Have Democrats and Republicans failed America?

“Democrats and Republicans have failed America.”

That’s how long-time conservative activist Richard Viguerie started out his keynote address yesterday to the Libertarian Party presidential nominating convention in Denver. Many of his fellow conservatives feel betrayed by the Republican Party, and some are considering voting Libertarian this November.

Read Viguerie’s speech and see if you agree or disagree with his analysis and conclusions. In either case, he makes some powerful arguments worthy of consideration:

Conservatives are off the GOP reservation:
Will they find a home in the Libertarian Party?


Steve Buckstein is Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based think tank.

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  • Richard B

    The Conservatives were never part of any party lately. the can go to the LP as far as I concern and get less than 10% of the vote leaving us with Democratic supermajorities that perhaps can do their ultimate dream call a positional convention. Now imagine that American democracy finally ended because conservatism put their hopes in a fringe party.

    As for conservatism they will go the way of the wigs. We who strive for capitalism, limited government and individual liberty will just find like minded and recreate the Republican party.

  • NotYourDaddy

    I agree with Richard B. The first time I ever voted was for Ed Clark in 1980. I have never, until this year, registered as anything other than Libertarian. But voting Libertarian is like mailing your ballot to Santa Claus. It makes you feel good, but is utterly ineffectual.

    Like it or not, our political system is, and always will be, a two party system. Third parties are for idealists, and I’m old enough and cynical enough to be a pragmatist now. So, for the first time in my life, I’ve decided to register Republican. Not because I agree with the current Republican Party. The Republican Party has betrayed its conservative roots. Republican candidates this year are leaning as far left as they can without turning blue, and conservative Republicans are leaving the party in droves. (I wrote a blog post about this yesterday.)

    https://notyourdaddy.wordpress.com/2008/05/22/goldilocks-doesnt-vote

    So why, when all the other conservatives are fleeing the RP, am I going in the opposite direction? I am still, and will always be, a libertarian. But I see the impending disaster that will result from conservatives fleeing the Republican Party. The more conservatives leave the Republican Party, the weaker the RP grows. Throughout our history, the Republican Party has been the bulwark of conservatism in our country. The weaker the RP grows, the weaker our chances of ever having a truly conservative administration. Splintering off into third parties is actually damaging to our cause, because no candidate from any third party will ever be elected president. Splitting up the vote only hurts us. I believe that restoring the RP to its conservative roots is our only hope.

    Conservatives need to _take back_ the Republican Party, not abandon it.

  • Jerry

    Agree with Richard’s article.
    Completely.

  • Joanne Rigutto

    The key is not to join another party, or just to vote although those are two important first steps. The key is to get involved in government at a deeper level. Voting alone is doing only half the job.

    We, most of us at any rate, go along ‘fat, dumb and happy’ just voting for the person with the best pitch, and if they get the job, we, by and large, turn our backs on them and let them do as they see fit, until the next election. What this means is that others who are willing to invest the time and money have the perfect opportunity to influence the very people who we all have hired to govern and regulate our lives, personal property, real property, etc., and make no mistake, that’s what government eventually always boils down to – governance and regulation. Even the services that government provides is based on or eventually results in regulation.

    As many of us as possible need to get motivated and get out there into government at all levels, and not as government employees or necessarily as elected officials, but as private citizens. There are so many opportunities for citizen involvement in government, I really had no idea until I got involved. You can work on all sorts of things from land use to transportation and beyond. If you really want to have a profound influence on your own government you need to do two things – elect the people you think will start off on the correct foot and then get in there and work with them to ensure that they stay on track.

    The big problem right now as I see it is that the rank and file citizenry has been more or less out of the loop for anything other than elections for so long that it’s going to take a lot of work on our part to get back to the level of influence that we used to have on government. And, given the transportation and communications infrastructure in place in this country today, that participation is easier to engage in than it ever has been.

    100 years ago you had to walk, ride a horse or take the trolley to get anywhere, now it takes no time at all to get to a government seat, especially in the Willamette Valley. Even 10 years ago I would’ve have had the devil’s own time finding out about what government’s up to. Now with the internet there is a phenomenal ammount of information on the net and it’s put up by the government itself. Want to find out what’s going on regarding federal legislation? One place to go to is the Federal Register. How about international trade, transportation issues, land use, etc., or maybe you’dlike to find out what influence the UN is having on US policy? Those public agencies all have their information on their websites. Sometimes you have to dig a bit for it but if it’s out there you’ll find it. There are still things out there like cooperative agreements and memoranda of understanding between public agencies that still require a FOIA request but that’s a releatively simple process and you can obtain the information. Personally, one project I’d like to work on is getting public agencies to post that particular information online so that people don’t have to pay for it. After all, we’ve already paid for it with our taxes.

