Remember this article folks?
Well, it didn’t take much time for me to be proven right. Things, they are indeed changing in the Republican Party.
On the final day of the Maine GOP convention, Republicans gathered to approve the party platform. At most conventions, this is a simple matter as the delegates approve what comes out of the GOP Platform Committee, maybe occasionally with an amendment or two. This year was much different.
In what was explained to me by an insider as a “the revenge of the Ron Paul activists for what happened in 2008“, activists who were mostly a part of the failed Ron Paul campaign in Maine (mixed in with tea party people, and libertarians) managed to oust the recommended platform and replace it with what can only be described as a confused mish-mash of neo-libertarian declarative statements on national policy.
How it happened is a story in and of itself. It seems that the movement attempted to make significant changes within the platform committee (they have at least two voices on the committee). These changes and what the Maine GOP ended up with were very different. It was described to me as a move to “de-emphasize social issues and highlight a economic policy”.
I am not privy to exactly what the proposed changes from within the platform committee were, but what I do know is that they were rejected out of hand. Had the more “establishment” elements of the committee taken those suggestions and compromised and worked with those demands, it seems likely that they would have been able to hammer out something responsible that would have hopefully satisfied the libertarian/tea party wing without the insertion of what Dan Billings has called “nutcase stuff”.
In short, exactly what I wanted to see happen – a move toward a more libertarian sensibility, without going off the cliff.
Echoing this, Republican Liberty Caucus of Maine Chairman Ken Lindell sent me the following statement:
There is a whole lot of stuff in the new platform that I really like and really dislike. It would have been better if the Platform Committee had done its job and taken the proposals for changes to the platform seriously. The end result would have been better written and more presentable. That said I think that it is a very positive development that activists who are new to the party have been able to succeed where earlier they were simply ignored and dismissed.
But because the platform committee rejected these changes out of hand as Lindell mentions, the Paul-ites specifically sprung into action and began organizing to get their voices heard – something they feel did not happen two years previous.
The result was a rejection of the original platform, and its replacement with a different, more radical version.
So what is in the new version? Some of it is the same, some of it is different:
- A declaration of state sovereignty – essentially a complaint that Federalism is dead and state’s rights and responsibilities are being squashed
- A call for the passage of “read the bill” legislation
- Opposition to the fairness doctrine
- Opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act
- Investigation of global warming shenanigans
- Eliminate the Department of Education
- Support for the prohibition of funding for ACORN or organizations like it
- Elimination of motor voter
- Opposition to any and all treaties with the United Nations
- Nativist anti-immigrant language, including the removal of Maine’s “sanctuary state” status
- The passage of a Congressional reform act, including:
- 12 year term limits for all members of Congress
- Removal of Congressional pensions
- The forcing of Congress to participate in social security and the same health care system as the public
- “Reassert” that freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion
- Marriage is between a man and woman
- Seal the borders
- Return to the principles of Austrian economics
- Balance the federal budget and pay off debt
- Audit the Federal Reserve
- Reject cap and trade
- Freeze future stimulus payments, and apply toward debt
- Institute zero based budgeting
- Health care is not a right
- Resist the creation of “one world government”
I have more than a few problems with this platform, but I completely disagree with Mike Tipping’s assertion that the “extremism this document represents is unique and unsettling.”
While the laughably silly things like resisting the New World Order could certainly lead one to worry about the document, it is hardly anything all that extreme.
It is certainly different, that’s for sure, but as somebody who is deeply entrenched in the libertarian community (full disclosure: I just finished a year long tenure as Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Virginia, though I did not vote for Ron Paul in 2008 for those of you wondering), I can say without doubt that this is nowhere near the extreme edge of what many in that community would like to see.
I don’t particularly see what is “unsettling” about reapplying stimulus money to pay off debt and using zero based budgeting – but to each his own, I suppose. There are a couple “out there” nuggets for sure, but nothing I consider overly worrisome – just kind of “out there”.
