Why Libertarians Need to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Wave
Waves happen in politics. They make great political stories (X hasn’t happened for 100 years! He/she is the first Y to ever be elected to position Z!). However, part of the interior monologue of the liberty-minded individual is to greet a change in political party power with a degree of skepticism as it confirms the institutionalization of the two party system. Purists will argue that the perception of change makes it more difficult for the breakout of a true libertarian alternative.
Such purists aren’t wrong. Certainly conservatives are basking in the glow of perceived victories with a Senate that will at least adopt a red veneer. Will anything really change? While there is cause for mild optimism especially on moderating judicial nominees, the reality of gridlock will not result in any particularly effective reduction in deficits or military excesses.
However, what the Republican majority in the Senate does, even if many of the incoming senators may just be empty shells supported only by the will of the Party, is allow for the investigation of bureaucratic overreaches. While the NSA spying scandals will likely not be a focus of the Intelligence Committee (Senator Burr, who seems to be a shoe in here, is no friend of transparency) and military excess will not be curbed by McCain’s Armed Services Committee, the inquests will likely begin in earnest to explore the clear abuses by the IRS in Hatch’s Finance Committee and hopefully the Budget Committee under Jeff Sessions will cooperate with its counterpart in the House to send fiscally responsible budgets to the President (perhaps a fool’s hope).
The Republican wave also gives an opportunity to the libertarian wing of the Republican Party to act in governance rather than simply as a vocal minority. Clearly, the next two years are crucial to those Senators, like Rand Paul, who intend to run for President. Senator Paul’s ability to attack widely unpopular policies under the Obama Administration has been excellent. To the chagrin of some hardliners, Senator Paul has adopted a conciliatory attitude towards establishment interests. Some argue this is a capitulation. I disagree and see this as the soft sell of libertarianism that will influence the direction of the Party moving forwards.
Now, Senators like Rand Paul will have the task of forming the necessary coalitions to advance bipartisan bills that can be seen favorably in 2016. Taking a leadership role in criticism is different than the more difficult task of taking a leadership role in governing. Certainly Senator Paul (and other Senators angling for the Presidency) are aware of the rise of very powerful two-term Republican governors who are also solidifying their conservative bona fides for a run at the White House.
While the Republican wave may not usher in the small government model that many in the growing libertarian movement would like to see, the reality of Republican control prevents additional government growth in key sectors and gives the opportunity to call to account those people and policies who have been abusing the institutional structure of executive departments. Those of us on the liberty side of the fence should remember that “utopia” is a play on words. While I do not advocate a compromise of principles or voting for the lesser of two evils, the reality of being able to work for good within the power structure and begin to change the dialogue towards a more libertarian perspective is essential for future successes.