A divide exists within the Republican Party and the right-wing of American politics. Recently, political conflicts and tensions brought this divide into mainstream news and consciousness. By analyzing the “great divide,” we reach several conclusions about politics and the individual’s place in the right.
The referenced division is the statist-libertarian conflict presently occurring within the Republican Party. Though still in its early stages, this battle finally allowed right-wingers to make conversations about who they are and their relations to others typically grouped with them on the same political spectrum. Some examples of this conflict are Rand Paul’s rise to prominence and media attention, some Republicans opposing intervention in Syria, Ted Cruz’s political rise, and civil libertarians’ outrage at the mass surveillance programs.
But these divisions are by no means new. Looking into American history, one quickly finds numerous instances of conflict amongst those who supposedly favor liberty. One example is the strife within the post-World War II right-wing.
In an era before World War II, there existed a group of thinkers, politicians, and intellectuals termed the “Old Right.” Many libertarians after World War II offered ample praise for this diverse group’s opposition to war, the draft, the New Deal and anti-free market measures, and the subsequent Cold War. And, while many of their actions were admirable, too many err by viewing the Old Right as a monolith. It’s often overlooked that some Old Right intellectuals were, at first, enthusiastic FDR supporters. The Southern Agrarians, with their hatred of the cities’ industries, appear closer to traditionalist conservatism than most forms of libertarianism. Senator Robert Taft, venerated by many contemporary libertarians, rightly opposed foreign interventionism and the draft, but he also supported low-income housing legislation and Social Security. Why might that be? He was a politician.
But the world changed after World War II ended. Churchill warned of the Iron Curtain and more worried about what they saw as a looming Soviet threat. New groups on the right rose to prominence. Russell Kirk, Barry Goldwater, and Bill Buckley personified some of these right-wing groups.
With the “new” conservatism taking the lead in the Cold War era, I think, that we see that libertarianism became more monolithic. Although they banded together, we see the same pattern, if less pronounced: a small group bands together during hardship, they gain some influence, eventually they faction themselves, and waste time and energy on in fighting. With libertarians in the Cold War era, these divisions certainly existed, and some groups did separate from the monolith. Some remained Republicans, and others formed the Libertarian Party. Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises argued over economic methodologies. Rand and her followers challenged all libertarians, and the Austrian School politely halved itself.
Now we reach the conceptual part of our analysis. From the Old Right’s death and the parallel groups of conservatives and libertarians, we see division’s importance. It is absurd for those who share fundamental philosophical differences to work together for grand, sweeping goals. This isn’t to say that factions might collaborate on areas of agreement or behave bitterly or in combative manners towards each other.
To further explain these points, we turn to the contemporary situation. It is clear that libertarian challenges the GOP’s statism possess potency. Even Newt Gingrich says that he sides with Rand Paul in the quarrel between Paul and Governor Christie. But this shows more than an idealogical shift. The eternal politician, Gingrich likely sees opportunity with the rising libertarian tide. And here we find danger.
This span of time will show itself as the deciding hour for the Republican Party. Although one cannot know, it would not be illogical to see some form of libertarianism become the party’s direction. That being said, this won’t bring about real solutions or change. This is the case because the change is still political. We will see politicians like Gingrich morph themselves into friends of liberty and common sense. With coming elections on many minds, we see the old fallacy of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” rising. Recently, Glenn Beck interviewed a woman challenging Lindsey Graham, one of the statist old guards. Though espousing a Constitutional philosophy, she fell back on politics rather than ideas. In answering a question from Beck, Mace said the “biggest problem facing our country” was actually “trust.” When expounding on that trust, she asked if (emphasis added) “do we trust this government?” I admit the following criticism might be too detailed, but, if she refers to the Obama administration, there is a deeper issue. “This” government? Why should we trust any government? After all, as Mises said “The worst evils which mankind has ever had to endure were inflicted by bad governments.” Mace might be a wonderful person, but she appears to fall into the same political trap: trust me, I’m better than the other guys. In reality, she most likely is better than Lindsey Graham, but sacrificial mass support only perpetuates the same cycle of absurd unity.
Another reason a more individualist approach to politics serves liberty better is that it affords groups, actually united on the same beliefs, a lowered chance of internal strife. That isn’t to say that factions and philosophical camps must be uniform in every way, but agreement on principles affords them more effectiveness. Consider the present statist-libertarian feud. Much of its bitterness and outrage stems from the idea that Rand Paul and Chris Christie share, at some level, a kinship. To the ignorant, they are both right-wingers and Republicans and are, therefore, comrades. Such a ridiculous idea originates, again, from this concept of unity within a political wing. They have never been the same and shouldn’t unite as if such. If the factions within the Republican Party divided, rather than squabbled over party direction, they would be better enabled to face their opponents—whether on the left or right.
The internet affected our age in ways one will not know until the passage of time. A cornerstone of the internet’s changes has been to give the individual more power, whether in expanding his intellectual horizons or giving him a platform to voice views. Consequently, these ideas of political unity become even more unnecessary. Combined with the internet’s power, smaller and more cohesive groups that are conscious of existence’s ultimate individualism possess the power to bring about real change. It is only through these means, meshed with the free market’s power, that we’ll see actual “change.” The government, an entity aggression against natural rights and pillage, cannot bring about change. It is not the machine of the world.