The conservative and libertarian divide

As the marathon to nominate a Republican presidential candidate for the 2012 election continues, new aspects of an age old discussion are brought into focus.

Ron Paul, R-Texas, has been garnering popular support from many different states. Paul stands alone from other Republican candidates on issues such as domestic spending, the Federal Reserve and especially his isolationist foreign policy.

His rise to relative power within the Republican Party (latest polls show him in second or third behind Mitt Romney in most states) represents a shift in the GOP away from conservatism and to libertarianism.

Is this a good thing?

Yes, and here is why:

Traditional conservatism has its roots planted deeply in religious tradition; this is something that has continued to haunt any attempt at a new conservative political revolution. As a consequence of its religious background, traditional conservatives seem to focus almost primarily on social issues.

Inevitably, many traditional conservatives attempt to legislate their morality (often derived from religious reasoning) into state and federal law.

Time and time again, they have been attacked as being homophobic (for their stance against gay marriage), un-American (for their insistence on school prayer and increased religious activity within state affairs) and even oppressive (for their attempts to ban abortion across the country.)

They offer no sound reasoning for their opposition to such policies other than logic formed primarily from religious tradition or rhetoric.

In opposition to a religiously-fused political atmosphere, libertarians champion individualism.

Instead of attempting to change social issues that may fall under a religious and philosophical category, they instead focus on fiscal issues such as domestic spending and the scope of the federal government.

Libertarians seek to rid the federal government from any involvement in its citizens’ social lives and instead put social issues in the hands of each state. In what becomes a much simpler strategy, opponents are left with no one to attack other than the individuals who compromise each state. This way, the ideology itself remains unscathed by criticism.

In the modern political landscape, the economy is obviously a valid concern for most Americans. Libertarianism, which focuses almost solely on domestic affairs, addresses the economy both easily and simply: cut spending, cut taxes and reduce the size of the federal government.

I know what you’re thinking: That is exactly what the traditional conservatives preach as well. Yes, this political alliance has unavoidably tangled libertarians with conservatives since the conservative revolution took hold in the ‘60s.

However, with the elimination of concern over social issues involving religion, libertarians gain a plethora of new votes, as well as solidify a sound position in modern day politics.

While Paul will probably not win the 2012 nomination, the popularity of his campaign suggests a political anomaly that Republicans need to embrace if they want any shot whatsoever at getting back into the White House.

 

Reach the columnist at spmccaul@asu.edu.

 

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