The Republican Liberty Caucus

In my Wall Street Journal op-ed, I mentioned the Republican Liberty Caucus, which works within the Republican Party, as an alternative to the Libertarian Party.  (Years ago, I advocated an alternative strategy for the Libertarian Party:  field libertarian candidates to run as Republican or Democrats in uncontested congressional districts, where they would be assured something like 20-30% of the vote and would be included in whatever local debates might be held.  I still think this is not a bad idea for the Libertarian Party.)

My sense is that the Republican Liberty Caucus is a currently a minor force within the Republican Party, but its existence provides an avenue for libertarian-inclined activists and donors to channel their political efforts.  This morning, I received this promotional message from the RLC, which I thought might be of interest to some readers.

Dear RLC Supporter:

Thank you all for your efforts during this challenging election season.  Republican Liberty Caucus members played leading roles on every front in 2012 – running for office, working on campaigns, donating unprecedented amounts of money to our federal PAC, helping to promote and fund raise for candidates and serving as delegates to state conventions and ultimately the national convention in Tampa where we were witnesses to the beginnings of the events which culminated in this week’s historic defeat for the Republican Party establishment.  You worked hard with little respect or reward for a cause whose victory sometimes seemed distant and in peril.

There are many who are claiming that this election was a massive defeat for the Republican Party, but after studying the results for two days I’m surprised to be able to report what looks like some major victories for the liberty movement within the party.  Yes, the party took it on Mitt Romney’s chiseled chin, but the party’s losses are not necessarily our losses and while I certainly would have liked to have done better, in comparison to the party as a whole our candidates and our issues fared remarkably well.

Perhaps the most significant victory is a sign of change to come  While the party lost seats in both houses of Congress, the balance of power shifted and liberty candidates gained seats while the party was losing them.  Our endorsees and other sympathetic candidates now control a larger number of seats in both houses of Congress than ever before.  We lost only one incumbent House member and gained at least two solid seats in the Senate while the party lost 3 and gained more seats in the House than the party as a whole lost, effectively doubling the significance of our wins.  The failure of the party leadership and the Romney campaign did suppress turnout and that flowed down to races at lower levels, costing some of our most promising candidates wins they might have had in better years.   Yet 2014 is just around the corner and I expect many of those same candidates to run again and in an off year election we c an anticipate the same kind of strong results we had in 2010 and more.

Two RLC candidates won new seats for liberty in the Senate, Ted Cruz (TX) and past endorsee Jeff Flake (AZ).  Four new liberty candidates took seats in the House, including RLC endorsees Steve Stockman (TX-36), Kerry Bentivolio(MI-11), Thomas Massie (KY-4) and Ted Yoho (FL-3) who was overlooked for endorsement.  Many previously endorsed candidates won reelection in the House, including Justin Amash, Tom McClintock, Walter Jones, Jim Jordan, Mick Mulvaney and others.  Perhaps most significantly hundreds of our endorsees won or held onto seats in state government, giving us a very deep bench to run for higher office going into the 2014 election.  Many other great candidates ran strong campaigns and came awfully close to winning, but the weakness of the national campaign and lack of support from state and national party organizations were challenges they couldn’t overcome.  With more indepe ndent funding and resources we expect them to do much better in 2014.

We also saw victories on key issues in several states.  Marijuana was legalized in Colorado and Washington and decriminalized in Massachusetts, which is likely to lead to a very important showdown over state sovereignty as the Obama administration and the DEA crack down on those states attempt to form independent drug policy.  In addition, Washington, Maryland and Maine voted to legalize same-sex marriage, a clear challenge to the unconstitutional federal Defense of Marriage Act, and while we prefer a non-governmental solution to the marriage issue, the passage of these propositions was at least a politically achievable step towards greater liberty for more people.  Less publicized but possibly equally important, Alabama, Montana and Wyoming voted on initiatives to nullify aspects of Obamacare within their borders, another development likely to provoke a constitutional showdown with the Obama administration.  It’s not going to be a n easy four years for the president or his unconstitutional abuses of power.

Finally, after the attacks on the grassroots of the party launched by the Romney campaign, party leaders and special interests, in many ways a Romney defeat is a victory for Liberty Republicans.  In the long term it may benefit us more than defeating Obama would have.  The party establishment and the special interests which back them placed all their bets on Romney and his failure was their failure as well.  They have lost credibility with all the grassroots groups in the party and they are saddled with the blame for the abuses of power and bad choices which led to this debacle.  Now everyone knows what we have known for years.  If the Republican Party is to survive it needs a substantive change of leadership and a return to principles which can win elections.

After this election it is much more likely that our next presidential nominee will have strong liberty principles and Rand Paul’s stock as a presidential contender is way up.  We should also expect to see the party distance itself from single issue voters on the religious right and a deemphasis of divisive social issues.  This might well be the jolt the party needs to become the fiscally conservative and socially tolerant party which it needs to be in order to win and if it doesn’t happen quickly, we’re here to give change a push.

While this may not be the time for open celebration, this election has created many opportunities to expand the liberty movement within the Republican Party and our voices will be stronger and our opponents weaker than every before as we start a new political cycle.  We have more members with substantial campaign experience, we have better campaign funding channels and we have more experienced candidates.  Plus the Obama administration will supply us with plenty of opportunities for issue activism which can raise the profile of RLC leaders and our pro-liberty, small government agenda.

I’m looking forward to two years of great opportunities for growing liberty and winning key victories in the ongoing campaign to reclaim the Republican Party and make it the vehicle for the restoration of the Republic.

For liberty in our time,

Michael B. Keegan signature

Dave Nalle, National Chairman

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