Why Libertarian Kids, Not Drones, Scare McCain and Graham

Jennifer Rubin—WaPo’s token conservative—said it perfectly:

McCain lost his cool with Rand Paul and sounded like the old man down the street screaming to the new kids on the block, “Get off my lawn!”

The real reason McCain and Lindsey Graham embarrassed themselves on the floor of Senate had nothing to do with what Rand Paul said. Rand Paul's ideas terrify McCain, Graham, and most of the Republican establishment.

Those Troublesome Libertarian Kids

McCain and Graham sit at the top of the Republican hierarchy that thrives on protection money from crony capitalists. (See more on crony capitalism here.)

Senator John McCain complains about appealing to libertarian kids

Young libertarians are the closest thing to conservatives coming out of the Millennial generation. If the GOP is to play a role in the 2016 election, it must attract every possible Millennial libertarian.

That puts establishment politicians like McCain and Graham in a precarious position between two competing interests: small government libertarians and big money crony capitalists.

The Conflict That Divides The GOP

These crony capitalists aren’t evil. Neither are the Republicans who enable them. They all believe in American exceptionalism. They invest money and time and energy to keep America great. They honestly believe that America’s strength depends on companies producing wealth. On that point, they’re right. Where they go wrong is cause and effect.

Republican crony capitalists believe that corporate profits are the source of American greatness. Libertarians and tea party conservatives believe that corporate profits are the rewards of American greatness.

(Democrats, by the way, believe that government is the source of American greatness . . . if they believe in American greatness at all.)

Republican Crony Capitalism Can’t Survive On Its Own

Crony capitalists feel they must invest in politicians who will protect and promote their business interests. Those business interests, in turn, create jobs for people, donate funds to improve their communities, fund non-profit charities and schools, and guide politicians on good policy. These are noble activities that benefit all of society.

Over the years, though, these civic investments – increasingly through donations to candidates -- have become less noble and more self-serving. With the rise of profit maximization and shareholder value thinking, corporations treat government and politicians like vendors.

Investing in good government should improve business conditions by promoting a stable economy in which free market capitalism flourishes. Crony companies, however, expect a measurable and direct return on investments for their companies and shareholders alone. The rest of the country be damned.

If those profits made it back into the economy through more jobs, higher wages, and capital investment, things would be better. But they don’t. Even conservative Forbes magazine recognizes that businesses today hoard cash rather than reinvest. Blame “uncertainty” if you will, but don’t overlook the shareholder value mentality that dominates business and finance today.

Crony capitalists accept more regulation and taxes because they think it will give them an advantage over their competition. They trade their independence (and risk) for targeted tax breaks and protected markets. This cycle repeats itself election after election, and each time the government comes out more powerful and corporations more dependent.

This cycle has repeated so many times that corporate dependency on government now threatens the balance of power between people and state. The financial collapse of 2008 demonstrated that big government and big business have grown too large to stand on their own. They lean on each other like weary heavyweight boxers in the 15th round of a brutal championship fight. If one falls, they all fall.  And we get crushed.

What Libertarian Kids Want Threatens the Establishment

Libertarians realize that it was never supposed to be this way. More importantly, we’re pretty sure that America would never have become great had he started out like this. This was, after all, how Europe worked in the 18th century, as mercantilists pandered to nobles and royals who, in turn, granted mercantilists permission to do business, protected their businesses from competition, and collected handsome taxes from their profits. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations was, in part, a criticism of European mercantilism. So was the Boston Tea Party.

A libertarian solution to the mess politicians and corporations have made involves untangling the knots that bind government and business and banking together. It means that each Congress reduce the loopholes in law and taxes meant to coerce business behavior, eliminate regulations designed to change behavior toward some ideal, and reduce tax rates on businesses.

But that solution threatens a lot of people’s jobs.

Republican establishmentarians rose to power through this quasi mercantile system. They didn’t run on the idea of getting government out of people’s ways. They ran on getting government to favor their constituents, sometimes by holding back someone else’s constituents. Freeing business to thrive or die on a level playing would eliminate the skills that lifted McCain and Graham (not to mention Reid, Pelosi, Durbin, McCaskill, and Obama) to the top. And they’ll fight like hell to keep their power.

The Democrats practice crony capitalism more effectively than Republicans. While their constituencies might be different, the process is the same. Taxes and borrowing raise money that government distributes to favored groups and companies. Taxes and regulations coerce people to trade with those favored companies and organizations.Public education and green energy are two prime examples of Democrats driving economic behavior to benefit friends.