  • Crawdude

    To the original question of the article: I answer a resounding “YES”!

  • dean

    There seem to be 3 relatively independent branches of “conservatism”:
    1) economics: low taxes, minimal regulation, and few government programs for the poor or middle class. (the “leave us and our money alone” wing)
    2) foreign policy: intervene everywhere and anywhere (internationally) to project American power (the “bash them over the heads and ask questions later” wing)
    3) social: intervene anywhere and everywhere (domestically) to maintain morals primarily associated with Old Testament interpretations of Christianity (the “live like we want you to because God said so right here” wing).

    A core problem is that the goals of each group conflict with the others. Economic conservatives want low taxes and lax regulation most of all. Yet high spending is needed to support an activist foreign policy and huge military (see: deficits, Bush). And then the social activists are often poor or lower middle class, so they are the ones who have to fight the wars and suffer the consequences of lousy domestic government services or ruined environments (from lax regulation). Plus the social conservatives want LESS individual freedom most of all, conflicting directly with the economic wing (see: Schiavo, Terry).

    The trick for Republicans has been finding leaders who can somehow embody and satisfy all 3 of these branches. Reagan was really the first to do so, and Bush Jr. has been the second. Trying the marry “conservatism” to the Libertarian Party is an interesting proposition, because true libertarians only support one of the 3 conservative branches (Paul is a patial 2-fer since he is against abortion rights). If you ask me (and no one did,) you have a coalition that is cracking up and will never be put back together again. Some new form of conservatism will eventually emerge as dominant, but it may take decades, as it did last time. meanwhile we Democrats get to play with governing for a while until we screw up or calcify or events overtake us.

    Best of luck to all of us.

    • NotYourDaddy

      Dean, true conservatism is about small government. It’s about maximizing individual freedom and individual responsibility. Lower taxes and less regulation fall out of that, because conservatives believe people should make their own choices and take responsibility for them. We don’t believe in taxing the ants to support the grasshoppers.

      Conservatives aren’t anarchists, though. We do not believe in no government at all. The fundamental legitimate purpose of government is to protect its citizens, both from each other (law enforcement/criminal justice) and from external enemies (the military). As long as the government is performing its legitimate role, some taxation is required to support that function. However, the taxes collected should not exceed the amount that’s necessary and sufficient to protect the citizens.

      So there is really no conflict of goals between conservatives who support small government and conservatives who support military spending (unless the military budget is inflated through corruption, and then it’s the corruption we oppose). One has to expect government spending to increase in a time of war. Winning is never cheap or easy. The problem conservatives have is when government spends money on all sorts of extraneous programs that have nothing to do with its legitimate role of protecting its citizens.

      Being a libertarian, I really don’t see it as the role of government to impose on people’s personal lives. After all, our founding fathers believed it was self-evident that we all have the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. So, however you define happiness, and however you want to pursue it, is all right with me, as long as you don’t violate my rights in doing so (or anybody else’s). If you do, you should be prosecuted.

      I know there are conservatives who disagree with that and, obviously, there are degrees of conservatism. But I believe the most conservative position is to uphold the core principles on which our country was founded.

      • Jerry

        Well said. I agree with your comments back to Dean.

  • sybella

    I definitely believe the democrats and republican parties have failed us. I also believe we have failed ourselves by becoming so complacent and letting them do what they want in our name. They will continue to fail us until we stop, take a deep breath, look at our country the way it is, not the way we or they want it to be. When we can do that in honesty, then we can stop the failure all the way around. I know that sounds simplistic and certainly not educated???!!!, but true.

  • Anonymous

    Anybody ever wonder what would happen if McCain selects Leiberman as his VP?

  • devietro

    I hate to say it but I agree with Dean, at least for his definitions. The three factions analogy is one that I have made before in different words. Personally I care much less about social issues than I do about fiscal ones. Essentially I want the government to leave me alone, let me do my thing while still taking care of the “big issues” like national defense. Basically let me do my thing and work hard to make it so I can keep doing my thing. That borders on libertarian by some definitions but not all. I actually think that many of the “new recruits” to the GOP are in the Religious right and they want big government to enforce their views, and thus they conflict with true conservative principles of small government.

