Brian Lehman

Recent Posts From Brian Lehman

Can the GOP ignore social conservatives?

For years it has been conventional wisdom that the GOP needs the votes of social conservatives to win elections.  Defined loosely, a “social conservative” is someone who has very traditional, restrictionist views on so-called “social issues” like abortion and same-sex marriage.  These voters are mostly white and evangelical Christians.  They support strong restrictions on abortion and oppose any recognition of gay couples.  In short, they are basically anti-libertarians.  As such, the moderate wing of the party has always them as a necessary but disliked coalition partner.

In recent years, though, the tide has started to turn against this strategy.  The portion of the electorate that votes strictly on social issues is shrinking.  Attitudes are changing on gay rights and, while the country tends to lean pro-life, it’s fairly clear that most voters are repulsed by the extreme views held by some pro-life polticians.  It’s clear, then, that the GOP can’t rely on anti-gay rhetoric and severe positions on abortion to win.

The call, then, naturally is coming from those who never even liked social conservatives to push this portion of the voting population to the wayside.  Some, like my colleague Jeremy Kolassa, argue that the GOP should entirely ignore social conservatives.  The thinking goes that moderating on abortion and gay rights will gather enough new votes to make it possible to live without hardline social cons.

Three reasons why conservatives should support ending the War on Drugs

By any reasonable standard, the War on Drugs has been a total disaster   It has not shown any results in terms of reducing drug usage.  The cost in money, resources, and lives has been immense.  It’s no shock, then, that a whopping 82% of the American public believes it has been a failure.  Yet in our political realm, it is the name that cannot be spoken.  Political leaders who seriously question it are largely on the fringes, with coverage of the issue mainly relegated to places like Reason and other libertarian sources (as well as some liberal publications).  In my experience, it’s rare to even see it discussed in conservative circles - and that’s a great shame.  If conservatives could educate themselves on it, I think it could be a great issue.  There are numerous reasons why, but here are just three.

First of all, the War on Drugs destroys families, especially within minority communities.  Conservatives like to talk about how important the family is, yet seem to be not bothered by the fact that the United States incarcerates 2.3 million people, more than any other nation (except perhaps China).  Many of these inmates are fathers, sons, mothers and daughters who are in prison for non-violent drug-related offenses.  They are doing hard time alongside violent criminals because our laws are so strict.  Instead of getting clean and being able to make something of their lives, they are in prison with felonies on their record, making it near impossible to recover.  I can’t see for a second how society and the family unit are bettered by this.  Why destroy someone’s life for using drugs?

Was Election Day a good day for liberty?

As I’ve made clear before I was a fan of neither major party Presidential candidate.  Both stood for big government, continued spending, interventionist foreign policy, and little respect for civil liberties.  So as Election Day approached, I was excited to cast my vote for Gary Johnson.  As far as actual policies go, he was the only candidate running who offered anything different than the status quo.

That being said, I won’t deny that, while I did not vote for him, I was pulling for Romney to win, simply because I don’t think Obama has the slightest clue how to handle the economy.  This fact alone was enough to make me at least flirt with the idea of voting for Mitt as I stood in line to cast my vote.  While I ended up voting Johnson, on Election Night I was quietly hoping that somehow Romney could pull it out.

But once it became clear that he would not, my focus shifted to various other races and ballot initiatives.  And for the most part, these turned out just like I had hoped.  Gay marriage was legalized in Maryland and Maine, and marijuana initiatives did very well.  Not everything turned out great, but it was exciting to see evidence that attitudes are changing on both of these topics.

Furthermore, hard-core social conservatism had a very bad day, which is good for anyone who hopes that segment of the GOP can be reduced in influence.  Michele Bachmann almost lost her election, and both Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock were defeated soundly after expressing extreme and offensive views on rape and abortion.  It looks as if Allen West was defeated as well.  All of these are good news if you want the GOP to jettison some of its more extreme members.

The case for small government during a natural disaster

sandy

As I write this, a good portion of the East Coast is reeling from the effects of Hurricane Sandy.  I personally did not experience the worst of it, and somehow I still have power.  But for millions, power won’t be back for days, and the damage to property will be catastrophic.  My office has been closed the past two days so I’ve been holed up in my house, working from home a little and keeping myself busy. While watching my Twitter timeline scroll by, someone I follow tweeted something that made me start to think:

I won’t deny he has a solid point that I’m sure a number of us have struggled with.  When something like Sandy or Katrina hits and affects so many people, it’s very easy to feel intimidated by the sheer human suffering and the very understandable desire for government assistance.  Even people who are normally independent-minded find themselves suddenly glad for a government big enough to help them.  So for those of us who preach small government, it can seem like a hard time to make our case.

In defense of Richard Mourdock

mourdock

It seems that GOP candidates still have not learned that they are better off not speaking about rape and abortion.  Just weeks after Todd Akin’s infamous “legitimate rape” comment, another conservative has stated his views on the issue - this time Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock:

“I know there are some who disagree and I respect their point of view but I believe that life begins at conception. The only exception I have to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother. I just struggled with it myself for a long time but I came to realize: “Life is that gift from God that I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Now, I should get one thing out the way here.  I personally find Mourdock’s comments to be callous, and as someone who does not personally believe in a deity, I could never imagine telling a woman who was impregnated by a rapist that it was “God’s will” to carry to term a baby fathered by a vicious attacker and forced on her through the most violent of means.  It seems remarkably insensitive and lacking compassion.

