The conservation of liberty 2

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) yesterday, March 14, 2012, two potential leaders of the Republican Party described their visions of the Party’s future. (Videos of their speeches in full here.)

We quote from a report /opinion column in Time magazine:

The back-to-back pairing of Rubio and Rand was seen as the most significant matchup of the annual conference, pitting two likely 2016 Republican contenders before the party’s conservative base. The result pointed to the growing schism in the Republican Party between resurgent libertarians and more traditional Republicans.

The two men – Paul age 50, Rubio just 41 – laid out divergent visions of an inclusive Republican Party. Rubio called for a focus on economic opportunity and a muscular role overseas. Paul called for a reduction in the size of the U.S. government … [and for] the Republican Party to shift away from neoconservative foreign policy.

Actually, Paul did not “call for the Republican Party to shift away from neoconservative policy”. At least, not on this occasion. “Neoconservative foreign policy” means “the US acting in the world at large, including militarily”. The phrase also implies criticism of President Bush’s foreign policy which some libertarians and the Left believe was unduly influenced by “neoconservatives”. Time’s use of the word may convey, as some libertarians have intended it to convey, a flicker of antisemitism (though Rand Paul would almost certainly deny that he ever intends any such thing).

With almost all of what Rand Paul said we agree:

He warned that the Republican Party is “encumbered by an inconsistent approach to freedom”.

“The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered — I don’t think we need to name any names, do we?” he said, though the target, Sen. John McCain, was clear.

‘The new GOP,” Paul said advocating for … a smaller government …, “will need to embrace liberty in both the economic and the personal sphere. If we’re going to have a Republican Party that can win, liberty needs to be the backbone of the GOP.”

He pledged to introduce a budget in the coming weeks to balance the budget in five years that would also slash the income tax in half, and create a flat tax at 17 percent.

The contrast between the pair couldn’t be more obvious or consequential for the party struggling to remake itself after two straight presidential defeats.

On foreign policy we agree with Marco Rubio. In general we like Rand Paul’s ideas.

An unavoidable question is: could a more libertarian Republican Party still be the party of conservatism?

Roger L. Simon, writing at PJ Media, considers the question.

He starts on a personal note:

Last month my ninth-grade daughter attended a conference for the Junior State of America. Almost none of the high school students, she told me, caucused with the Republicans. A throng went to the libertarians.

He makes the same criticism of libertarians as we do:

I can’t totally identify as a libertarian, since I find some of their more extreme views silly. (Someone does have to pay for the interstate highway system. And Islamic jihadists are quite serious about a world caliphate. Declaring ourselves the purest of free marketers and rolling up the gangplank will not deter them in the slightest. In fact, it will only encourage them.)

All this is the long way around to saying that the problems creating the current dissension [among conservatives] stem in part from the word “conservative” itself. It seems mired in the past — even when it is not. …

Young people particularly (and even some older folks like myself) like to see themselves as oriented toward the future. …

What should conservatives do? Declare themselves to be “classical liberals,” which many are? That seems a bit academic.

Whatever the case, new terminology should and must be found. And whatever it is, it should be forward looking. …

Conservatives and libertarians — whatever they are now called — should market themselves as the party of the future. Respecting the Constitution is important, but something more than that is necessary.

We don’t think the word “conservative” needs to be replaced. Not in America. The United States was founded on the ideal of liberty. It is supremely important that it stays that way. An American conservative is someone who believes in liberty and will act to keep his country and everyone in it free. (A point implied by Marco Rubio in his speech.)

Respecting and defending the Constitution is vital to that end. If more is needed, it is in pruning away dead wood rather than tacking on “something more”.

Conservatives who drag in extraneous ideas – religion and stuffy views on sex, marriage, and drug control – are the element needing to be changed.

It is up to a new generation of Republican conservatives to effect the change.

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There has been criticism of this year’s CPAC which we think is justified:

This is a condensation (which we quote from our own Facebook page) of an article by Robert Spencer, the indispensable expert on Islam. Read the article itself here for the author’s full explanation of why he is and yet is not a conservative.

I am generally considered to be a conservative. It is a label I have used myself, as a way of distinguishing my position from that of the liberals and Leftists who have generally sold out to the jihad, so blind in their hatred of Western civilization and the United States of America that they eagerly cast their lot with the foremost enemies of both. Nonetheless, for all that, I am not a conservative. Mitt Romney is a conservative. He called for the creation of a Palestinian state and said that “jihadism” has nothing to do with Islam. Grover Norquist is even more of a conservative than Mitt Romney. His conservative bona fides are impeccable as the leader of Americans for Tax Reform, but he also has extensive ties to Islamic supremacists, supporters of Hamas and other terrorist organizations that are sworn enemies of the United States and our ally Israel. So I must not be a conservative. Then what am I? I am an advocate of freedom: of the freedom of speech, of the equal treatment of all people under the law. Consequently, I am a foe of the global jihad and Islamic supremacism, which are enemies of both those principles. I know that there are many others like me, but neither party seems interested in us right now, and neither does the conservative movement, such as it is. It is time for a new movement, a genuine movement of freedom, one that is not compromised, not beholden, and not corrupted. Are there enough free Americans left to mount such a movement? That I do not know. But I do know that if there aren’t, all is lost, and the denouement will come quickly – more quickly than most people expect.

We sympathize with Robert Spencer’s position. We are equally exasperated by Romney’s and (far worse) Norquist’s position vis-a-vis Islam and jihad.

But why should they be allowed to define what conservatism is?

We define it as loyalty to the Constitution; to five core principles; and above all to the ideal of freedom on which the USA was founded.

The five core principles of our conservatism are: individual freedom, small government, low taxes, the free market, strong defense.

Islam is the enemy waging a war of conquest against America. How conservative can Americans be who do not even acknowledge that that is the case?

It’s past time for real conservatives to fight back with passion against its enemies: Islam, and the pro-Islam anti-America Left which managed to get one of its own elected to the presidency.