge the divide between the various segments within our own club.

As one of those small-L libertarians, I want to work within the GOP to establish a successful governing majority to defeat those who want to grow government and restrict our liberties. Those of us who came into the political process because of Ron Paul or some other libertarian figure should work with the GOP to change the policies.

We share many of the same goals as those who are considered traditional segments within the GOP. We want lower taxes, limited government, and a strong national defense. We think the individual knows best what to do with his or her earnings, and we want government to get out of the way, so we can try and succeed or fail.

Where we disagree, may we have a lively but respectful debate. Should we intervene in the countless disputes within or among other nations? Should we legislate what people can ingest, smoke, or otherwise consume? Should we give government so much power that they can read our emails or listen in on our telephone conversations? Let’s lay out the facts and let party members and voters decide.

Our presence within the various Republican organizations in Virginia has been welcomed. The RPV Chairman, Pat Mullins, and our National Committeeman, Morton Blackwell, have worked to expand the Republican Party by welcoming grassroots activists like us. More state Republican parties and umbrella organizations should reach out to libertarians in an effort to grow our numbers and defeat those who want only to grow government.

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