But it’s not at all inconsistent or illogical given the thinking of pro-lifers.  If you’re someone who genuinely believes that life begins at the moment of conception, it doesn’t matter to you the circumstances.  I’ve always thought it to be very dishonest for “pro-life” candidates to be against abortion, but leave exceptions for rape and incest.  If you believe that unborn fetuses have full human rights, then the only possible time you could be okay with ending that life is if another life is at stake or if you believe it is compassionate due to severe birth defects.  And even then, that’s debatable.

The real reason I’m voting for Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson

Like a number of libertarian-leaning voters I am planning to cast my ballot for Gary Johnson in a few weeks.  There are a couple of reasons for this, but none more important to me personally than the fact that America is in dire need of an alternative to the Republican and Democratic parties.  Every four years these two behemoths go at each other’s throats over mostly fringe issues, and we’re all supposed to pretend that we are really choosing between two different people.  In reality, on most issues, there is scant difference.  So given the chance to vote for a legitimate contender like Johnson, it is simply too good a chance to turn down.

But I also realize that no-third party candidates will be President this year, so I decided to take a look at who was running in several lower-level elections for my county in Pennsylvania.  In four elections — specifically Attorney General, Auditor General, State Treasurer and U.S. Senator, there is a Libertarian Party candidate.  But when I began to search for information on these candidates, not a single one had a website beyond a bare-bones Facebook page. As much as I would like to vote third-party in these elections, I can’t really do so because I don’t know anything about the people running.  And I simply cannot take any candidate seriously when they don’t have a website in 2012.  That to me represents the bare minimum in promotion and makes me extremely wary.

Another conservative plea to libertarians falls flat

Mitt Romney

In what is becoming its very own genre of blog post, another conservative voice has come out with a plea for libertarians to support Mitt Romney.  To those of us who were not born last week, this all seems quite humorous as most of the time libertarians are treated as irrelevant.  In this election, though, things have gotten tight and our votes count as much as those of the most hardcore Republicans.

As I wrote here two weeks ago, Republicans have a long way to go before they can make a truly credible case to libertarians.  For one thing, they need to understand that most libertarians do not see themselves in the same way as conservatives and liberals.  For the most part, both of these groups line up pretty well with a major party.  Sure, conservatives will say they want the GOP to be more right-leaning, and liberals will say they want the Democrat Party to veer more progressive, but they are both going to vote for their respective parties in the end.  Libertarians, though, mesh with elements of both parties - and find plenty to dislike about both as well.

It’s clear to me that the writer of the post, Mr. Brady Cremeens, didn’t read that post, and doesn’t understand the first thing about libertarians.  His entire piece is premised upon the idea that libertarians are just another element of the Right that simply needs to be brought back into the fold.  In Cremeens’ world, we really are just “conservatives who smoke pot” as the saying goes.  With his initial premise being flawed, then, it does not bode well for the rest of what he says.  If he does not understand where libertarians are coming from, how can he possibly make a convincing case?

The Real Media Bias is Against Choice

On the right it is considered an axiom that the “mainstream media” is incredibly biased towards the left.  Now, this is not a charge without merit - I think it’s hard to deny that most media comes from major cities that tend to lean liberal.  But whether or not the media favors the left or the right, both sides know one thing for certain — their candidates will be covered extensively.  Every word from Romney or Obama will make the news in some format.

But for anyone outside the two major parties, it is rare to even be mentioned, except in passing as a potential “spoiler” for one candidate or the other in a swing state.  To the average voter, then, there are only two people running.  One cannot be surprised then that the vast majority of Americans have never heard of third party candidates.  They are presented a world where there are only two choices, as if the vast spectrum of political thought can only come in two colors, red and blue.

Take this quiz on USA Today for a perfect example.  Immediately upon opening the quiz, you are shown a graphic that is half Obama and half Romney.  Every option moves the bar one way or the other.  For me, the first couple questions were about the economy and moved it to Romney.  But then came questions about gay marriage, the War in Afghanistan, and cutting military spending, which knocked it to the blue side.  In the end, my score came out 55%.  Were the world truly consigned to two poles, then, I would have to vote Democrat.

How to win libertarians to the GOP (and how not to)

As the election approaches, backers of both major candidates are doing their best to round up any potential uncommitted voters.  For the Republicans, one of these target blocs seems to be libertarians, many of whom are planning to not vote, or to support Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson (myself being the latter).   However, as Jason expressed earlier this week, these attempts are often counterproductive because conservatives, by and large, do not understand how libertarians think, and thus conversion efforts fall flat.

Now, for my purposes I don’t particularly care who wins this year, because both candidates are frankly awful. As I expressed in my post last week the GOP has in many ways become a joke, dominated by people who add nothing to the intellectual marketplace, and in fact often dumb it down and polarize the country for their own gain.  When Mitt Romney expressed his now infamous “47%” theory, he was regurgitating the sort of fact-free nonsense that is rampant on the right.  However, there are also those who believe the party has some hope, and offers the best chance for libertarian voices to be heard.  If that is the case, though, the party as a whole needs to understand some things about us crazy libertarians, and the current tactics used to convince us are in fact going to do the opposite.

Romney reveals the vapidity of the modern GOP

Sometimes a single statement can say everything.  Often these statements come as off-hand remarks, or in a setting where the speaker does not believe he or she will be recorded.  A recent example from the 2008 campaign was Barack Obama’s infamous “bitter clingers” comment, which is still repeated today by his critics to depict him as elitist and disdainful towards many Americans.  And now the 2012 race has its counterpart.

In comments recorded secretly from a private event, Mitt Romney laid out his assessment of 47% of America, and it’s a doozy:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax…[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

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