My problems with this document are entirely different.
It is very obviously slapped together, and almost entirely Federally focused in nature. I do not believe this platform gives very many reasons at all for Maine voters to vote for the Republican Party.
Why slapped together? Well, take for instance the passage about reasserting Austrian economics. Who the living hell wrote that? Why do I say that? Well, for one because Austrian economics is only one economic school in a larger family of libertarian thought.
For those of you not well versed in economic theory or libertarian philosophy (and I don’t blame you for not being), let’s just say this: singling out Austrian economics to describe what the Republican party believes or espouses is like saying the Boston Red Sox represent what kind of baseball is played in the American league. One school of economic though is equal to one team in that analogy. Singling out one doesn’t represent the whole.
Did anyone who wrote this platform talk about the Chicago school of economics? Something that is just as ingrained in rightist and libertarian economic philosophy as the Austrian school? Do even 1% of the delegates voting on this platform have the slightest idea what Austrian economics is, or how it compares to Chicago and the other schools that stand in opposition to Keynes? Color me doubtful.
Were this platform more properly prepared and thought out, it would likely have simply said, “reject the basic premises of Keynesian economics that promote deficit spending and economic intervention to artificially tinker with markets, and in their place pursue policies in line with a more free market school of economic thought.”
Nitpicky, yes – but it is indicative of several problems with this document (such as the almost juvenile insertion of Ron Paul’s name into the document for no reason other than to promote Paul – if it was about the bill and not Paul, it would have stopped at just mentioning the bill).
But as I stated earlier, my biggest problem with the platform is that it seems almost entirely written with the Federal government in mind. Certainly, with a Republican Party that has become consumed with opposing the growing Federal behemoth, that is to be expected to some degree, but in the end this is a document that is supposedly written to tell the Maine voters why they should support the Republican Party.
Yet it says almost nothing about Maine, or Maine issues.
Instead of discussing specific Maine entitlements and the need to reform them, we are treated to auditing the Federal Reserve? Rather than talking about a proposal to realign the Maine tax code, we are treated to opposition to the New World Order? Rather than identifying the burdensome regulations killing Maine business and promising to reform them, we are treated to anti-United Nations language?
Where is Maine in the Maine Republican Party’s new platform? If I am an independent voter in the state considering a registration change to the GOP or maybe just voting for the party’s slate of candidates, what in this document would inspire me to do so?
I find it ironic that a party and a movement that is so (rightly) obsessed with the power of the state and local authorities over the Federal, would so willfully write and approve a document that contains virtually nothing but Federally charged language. Certainly there is a need to express opposition to the growth of that level of government at the expense of the states, but good lord people.
In the end, it is hardly the whacko, fringe, nutjobbery that some are making it out to be, but I still find it highly disappointing for all the reasons listed above, and some I won’t bother to articulate.
This document is important for entirely different reasons – namely that the “fresh blood” activists that were squashed by the establishment two years ago have stuck around, gained in strength, and are now staging what amounts to a coup of the party. Will this continue across the rest of the country, especially in other states where this movement has a stronger foothold?
Make no mistake of my opinion – the move of the party toward a more libertarian sensibility is good for the party – much like I argued before. I have been a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus for eight years (and indeed was endorsed by them in 2004), and have spent the better part of my political life trying to steer the party toward a common sense libertarian agenda.
But such a move has to be balanced, couched with common sense and reason. What happened Saturday was grass roots activist enthusiasm, not well thought out pragmatism in a libertarian point of view. I think this platform is a misplaced over-reaction, focused on the wrong issues in the wrong locations. I believe the document’s heart is in the right place, but that it is ultimately the wrong foot to place forward as the Republican Party tries to convince Maine voters to vote for it.
I am not looking forward to the eventual Republican nominee for Governor answering questions about his thoughts on “one world government”, when he should be talking about reforming the welfare system and closing the budget holes.