Spring of 2000, I attended the Libertarian Party of Michigan’s annual convention. At the time, I was Vice Chair of the St. Clair County Libertarian Party and assisting Richard Friend’s run for Congress. So I sorta had to be there. Besides, I was involving myself locally, writing letters to the editor and the next, logical step was to meet the who’s who.
That convention is where I met Harry Browne for the first (but not last) time. It’s where I met a lot of movers and shakers in the LP I’d only known from their books or online presence. This was a time before social media so if you wanted to talk to someone or get their opinions, you either had to read their articles in newsletters or emails or show up in person. Conferences were more meaningful then because face-to-face was a thing. Sometimes the only thing.
Today, everyone is rather reachable. Doesn’t everyone in the world have a Twitter account? Or Faustbook? Due to this, I’ve been able to solicit opinions from people there’s no way I’d ever get close to in person, primarily due to fame. Their fame, not mine. But twenty-years ago, if you wanted to really know information, you had to pack a bag and travel to where the action was. As an example of the benefit, an online presence will generally only give you the business end (never mind sarcasms and terse remarks). Conferences lock you in a hotel with like-minded people and after hours gatherings make the whole thing worth it. You really get to know people in such an environment.
It’s also where I met Michael Cloud. Back then, Cloud was one of my heroes. He was, and I believe remains, one of the best communicators of libertarian ideals. His book, Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion, is a must read for someone wanting to engage in such an art. Among other items of discussion, I asked him the following question: “We have our share of nuts in this party. People tell me they’re put off by them. How do you answer that?”
Cloud told me that Ted Bundy was in the Republican Party and John Wayne Gacy was an active member of the Democratic Party and was, actually, a real clown! So if other parties wish to compare membership rosters, it might be mutual destruction. Either that, or we could accept all parties will have their share of fringe, accept it, keep them at a distance and steer into clearer waters by keeping the discussion on policies and positions. I’ve held on to that advice ever since and ignored the clowns that show up at LP meetings.
Democrats seem to have embraced this advice as well. The “woke”, PC police and Social Justice Warrior side of the left isn’t a feature. It’s a bug. In the 2020 election, Democrats didn’t go for Liz Warren or Bernie Sanders, they went with a typical Democrat. Surely there’s Democrat candidates that foster the woke discourses but again, the rank and file really aren’t buying it. Calls for defunding the police and pushing Critical Race Theory or safe spaces or other such nonsense are being met with resistance by that very party. James Carville, no less, said, “Wokeness is a problem and everyone knows it. It’s hard to talk to anybody today — and I talk to lots of people in the Democratic Party — who doesn’t say this. But they don’t want to say it out loud”. But candidates that embrace such positions are not in the majority and the Democratic Party isn’t quite threatened, yet, by their numbers. Time will tell if that changes. Bottom line is that “wokeness” is viewed negatively by those that matter.
On the other side of the isle, we have the Republican Party. Now I’ve been critical of this party for decades, noting they’re neither conservative or inclusive. They give libertarian type positions lip service but govern in the other direction. And for awhile, what we really had was two Democratic parties. That’s why the Libertarian Party was so important. It’s been the only true alternative to big government. But not anymore.
Today’s GOP is a mess of authoritarianism.
In 2016, I understood why people voted for Trump. Hillary is old hat and people wanted true change. (Sadly, only about five percent saw the Libertarians as the only real change). But with Trump, the type of change his voters found acceptable was burning everything to the ground. Trump voters just wanted to crash the Matrix, kill the idols and own the libs. They were tired of being told they were out of date, out of tune and not using the right words. I understood that then. But today, we’re finding out that while the burning then was metaphorical (at least to most), today, it’s actual.
Witness January 6, 2021 at the United States Capitol Building. Not accepting the fair outcome of the 2020 election, thousands of Republicans took to the streets, stormed the Capitol at Trump’s instigation and threatened the lives of members of Congress. There were calls to hang Mike Pence with an actual gallows outside, invaders yelled out Nancy Pelosi’s name like Jack Torrance searching for his wife. The party that claimed they Back the Blue beat Capitol Police with American flags, no less. All because they fell under the spell of a narcissistic, megalomaniac that use followers as cannon fodder and could care less about them.
It’d be one thing if the majority of Republicans called out this behavior for what it was but many referred to the invaders as “tourists”. It’d be one thing if the GOP offered a reasoned argument against Trump’s continued insistence the election was stolen (The Big Lie) instead of nodding in agreement. It’d be one thing if the GOP frowned upon members of their own party who embrace terroistic and childish behaviors (Marjorie Taylor Greene being the queen of such antics). It’d be one thing if, even if they didn’t want to say it out loud, acted against it. A good step would have been to have actually impeached Trump and removed him from office over the January 6th insurrection. It’d be one thing if the majority of the party pushed back on all this reckless and dangerous behavior but they’re not. In fact, none dare even say a bad word about Trump for fear of his mighty pen. Just witness what’s happening to Liz Cheney because she (and Adam Kinzinger) are the only Republicans brave enough to say enough is enough. And it’s not just Trump they’re afraid of. If someone steps out of line, like the thirteen Republicans that voted in favor of the Infrastructure Bill, members face excommunication.
And speaking of conferences, just tune in a bit to the rallies and weekend hotel conferences of Republicans. The atmosphere is as if at any moment, the torches will be lit and a second January 6th is about to begin. The speakers are in line with the Big Lie, they promote fears that the apocalypse is coming of big government so intrusive that when a federal employee comes to your door, offering a COVID19 vaccine, it’s okie doke to meet such a benign offer with gun fire.
The Republican Party has done what the Democrats and Libertarians haven’t. They’ve embraced their extremes. They reward their fringe. And this particular fringe is extremely dangerous. They’ve embraced a gun culture where they on the cusp of solving political differences with violence and have no objective other than to cause pain to the other side; be it owning libs or actual pain.
So what’s a principled Republican to do? It’s easy: Leave the party. One can still consider themselves Conservatives and leave the Republican Party. Doing so is an honorable thing. It’s the only thing one can do if they wish to remain principled. If the party one belongs to no longer holds your beliefs, you should leave.
The only reason, I myself, have never become a lifetime member of the Libertarian Party is for this very reason. There’s always a chance the LP will descend into something awful. And I’d rather let my membership expire rather than hold on to what it used to be.
Right now, principled conservatives still calling themselves Republicans and remaining registered Republicans and voting Republican are in a relationship psychologists would easily identify as domestic violence. The most invested are the last to leave. It’s a shame, really. I’ve seen numerous conservatives I once respected fall into the rabbit hole of Qanon, conspiracy theories. I’ve seen them pine for the “good old days” which really meant a time when white Christianity was dominate. And I’ve disassociated with them. I simply can’t support a political view that’s not based on any reasoning but all emotion and rage.
On Twitter, I frequently ask, “Do you know where your Republican Terrorist is?” And almost daily, I find articles of Trump devotees and GOP members spewing hatreds and conspiracies and misinformation. And I find cases of extreme behaviors, such as when a bunch of loons attempted to kidnap my governor, Big Gretch. Or the threatening phone calls election officials received because they didn’t throw the 2020 election to Trump. And while all this is going on, the Republican Party remains silent.
We’re preparing for Thanksgiving dinners across the United States. And among many of you, you’ll have that family member that will be in attendance, at your table and will undoubtedly bring up something about Qanon or election fraud and then fist pump to a Let’s Go Brandon. I’m truly worried about these people. They cannot be reasoned with. You cannot reason someone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into.
The future of the Republic really is in danger. I just hope it’s not too late.