Many who peripherally follow my blogs, my social media, etc., have started asking me in the past few months: “Hey, why don’t you use the word Libertarian anymore?” Or “why did you stop talking about libertarianism?” Some of this misunderstanding is my fault, and some of it isn’t. In short, I stopped associating with libertarianism some time ago because I saw the goal of associating with it in the first place being mostly complete: we retook Conservatism. Libertarianism as a personal label became redundant.
It all started some time around 2007 for me. I’d been a George W. Bush voter and somewhat of an apologist for parts of the administration’s platform. I liked the HSA. I liked the tax cuts, though I’ve preferred the Flat Tax or alternative taxation reforms all along. I didn’t mind some of the Law Enforcement reforms to stream-line enforcement against terrorism in the wake of 9-11. I watched the difficulties of the Middle Eastern military interventions and started to resent the power of the Neo-cons in GOP, however. As the hunt for the WMD’s continued ineffectually, I started to lose what little faith I’d had in the Straussian “Nation Building” model entirely.
With all of this in mind, I voted for Obama in 2008. I hated the fact that John McCain like figures had wrenched the party away from both the Fiscal Conservatives (that was, and still is, more of my angle) and the Liberty wing. To me, it was the apotheosis of the Neo-Conservative movement as the lone voices of the Republican Party. I still listened to mainstream news then almost exclusively, and I started to become fatalistic about the future of the party.
Of course, I was instantly disappointed. Obama revealed himself as not a Centrist; not a “unifier”; as a full-on Keynesian, interventionist crank that needed opposing. At that moment, the figures who rose up to confront him and the congressional Democrats on things like TARP and the ACA were people like Rand Paul, Richard Shelby, Mike Crapo, etc. I saw the 2nd Amendment under threat. I found it necessary at the time to start using the “libertarian” descriptor in concert with this burgeoning resistance to economic and social interventionism because it was the most lively and credible opposition to what I feared most.
Unlike most die-hard Libertarians, however, I knew this phase would come and go. The purpose was always to reclaim Conservatism from the Neo-Cons and moderates. I flirted with the Libertarian Party, but always stayed somewhat aloof- more in the Liberty wing of the GOP. I supported Ron Paul in 2012 primaries, and I was actually pleased by just how much support he received.
Over the years, we forced conversations with diatribes, memes, and debates on social media platforms and forums. I was very active in this myself. As time went on, and the Liberty inclined Conservatives started gaining increasing electoral ground, there were those who celebrated and furthered this movement and there were those who sidelined themselves in the capital “L” Libertarian camp. I wanted nothing to do with the latter and heartily endorsed the former.
During the GOP primaries, the memes that Rand Paul was not “libertarian” enough, that the GOP candidate was not supportable no matter who was elected, etc., completely put me off the libertarian scene. The battle-lines in the Liberty movement were mostly tripartite and increasingly unaccommodating: libertarian Republicans, Libertarian Party partisans, and the insurgent Alt-Right. My side in that confrontation was completely obvious to me and most people who know me.
In all of this time- even during the most bitter conflicts between libertarians and Neo-Cons on the Right- I never stopped describing myself as a Conservative. That term is so expansive that even as my views have changed somewhat over many years of being politically active, “Conservative” could describe all of those positions I’ve held. Rather than disassociate myself with the term, I preferred to de-emphasize the Conservative label and emphasize the liberty side for a time.
When I saw the full slate of GOP primary competitors in 2015-2016, I knew the goal had been accomplished. Together, we’d moved the window so far to the Liberty side and brought back fiscal conservatism in the mainstream so thoroughly that no open, sincere Neo-Con was even in the running. I liked pretty much every one of the GOP candidates for one reason or another, though I liked some more than others. In a world where Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz were called the “real conservatives” so often- across media and critical platforms- I was convinced that we’d succeeded in re-associating Conservatism with the principles of Free Markets, Fiscal Conservatism, National Defense, Sovereignty, etc. At that point, why continue using the libertarian moniker?
In conclusion, I was always clear with people where I stood: even when I would discuss issues like “Open Borders” and “Anarchy,” I distanced myself from any sincere support for those topics. I was willing to discuss and debate them, but I’m also willing to discuss and debate issues on the Left. I love freedom, I love the Republic, and I love law & order, and those were always my real issues. Some call me a “paleo-con,” and they’re probably right. But many different labels work quite well for me in the mixed-up American taxonomy. In coming times, I predict this will confuse many over my mixture of alignments with both liberty and Nationalist issues. As the Alt-Right becomes a more problematic faction of the Right, there will be those who purposefully mislabel or misconstrue me on both sides. It’s already happened this year, with radical Leftists in Oregon laughably trying to lump me in with the Alt-Right. In any case, I’ve been all but done with the libertarian label for some time to minimize some of this confusion.