Feehery: The libertarian movement
Nothing clarifies the mind more than a faceless bureaucrat shutting down your business and snuffing out your dreams because of “science.”
We are entering a libertarian moment in the annals of American history.
The government overreach to battle a virus that kills far less than 1 percent of the people it infects will slowly and then all at once spark a counter-reaction.
We saw it with a pub owner in Staten Island who resisted when the mayor of New York shut him down and drew thousands of angry protesters to his cause. We saw it with a restaurant owner whose angry video went viral as she bitterly complained about the capricious decision of the mayor of Los Angeles to close her down while allowing a movie production to proceed right next door.
We see it with Facebook groups of angry moms and dads who want their local schools to open because their children are failing at virtual education but won’t be successful because of the unions.
Right now, this anger is spontaneous, uncoordinated, lacking real leadership, because, well it’s libertarian and that’s how libertarians roll.
But a clever politician can and should turn this angry moment into a movement.
The Republican Party has traditionally been described as having three legs in a stool: social conservatives, neo-conservatives and libertarians.
Thanks to President Trump’s populism, neo-conservatives self-deported from the GOP.
You would think that would leave social conservatives and libertarians to battle it out for the soul of the party, but I actually think there can be a meeting of the minds between the two philosophies.
The social conservative movement used to embrace the idea of having the government compel traditional values and strengthen families. But these days, social conservatives really just want the government to leave them alone.
The COVID-19 crisis has only accelerated the process of joining together the two remaining wings of the party. A government that closes churches but keeps big box stores open, a government that closes schools but keeps bars open, a government that closes playgrounds, small businesses and movie theaters but allows the elite to continue to golf, has lost the trust of the average Republican, no matter what wing of the party you inhabit.
And to be clear, I want big box stores, bars and golf courses to remain open. I want them all to remain open, because this is America and having the government close them down is not what this country is all about.
What would a libertarian Republican agenda look like in the era of President-elect Joe Biden?
Well, first, it would become fiscally responsible again. Mitch McConnell, predictably, has been ahead of this curve and has tried to bring a semblance of spending sanity back to the conversation. This should continue.
Second, it would seek to make dramatic changes to school funding, giving parents more power to select the best schools for their children. Education dollars should flow to the kids, not to institutions that care more about the unions than they do the students.
Third, it would continue the Trump administration’s effort to bring capital and hope to our most impoverished neighborhoods. Criminal justice reform works better if former inmates have employment opportunities and those jobs come from investments incentivized by enterprise zones.
Fourth, it would promote burden-sharing by our allies and strongly resist efforts by neo-conservatives to use the American military for any operations that don’t protect our national security.
Fifth, it would work to protect small businesses from the capricious and overzealous actions of state and local officials to close them for “health” emergencies. The bar to close these businesses must be set higher than what we have seen in places like California and New York.
In sum, the agenda would make it the default position of our government to trust the people more than the bureaucrats, promote self-responsibility over collective responsibility, and protect freedom as our highest national value.
Get ready for the libertarian moment. It is coming to a protest near you.
Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at www.thefeeherytheory.com. He served as spokesman to former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) when he was majority whip and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).
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