Still, McCain and Graham know that libertarians pose a bigger threat to their power than Democrats. The two big parties play the same game. Libertarians don’t.

The Public-Private Partnership Generations Are Dying

Just before the 2012 election, a poll showed that younger Millennials describe themselves as economic conservatives and social liberals. Their older Millennial siblings describe themselves as economic and social liberals. But both groups show a distrust of both government and big business.

If the GOP had convinced these younger voters that the party believed in limited government and economic liberty, in 2012 it might have eaten into Obama’s youth vote of 2008. Instead, the gap between the parties widened. We have to ask why.

The reason, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, is authenticity. Establishment Republicans don’t really believe in limited government and economic liberty. They say they do, but they act differently. And younger people see the hypocrisy. Given a choice between Democrats who honestly profess their love of unlimited government power and Republicans who talk about limited government and free markets but don’t really live it, kids go with the party that at least says what it believes.

(Yes, I know Democrats lie all the time, and I’ve blogged about that ad nauseam. But on their fundamental belief in the near-miraculous power of government, Democrats speak the truth. You have to give them that.)

At the other end of the age spectrum, older voters vote Republican—not conservative or libertarian. They want government to increase entitlements, for instance.

These older generations include the last of the WWII generation who grew up during the New Deal and raised families during the massive government programs of the Cold War. Behind them is the Silent Generation which revered (and envied) their WWII elders, becoming the bureaucrats and regulators doing the grunt of government’s growth. The Silents implemented the Great Society programs, the War on Poverty, the Korean and Vietnam Wars. They were young teachers who conducted air raid drills, and they were the first to grasp the power of television. They believe in group work.

Then come the Baby Boomers—those too young to remember FDR’s death. They didn’t trust government to tell the truth, but they never complained when government did their bidding. Boomers were less statist than WWII or Silent generations – after all, Bill Clinton signed off on welfare reform – but they believe government can be molded into a force for good.

Generation X—those too young to remember Kennedy’s assassination—rallied to Reagan’s most famous maxim: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Gen X is the tip of the libertarian spear, and it’s the generation that’s just reaching the pinnacle of power in business, government, education, information, and entertainment.

As I’ve said, the next generation, Millennials – those too young to remember the Challenger Disaster—are split. As generational historians Strauss and Howe point out, Millennials are much like their WWII great-grandparents. They believe in the power of groups and teamwork. They believe in working together to overcome obstacles. But they may not believe government should force people to do things. We see this in their attitudes toward the war on terror and their increasing drift toward libertarianism. Most compelling, Millennials support federalism when it comes to marijuana laws.

In a nationwide poll that asked whether the federal government should respect state laws on marijuana or enforce more draconian federal law, seventy-four percent of Americans said the feds should respect state law. But 81 percent of Generation X wanted the feds to stay out of states’ business.

With their patriotic embrace of business and careful defense of entitlements, establishment Republicans are the natural allies of WWII and Silent voters. But those generations are dying fast. Nearly 10 million of them died between 2008 and 2012. The 2012 presidential election was the last for 11 million more.

There will be no more Gen Xers or Boomers to swell the ranks of older Republican voters. The last Xer was born during Regan’s first term. The only way the Republican party can grow, then, is by attracting Millennials.

Embracing Libertarian Views Will End the Old Republican Establishment

“The country need more Senators who care about liberty,” Senator McCain said Thursday. “but if Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously, he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids in their college dorms.”

There it is. Those libertarian kids and their vision of open, honest, limited government that does what it’s supposed to do—what we’ve authorized it to do—and nothing more.

Those damn libertarian kids in their dorm rooms who want to own their own lives instead of borrowing one from the government of Barack H. Obama.

Those libertarian kids with wacko-bird ideas like leaving businesses to compete in a fair and open marketplace where everyone plays by the same rules, faces the same risks, and benefits from the same economy.

Those libertarian kids who want America to go to war only when our liberty is at stake and only when we’re willing to fight for the unconditional surrender of the enemy. (And that’s not very often.)

McCain and Graham and the establishment—Republican and Democrat—fear libertarian kids more than al-Qaeda or Iran.

For a century, but especially beginning with the New Deal in the 1930s, the government has imposed restraints on everyone—some more so than others. Managing those restraints is what the establishment does best. It makes them rich and powerful and supports their fabulous lifestyles.

Those libertarian kids who terrify McCain and Graham want to grant equal liberty to everyone. Libertarians would, over time, remove the government shackles from our ankles.  McCain and Graham, Obama and Pelosi, and all the restraint-keepers will have to find something else to occupy their time.

