“Tim Carney: Jim DeMint was the libertarian hero of the Senate”
My, but this argument does sound so very familiar somehow. I just wish I could place where I’ve heard it before…
For libertarians, Christian conservative pro-lifer Jim DeMint was the best thing to come through the Senate in decades. DeMint, quitting early to run the conservative Heritage Foundation, embodied an underappreciated fact of life in Washington: The politicians who most consistently defend economic liberty are the cultural conservatives.
The National Taxpayers Union gave DeMint a 93 percent rating last year, putting him third out of 100. DeMint scored 100 percent from the Club for Growth, whose sole focus is economic conservatism.
Until last year, DeMint was the only senator with a lifetime 100 percent from the Club for Growth. He still has a perfect record, but now he has company: Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson — all pro-life conservative freshmen derided as “Jim DeMint disciples” by the likes of lobbyist Trent Lott.
Many libertarians realize that DeMint has been one of their best allies in the U.S. Senate. Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, editors of Reason magazine, are libertarians with social liberal tendencies. When they interviewed him in May, they pointed out how much this Christian social conservative had to offer their ilk.
When DeMint departs from Republican orthodoxy, it’s in the libertarian direction. He broke with his party just after Thanksgiving, when he voted to bar indefinite detention of Americans suspected of terrorism. Then he voted against the National Defense Authorization Act, a bugbear of civil libertarians.
DeMint was an early and vocal opponent of the industry-backed Stop Online Piracy Act, which galvanized civil libertarians on the Left and Right last year.
On military spending, DeMint also parts ways with his party leadership, calling for cuts. “Not just the waste,” he said in May. “We do need to rethink the money we spend on military and defense. … Frankly, some of our spending is politically driven because a particular defense system or ship is built in a certain congressional district or state.”
DeMint and others could make deeper philosophical arguments about family, church and community as counterweights to state power, but there are also the basic facts on the ground: The best fiscal conservatives in politics are all social conservatives. Look at the Club for Growth scorecard again. All the most fiscally conservative senators are pro-life. You have to go down to No. 27 in the Club’s rankings — Mark Kirk — to find a pro-choicer.
Self-described “fiscal conservatives and social moderates” almost never end up being both. Most end up embracing taxes, regulation and spending like Mark Kirk, with a Club for Growth lifetime score of 52 percent. The rest become pro-lifers like Pat Toomey.
Traditional morality and limited government aren’t enemies. They’re friends. DeMint proved that, and he left behind heirs who will continue to do so.
This is precisely the case I made for Santorum (after Bachmann’s departure) during the primaries — and I was rebuffed by “conservative” opinion leaders, whose websites continue to be the big drivers of the GOP narrative — but that’s because these influence peddlers care more, I’m now convinced, about appearing cosmopolitan than in truly backing conservative principles. To be clear, this does not mean they reject those principles necessarily; just that the calculus for them involves appearances and fear of how some social conservative beliefs will be used to vilify or lampoon all conservatives and cost them elections.
My advice to these folks is to get over that. Don’t accept the dumbing down of your political and ideological message. Don’t allow the left to create the frames — from within which you will always be forced to respond defensively.
I realize it’s difficult to explain to people why strong religious beliefs — when juxtaposed against the State’s increasing drive toward (supposedly) morally-neutral secular humanism (which is anything but morally neutral, and in fact has become in effect the “theocracy” those who hate social cons claim to fear) — create a bulwark against government expansion. Particularly when it’s far easier to pretend to the same OUTRAGE the left expresses in order to get in front of a PR nightmare, itself driven by sound-bite politics that the right has increasing allowed is an intractable political given.
But the truth is, religious freedom, freedom of conscience, the fidelity to Constitutional principles, most especially federalism and distrust of a judicial priesthood — all of these things put social conservatives in a position to make the case that an expanding federal Leviathan is not only looking to infringe upon their beliefs, but in doing so it is setting up the legal justifications to circumscribe the liberty of all Americans.
All we have to do is be willing to make principled arguments.
Instead, we have the Jen Rubin’s of the world savaging conservatives like DeMint — while our “conservative” punditry, from Rubin to Brooks to Kristol to Colin Powell and a host of others — continue to offer up comfortable ways to surrender to the inevitability of a left-liberal government.
And that’s because the GOP establishment whom they support believes in just that.
Sadly, what I’ve come to realize over the last 5 or 6 years, is that “our” side is just as filled with useful idiots as is the left’s. And stating that aloud publicly doesn’t win you many friends, that much I can tell you.
(h/t Daniel S)