Are we all libertarians now, or whatever?

Libertarian ideas are accepted by people in both major American political parties—and they are rejected by people in both parties; illustrating the point that ideological generalizations cannot be assigned to any group-think label.

In fact, a case could be made that not only are we now “two Americas” we are hundreds, or thousands of Americas: irreconcilable factions of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, cultural and economic ideology. We have little in common other than separateness, an ungovernable conglomeration of immigrants welcomed with all of our baggage and refusing to be stirred into a “melting pot.” Joe Biden’s slip-of-the-tongue: “From one, many” has been realized, turning e pluribus Unum around in meaning. Here we each stand with pitchforks at the gates of our personal domains.

A bad thing? Maybe not. Americans, historically independent and feisty bunches, remain politically conflicted. It’s been noted that one third of the colonists wanted to keep the alliance with tyrannical King George, one third wanted to wage war against him and another third didn’t care either way. Incidentally, the only war involving Americans during the past more than 150 years supported by nearly all of us was WWII. Still, our presidents and their supporters have pushed us into many wars. But times change because people’s attitudes change.

For example, the old immigration motto, “From many, one” is meaningless and implies collectivism. Jack Kennedy’s plea to “Ask what you can do for your country,” is a Marxist- sounding slogan. Kennedy also said don’t ask “what your country can do for you.” Now that’s all many voters want to know—since they’ve discovered the governing principle that Peter will pay Paul’s wants with Mary’s money; to rephrase George Bernard Shaw’s oft quoted aphorism: “A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”

We, however, still have fifty states that offer living space for people with compatible world visions: red, blue and shades of purple places (for “experiments” with democracy) where we can potentially choose a more tolerable government closer to us by electing people we know and can accept, if not completely trust.

Nearly forty years ago Ronald Reagan believed that libertarianism was at the “heart and soul” of conservatism. But who cares now? Republicans no longer lay claim to conservatism. Many “establishment” members in Washington are far from conservative. And young “bulls” in current national politics came from the recent revolutionary Tea Party movement with little patience for old, unpopular processes and policies.

Some of them align with Democrat ideas, paradoxically that socialize us and occasionally seem to free us from government intervention. Karen Tumulty, writing last month in the Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com), made a case that “Libertarians flex muscle in GOP.” Ms. Tumulty noted that newly elected Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich. enlisted 100 Democrats to limit the National Security Agency’s power to collect telephone records in an amendment co-sponsored by old “liberal stalwart” Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

Also writing for the Washington Post, Nick Gillespie, editor of Reason.com and columnist for The Daily Beast, dispels myths about libertarianism. He calls this ideology a “specter…haunting America.” Gillespie writes that “libertarians often match up equally well with right- and left-wingers.” He believes that libertarian-leaning politicians offer Republicans a “major reboot.”

It’s not news that for decades young people have flocked to cheer libertarians Ron Paul and his son Rand, although these guys wear the Republican brand in public. Rand Paul proposes major federal spending cuts, reform of unsustainable entitlements and an end to “overseas adventurism”—all popular, especially with young people.

A representative of Students for Liberty relishes attacks on Rand Paul by Republican Gov. Chris Christy embedded with Democrats in New Jersey. It gives libertarians more press. Christy warned of a “strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties…a very dangerous thought.” Paul responded that “Christy worries about the dangers of freedom. I worry about the danger of losing that freedom.” Republicans have lost the high ground because they refuse to capture it. Worse, they want access to Democrat’s playground and the press.

Some old line Republicans cannibalistically eat their own when they don’t follow go-along-to-get-along attitudes and paranoia about being unloved. Recently, House Republican Speaker John Boehner openly called out a colleague for criticizing drug-running illegal aliens.

RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) actively fight American values and constitutional rights. New York City Mayor Bloomberg, a switch-hitting “Republican,” rabidly promotes a misguided anti-gun agenda and strict regulations on what his government will permit people to drink and eat. John McCain lost the 2008 presidential election by refusing to confront the lies, distortions and fakery of the Obama campaign. It was noted that his female vice presidential candidate displayed more testicular fortitude than did he. Recently, McCain mustered courage to call his generally allied libertarians “wacko birds.”

I know this seems a bit long, somewhat disconnected and maybe contradictory. But that’s the point. Our American political process has become never-ending. Polls show a strong disconnection between Washington’s political class and the American people at large. And we can no longer trust most government officials who contradict themselves, work in secret against us and persist in propagandizing, rather than truth-telling—and we’re deeply and irreparably divided on how each of us react to all this.

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About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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