Rand Paul’s filibuster sparked the imagination in those libertarian kids. Imagination leads to stories, and stories, sometimes, become reality.

If the GOP survives, it must become more libertarian, younger, and authentic. It must look more like Rand Paul and less like John McCain.

And that’s a horror story to McCain and Graham.

The Courage of Roy Blunt

When  you vote for a candidate for high office, sometimes you do so with fingers crossed. You just don’t know how they’ll handle the new responsibilities.  Will they succumb to pressure and influence?  Or will they remain true?

Luckily for us, Senator-elect Roy Blunt showed his courage in a recent Wall Street Journal article about the Tea Party and the GOP.

In a year when voters overwhelming demanded changes to business as usual in Washington, Roy Blunt showed he has the rectitude to stand strong for the tried and true practices of obfuscation, political double-speak, and deflection.

Take earmarks.  The Tea Party’s Contract From America demanded that Congress ban earmarks from deficit budgets and require full disclosure for earmarks at all other times.  Will Roy Blunt bow to the fanatical will of the people by swearing off earmarks?

Hell, no.  For that matter, to demonstrate his brave adherence to the Washington party line, Roy won’t even give a firm answer to the question.  In an era when meaning what you say and saying what you mean is treasured, Senator-elect Blunt is unafraid to dodge the earmark question by pointing out that Ron Paul requests many earmarks for his district in Texas. From WSJ:

"Rand [Paul] doesn't agree with his dad on that. His dad is a leading advocate of earmarks on this side of the building. I'll let the Pauls work that out and then I'll see where they come down." We share a laugh over that.

Now that’s spine. Encourage a little domestic dispute to determine the fate of earmarks.

Any run-of-the-mill Tea Party politician might have given the simple, easy answer.  For example, “You know, I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to requesting earmarks.  But with the trillions in debt and with the new understanding that our spending is destroying America’s future, I’m going to support the tea party’s Contract and co-sponsor legislation severely curtailing earmarks.  In fact, I think we should ban them altogether from budgets with a projected deficit.”

Yes, an answer like that is cowardly.  It panders to the sentiments of 60 percent of  the people who sent Roy to Washington.  And such a straightforward answer wimpishly admits complicity in the monstrous national debt. Who wants leaders to take responsibility for their actions?  

Congratulations to Roy Blunt for showing the testicularity to pretend the Tea Party never happened.

It Must Suck to be an Incumbent

Whether you’re the party darling or the federal office holder, 2010 is shaping up to be your  last year in politics. In Kentucky, Tea Party Republican, Rand Paul, opened a can of whoop-ass on Republican party favorite, Trey Grayson. No single race proves the strength or impact of the Tea Party, but races like Paul’s demonstrate that the right candidate with the right campaign team with the strong backing of the Tea Party and 9-12 Project can blow away the party candidate. Don’t read anymore into it.

And don’t read too much into the PA12 race to fill Jack Murtha’s seat. This race involved a single district in Pennsylvania where Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one.  Tim Burns's opponent ran to the right of Ronald Reagan:  pro-life, pro-gun, anti-ObamaCare, and anti-Cap and Trade.  Critz also was credited with being shovel man in Murtha's pork-barrel filling operation.

Additionally, thanks to traditional Republican circular firing squads, there were approximately 16,000 under votes in the special election.  Yesterday, Burn was not only the GOP candidate in the special election, but he was on the Primary ballot against establishment Republican, Bill Russell, for this November’s general.  It seems Russell’s supporters were encouraged not to vote in the special election. It's difficult for a Republican to beat both a Republican and a Democrat.

Russell's strategy backfired.  He's losing the primary race to Burns.  But he did succeed in ensuring Burns will face an incumbent Democrat.  Way to go, Einstein.

Across PA, RINO-cum-Democrat, Arlen Specter lost soundly to Any Democrat.  In this case, Any Democrat was played by Congressman Jay Sestak.  (Pronounced: who cares?) This commercial explains why cynicism, even naked cynicism, won’t cell in 2010:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x97DdZho11k&w=425&h=355]

In Arkansas, it appears Blanche Lincoln’s career will be decided by a  run-off in June.

So what does it all mean?

1. Incumbents and party favors are out

2. Money can still buy votes

3. Republicans are still the only people who can beat Republicans—and they do it very well.

4. Pat Toomey (PA) and Rand Paul (KY) will be freshman Senators together next January.