Conservative vs. Libertarian 2 Party System?

That Reynolds fellow ponders what could happen if the Democrats continue pandering to the Michael Moore’s and Sean Penn’s:

The alternative is for the Democratic party to get smaller as it gets angrier, and angrier as it gets smaller, until it just doesn’t matter anymore. At some point the Republican Party will then likely split into a social-conservative wing and a libertarian wing, and I can join the latter, I guess. I’m not ready to call the Democrats the new Whigs, but it’s not impossible for me to imagine.

I think he overestimates libertarian/conservative split. Some people point to single issues, like abortion or foreign policy, but there are Libertarians for Life and social conservatives like Pat Buchanan who oppose international adventures. Maybe my perspective is colored too much by the much wider gap between the Democrats and both branches of conservatism, but I don’t see a gap sufficient to separate us into two viable parties. I think much more unites the two conservative wings than separates us, not least the fact that most social conservatives are still moved by classical liberal principles and a respect for Constitutional government.

One of the first names to come to mind when someone says social conservative is John Ashcroft, but look at where he really stands. Of course, he is pro-life, he didn’t want to work in a building with nude statues, supposedly doesn’t dance, etc. But when he did an ‘exit interview’ with Peter Jennings a couple of weeks ago, he was asked in a sneaky way whether he wanted to force his religion on others. His response was (to paraphrase) that his religion required people to freely choose it so there wouldn’t be much point. I think most Christian conservatives have a similar view, at least if they understand their own religion. Ashcroft was also a fierce champion of civil liberties in the Senate and I’d argue as Attorney General as well, working very hard to assure that the necessary reaction to terrorism didn’t result in widespread abuse. Like many social conservatives, Ashcroft also recognizes that big government is the biggest threat to strong families and worked for free trade, lower taxes, etc. I just don’t buy that conservatives all agree that civil liberties should be protected, that the Constitution should be followed, trade should be free and taxes should be low, but we are going to split over the single issue of whose life is supposed to be protected or whether government should license a religious sacrament in all cases or only some.

So is there a new 2 party system in the future? Possibly. I suspect the split will come along other lines though, possibly over the power of states vs. the federal government. It’s even possible that the split could be in the GOP moving to the center and absorbing the Democrats with both ‘types’ of conservative joining a new party. I don’t expect conservatism to actually split over values issues since ultimately both sections agree that strong values come from strong families.

And while I can see Christine Whitman, Arlen Specter and Hillary Clinton in the same party, I don’t see Barbara Boxer and Rudy Giuliani uniting over “choice”. Some bedfellows are too strange even for politics.

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