    • dean

      NYD…yes, I think you have well expressed the core principles of conservativsm. I would add that conservatives (defined by Burke) are the opposites of “revolutionaries.” They are for caution, only gradual change, and protection of long standing institutions.

      From the outside looking in, it seems to me that your “true conservatism” went off the rails when “movement conservatism” took over. Attempting to repeal the entire New Deal is a radical, not a “conservative” (Burkian) agenda. The challenge is that going all the way back to the sort of government that only protects property and keeps order is out of synch with what a large majority, including so-called “social conservatives” actually want. People in the modern world want the state to perform a wide range of services, including maintenance of a social safety net that goes way beyond keeping order, and protection of the life support system everyone of us depends on (the “environment”).

      If you try and rebuild conservatism around the core principles you describe, you are stuck in a very small minority. In a 2 party system you have to have functioning coalitions that may not share the same interests, but work together to gain a share of power.

      My advice to conservatives, for what little it is worth, is to think politically more like Gerald Ford, Bob Dole John McCain, or even Reagan (in terms of deeds rather than words) for that matter. They represent a pragmatic, non-ideological wing of conservatism that seems to have gotten lost in the current crack up. This wing recognizes politics as compromise, not ideology. Public libraries, schools, a social safetynet, and environmental conservation are all as essential to modern life as police and the army, but they should be well run and not extravagent or wasteful. What is needed is to nurture a comeback of the pragmatists and accept less than your ideal.

      I say this out of pure self interest. because without a viable opposition we liberals will eventually over reach and scew things up in our own way. Our own irrational (idealistic) side will take over if left unchecked.

  • NotYourDaddy

    Devietro, I always say what I want from government, beyond protection of my life, liberty, and individual rights, is to “get your hand out of my pocket and leave me alone.” It sounds like you agree with that. I would say that is a libertarian (small “l”) point of view.

    Dean, you say the large majority wants the state to perform a wide range of services, and to reach into my pocket and yours to take out the money to perform them. (And, of course, a lot of that money gets siphoned off as it makes its way through all the bureaucracy inherent in big government, so only a fraction of it actually goes to providing those services.)

    The latest Rasmussen survey ( https://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/mood_of_america/benchmarks/america_s_best_days ) reports that 62% of voters would prefer fewer government services with lower taxes. 29% would rather have more government services with higher taxes, and 10% are not sure. (There seems to be a 1% rounding error.) I’d be interested to know where you’re getting your data that a large majority want more services and higher taxes.

    Apparently, true conservatives are not as small a minority as you imagine. In fact, if you boil it down to the core principles of conservatism, which this survey reflects, it seems we may actually be in the majority. Conservatives may disagree on social issues (we’re not into group-think the way you liberals are ;]), but smaller government and more individual responsibility is something on which all conservatives agree.

    If we can get candidates who represent those core principles, I believe we can not only take back the Republican Party, but we can win over the majority of the country to the recognition that we are in a downward spiral because we’ve abandoned these core principles. To return America to the status of the most successful and progressive, — in terms of _true_ progress (i.e., economic and technological progress, rather than socialist double-speak), we need to return to the core principles and values on which our nation was founded. Those are the principles that made this the greatest nation in the world. Abandoning them has brought us to the state we’re in today.

    And I blame the current crop of Republicans (including Bush) just as much as the Democrats for that.

    • dean

      NYD…I did not say people wanted “more services AND higher taxes.” I said they want the services, but they don’t want to pay for them. In the abstract, people might say (as your survey shows) that they would accept less services in exchange for les taxes, but the problem seems to be in the particulars (i.e. what service exactly are they willing to part with). Normally they name a trivial service or 2 that is of no obvious use to them.

      My evidence includes: the rejection of Bush’s attempt to change social security, the negative public reaction to Gingrich’s shutting down of government in 95 (which boosted Cinton’s re-election prospects,) the farm/food bill that just passed both houses with overwhelming support from Rs and Ds, and the survey summary below:
      https://pewresearch.org/pubs/434/trends-in-political-values-and-core-attitudes-1987-2007

      A good summary of surveys on government environmental protection is at:
      https://www.pollingreport.com/enviro.htm

      Which public services do you think a majority of people really want to give up or allow to be completely privatized? Sewage treatment? Clean water? Roads and highways? Public parks (from Washington Park to the Grand Canyon)? Public beaches in Oregon? Health care and income support for geezers? Pollution control? The regulation of the money supply by the Federal Reserve? Bank deposit insurance? Building codes and inspections? Public schools? Librairies?

