Saturday, June 23, 2018

How Liberty Republicans can thrive in Trump era

Don’t Write Off the Libertarian Republicans | The American Conservative - Kevin Boyd:

June 19, 2018 - "Last Tuesday’s elections were a mixed bag for Tea Party legislators, or what we might call libertarian Republicans. The bad news was Corey Stewart’s defeat of Nick Freitas in the Virginia Senate primary and Katie Arrington’s defeat of Congressman Mark Sanford in South Carolina. However, the GOP’s libertarian wing picked up wins by Eric Brakey, who prevailed for the Senate nomination in Maine, and Lee Bright, who qualified for a U.S. House runoff in South Carolina.

"Still, questions have been raised about whether or not libertarians are even welcome in a Republican Party controlled by President Donald Trump.... The Trump administration has championed policies that libertarians generally despise, such as increased tariffs, immigration restrictions, spending hikes, and preserving the current entitlements system....

"The GOP under Trump is certainly not a party that values limited government. Then again, the GOP has rarely ever seemed to value limited government, at least when it’s in power. But is all lost for libertarians? A closer look at the both the Freitas and Sanford losses reveals the answer is not a simple one.

"In Virginia, Stewart picked up 44.9 percent of the vote to Freitas’s 43.1 percent, or a little more than a 5,000-vote difference. Stewart ... had the highest name ID in the race. Freitas, on the other hand, ... was a relatively unknown state house member before the campaign, and he spent only $355,749 compared to Stewart’s $680,505 ... this doesn’t seem like a catastrophic loss for libertarians. Indeed, Freitas nearly pulled it off despite his lower name recognition....

"As for South Carolina, ... Arrington made her support for President Trump a major focus of her campaign and contrasted it to Sanford’s criticisms of Trump. But a deeper look at the race tells a different story. The fact is that Arrington worked hard on the campaign trail while Sanford took his reelection for granted. The result was predictable, regardless of any Trump factor....

"Still, it’s worth asking what lessons libertarians can learn to survive and thrive in the Trump era. The biggest one comes from Daniel McCarthy, who notes that libertarianism was a success in the GOP when it was anti-establishment.... Rand Paul, Congressman Thomas Massie, Congressman Justin Amash ... are flourishing because they’ve maintained their anti-establishment credentials ... despite the fact that they have opposed and even criticized Trump at times.

"Amash, who was targeted by Trump allies for a primary challenge, wound up running unopposed. Although he faces a tough general election battle, he is still favored to be reelected. Massie is all but certain to return to Congress.

"Contrast their fates with another libertarian leaner and Trump critic, Senator Jeff Flake. Flake was forced to retire after it became clear he would be defeated in the primary.... Flake was a strong proponent of free trade and railed against pork barrel spending in the House of Representatives. He was not afraid to challenge his own party on those issues. But since being elected to the Senate in 2012, Flake had also become a consistent ally of the Republican establishment....

"Libertarians can survive in the Trump era. After all, Trump’s destruction of the old GOP has given them space to operate. But libertarian Republicans must not forget their anti-establishment roots and they cannot take their election races for granted."

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