(Chris Spangle has been asked to contribute to the UK libertarian magazine The Libertarian. This column originally ran here)
I will admit it publicly. For the first time since washing my hands of the Republican Party in 2007, I was actually proud of something a Republican had done. I watched Senator Rand Paul for many hours this past week as he railed against an administration unwilling to speak in support of the Constitution they took an oath to uphold. As a libertarian, it was nice to have one day where we had a win.
Being a libertarian isn’t easy. Often it becomes an exercise in measuring the anger and bitterness of our words and tone as America devolves in to an ever-expanding police state. The American libertarian movement took to social media to “dance in the streets” in the same way Egyptians danced in Tahir Square when Mubarak fell.
Now Republican reform is on the tip of every libertarian’s tongue: “Can the GOP actually become libertarian? Is this our Arab Spring?”
I’ve spent the last 4 years working for the Libertarian Party of Indiana full-time as their Executive Director (I recently left to take a job in advertising). I took this role after spending several years in the local media in my hometown of Indianapolis, IN. It was there that I saw the broken game of politics that is rigged against anyone that wishes to change the parties from inside. I officially stopped identifying myself with the Republican Party after the removal of 300 state delegates, in a party rules violation, their seat at the Indiana Republican state convention in 2008. In 2012, we saw this repeated in states like Maine and Iowa.
Destruction of the harmful two-party system in America has been my aim for nearly 5 years now. If I worked within the Republican or Democratic Party, I’d abhor that I’d have to be silent or deceive others about my principles to gain acceptance by fellow party members as many did in 2012 to try to gain convention delegate status. I’d hate that I’d have to kiss the hind-end of some old white man for 10 to 20 years to possibly get my shot at running office. If I did win, concern over raising money to stave off primary challengers because of a lack of liberal or conservative “purity” would over-take commitment to principle. It’s why I feel frustrated when libertarians lose in a primary and their voice is silent from May to November. I have seen dozens of good libertarian candidates choose the GOP and lose the ability to affect change in public thought or in the party because of these concerns. The cold reality is that not everyone that runs will be Justin Amash or Rand Paul. They are once-in-a-thousand wins for libertarians.
This is why I’ve chosen the Libertarian Party as my vehicle for political change based on 10 years of constant contact with my local political climate. Both paths are extremely difficult because libertarians advocate changing the beliefs and behaviors of fellow citizens.
Does that mean I oppose anyone choosing to try to reform the old parties? Certainly not, and I welcome anyone that wants to move us away from statistism. I hope the “college kids” that John McCain referenced are successful. I hope our American political system in 50 years consists of three parties: A liberal party that fights for equality without government force and for peace, a conservative party that fights as free of a market as we can get, and a libertarian party that fights for all of those things.
The question is whether the youth of today can convince the old guard in the GOP of the key concepts of libertarianism as outlined by David Boaz in his excellent work Libertarianism: Individualism, Individual Rights, Spontaneous Order, The Rule of Law, Limited Government, Free Markets, The Virtue of Production, Natural Harmony of Interests, and Peace.
Peace is the hardest concept for most Republicans to embrace. I’ll paraphrase Boaz’s idea in Libertarianism: War disrupts production, natural harmony of interests, closes off trading partners from each other, expands the power of the government and ruling classes, perverts and clouds the rule of law, disrupts spontaneous order, undermines individualism in favor of collectivism, and robs human beings of dignity, life, liberty, and property.
We need to advocate for these principles in as many places and as loudly as possible. There is nothing wrong with participating in the political process. In fact, I think it’s mandatory if you think political change needs to take place. But you must know that participating in the political process is a constant struggle of integrity. You must stay principled while building connections and compromising.
Libertarians (small-L) must all agree that success is not that “our people” are the ones that take over the government. We must agree that success is when our principles, outlined above, are advocated by a majority of a nation’s citizens.
For this to take place, we cannot compromise on our beliefs to compromise and gain power. To do so isn’t a win. It’s just a smaller form of statism.