Sunday, November 12, 2006

Reason Magazine: Who Deserves the Libertarian Vote?

Just before the elections, Reason Magazine's 'Who Deserves the Libertarian Vote?' posed that question to Grover Norquist, Markos Moulitsas, Terry Michael, William Redpath and Congressman Jeff Flake. The article offers extremely balanced and insightful reporting.

Jeff Flake's prespective was prescient (emphasis added):
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) was elected to Congress in 2000. A member of the Republican Liberty Caucus, which pushes for libertarian ideas within the GOP, he has broken with his party to vote against No Child Left Behind, the Homeland Security Act, and Medicare Part D (which added pricey prescription drug coverage to the program), while voting for comprehensive earmark reform. He was one of the first House Republicans to demand the resignation of former Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Reason: Give us your pitch: Why should libertarians vote for your party’s candidates this year?

Jeff Flake: Well, if they grade on a curve, we’re still a better choice. (Laughs) If you believe in limited government, the Democrats don’t offer you very much. I’ve yet to see a Democrat actually bring a proposal to the floor that spends less or is less intrusive. But having said that, there’s nothing we’ve done as Republicans that ought to make libertarians excited about our record.

Reason: Whatever happened to the class of ’94?

Flake: I think Republicans have by and large gone native. I don’t know how you can conclude otherwise. You look at any measure of spending—overall spending, mandatory, discretionary, non-defense discretionary, non-homeland security spending—whichever way you slice it, the record looks pretty bad. When you look at where we’re heading, with Medicare Part D, it just means that these programs run out of money a lot sooner than they were going to already.

Republicans have adopted the belief or the principle that you spend money to get elected. When I was elected in 2000 it was ingrained in us, and since then it’s been even more so: Here’s how you get reelected, bring home the bacon. You have the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, whose job it is to reelect Republicans, saying in defense of his earmarks that it’s the job of Congress to create jobs.

Reason: Has the GOP given up on the ideals of small government?

Flake: Well, that’s the natural conclusion to draw. There are some—like [fellow Arizona Republican Rep.] John Shadegg and not many others—who still vote for limited government. Of course all of them still profess it, but when you look at their votes you have a hard time concluding that they really believe it. Staying in office, staying in power, has come to overwhelm everything.

Reason: What policies could a GOP-run Congress enact that would appeal to libertarians?

Flake: At this late date? Adjournment.

We’re doing some earmark reform, which will have more accountability, more transparency. That alone isn’t going to solve much. But it’s a first step. There’s some recognition at least that the voting populace values that.

Reason: Why shouldn’t libertarians vote Democratic this year to punish the GOP?

Flake: We’re better than the other guy. Maybe we’ve learned a few lessons. Maybe the [Terri] Schiavo experience or the prescription drug deal or some of the other items have taught us a lesson. I can’t honestly say that they have.

There is one policy Republicans have doggedly defended and sought to expand: the tax cuts. And that’s good. At least there’s that recognition that Americans spend money better than government. Just don’t give it to us first. So that is a positive, and that creates a difference between Republicans and Democrats. Having said that, the spending spree we’re on makes it difficult to defend our position. Democrats charge, “Well, we’re tax and spend but you’re no tax and spend.” We’re more prone to that criticism. So with hand firmly attached to nose, press the Republican button.

And also, look among the Republican candidates: You have good limited-government candidates running. Groups like the Club for Growth have done a good job putting their seal of approval on them. There are different Republicans running, so get involved in the primaries.
Update: BizzyBlog reports that Libertarians May Be Why the Senate Turned


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