There’s more buzz afoot about a split between libertarian-conservatives and social-conservatives. In Wanted: true-red conservatives (via PubliusTX) political consultant Salena Zito looks at the Reagan legacy, the conservative movement, its core values and suggests a healing salve in a return to fiscal conservatism as a core of agreement.
The reason there is a libertarian-social conservative coalition in the first place is that smart social conservatives have long understood that a big central government is a threat, not a help to families. A large central government taxes families, intrudes in family life and weakens the local institutions including churches and communities that support families best. Smart libertarians have long understood that strong families and strong local institutions, including churches and including local governments closest to the voters, are the most effective counter to increased federal power. In fact, one of our most treasured liberties is the unenumerated right to order our own family lives free from federal interference.
Contrary to popular belief, the core of conservatism does not spring from “life” issues; those just suck up all of the air and make all of the noise. Conservatives are, first and foremost, proponents of limiting government’s power and strengthening national defense.
Life issues may not be core to conservativsm, but Constitutional issues are and intellectual honesty puts both social-conservatives and libertarian-conservatives in agreement. Outside the world of capital-L Losertarianism on one side and the likes of Beltway Rick Santorum on the other, there is widespread conservative agreement that abortion – like murder, rape, medical marijuana, building highways, the drinking age and the minimum wage – ought to be a state issue under our Constitutional system while the federal government’s main job is to secure our liberty through a strong national defense (which occasionally may mean a good offense). That Beltway Rick and a few of his ilk are now under the mistaken impression that you can strengthen families by strengthening Washington is no real threat to the conservative movement, since reasonable conservatives of both stripes remain aware of the very real danger to families and liberty of a strong central government. A split. No way. In fact, unless we take pains to identify ourselves, it’s often hard to tell us apart.
There is no real threat to the conservative movement at all currently. The real threat is not to the conservative movement, but rather that both halves of the movement may abandon the spendthrift GOP Congress like we abandoned Bush the Elder in 1992 when he broke his tax pledge. (FWIW, I doubt that Rick Perry of Texas would be a good solution to that problem.)