      I agree with you that some or even much of the money we spend for these services may not be used with peak efficiency (to be kind). But most is spent on salaries or contracts for people who deliver the services, or in the case of SSI, it is simply sent directly to the people (out of my pocket and into theirs with minimal overhead).

      Maybe you are right. Maybe people really do want the sort of true, small government conservatism that you describe. But after the experience of 28 years of mostly “conservative” federal government, I don’t think so. Modern society has too may complications for rugged individualism to re-establish itself.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        >I did not say people wanted “more services AND higher taxes.” I said they want the services, but they don’t want to pay for them.

        Quite true, this is the essential aspect of human nature, everyone is conservative in the field of their own endevour. One might like the idea of handing out money to everyone who is down on their luck, or public libraries, etc. But no one would ever willingly pay for them, to the extent we do with government, out of their own pocket given the choice. Those who pay people who mow their lawn, work on their house, or who bag their groceries according to the Davis Bacon wage act are, of course, excepted from this statement.

        The basic issue we have now is two fold:

        One, our tax system is so skewed that we have created a situation where, for the large part, most people don’t pay very much in taxes. Government largess is paid for by the few, for the many so why not demand more? In this aspect of class warfare, the left has been truly successful. Pitting one against the other has paid off in spades, at least as far as the tax code is concerned.

        Two, intergenerational theft is now seen as a right. Entitlements are bankrupting us. Bush tried to do something about it with SS, the Democrats sought to score political points. Great! Anyone with kids in school right now, myself included, has to look at them and come close to crying. I know I do. My kids come back from school constantly worried about global warming. Its absolutely criminal that global warming, which is uncertain, is a greater concern to them that a projected tax rate of 80% ( 100% being the definition of slavery ) which is 100% certain.

        The solution –

        One, Eliminate withholding taxes. If people had to pay quarterly and were aware of what they were paying for these “services” government would be cut back by an order of magnitude.

        Two, Means test SS and Medicare. The elderly now represent the richest demographic by age. Why some kid working at McDonalds should be paying granny’s putting green fees is beyond me.

        >But after the experience of 28 years of mostly “conservative” federal government, I don’t think so.

        You’re kidding right? I cant really name a conservative president other than Regan in the past 28 years. Why is the base mad at Bush? Overspending, not clinging to conservative issues. Why does the base hate McCain? He’s a moderate. Why did Bush 1 lose? Read my lips, no new taxes. I have no idea how old you are, but if you were of voting age under Regan’s term, this statement is a little inexcusable.

        >Modern society has too may complications for rugged individualism to re-establish itself.

        I can think of some, but not very many complications to that rugged individualism that aren’t in fact government itself! You might want to try asking a business owner about this sort of thing, because this is pure poppycock.

        • dean

          Rupert…a few points you either overlooked or skewed.

          First, its not true that most people (working people) don’t pay very much in taxes. The payroll and medicaid taxes are essentially regressive. Those making les than $100K a year pay a higher percent of their incomes than those who make more than $100K. Sales taxes, which nearly every state has, also hit the poor and middle classes at a higher percent of their incomes than the upper mid-rich, who can save more.

          The top income tax bracket was reduced from 70% to 28% by Reagan, and has only nudged up slightly from there over the years. Income tax is still progressive, but much less so than it once was. Capital gains taxes have also been cut significantly from where they once were. Income gains on the other hand, have nearly all been at the upper 1% level for the past 7 years. Middle class incomes are flat or declining. And when the price of gas and food go up…who pays a higher % of their incomes? You guessed it.

          Sorry for your kids worries, but the projection of an 80% tax rate for social security, if that is what you are talking about, is nonsense. No serious economist thinks this will be necesary or will ever happen. Small adjustments in retirement age, benefit levels, and raising the cap on the upper end would keep the system solvent for many years, assuming modest growth in productivity continues.

          On global warming…can’t you just convince them that the entire science world is just full of bunk? Just kidding.

          As for spending, interest payments on the debt run up by Republican presidents since Reagan are now nearly as high of an annual expense as our defense budget. So calling for further cutting of taxes seems a bit irresponsible. You won’t balance the budget on the NEA or National Park maintenance.

          And sorry…the claim that Bush is not really a conservative? Its a bit late for that since he staked his career on it. And all those Republicans in Congress who claimed conservatism as their flag, then fed at the trough? Too late for them as well. They can’t even hold seats in northern Mississippi these days.

          Conservatism has been tried and it did inded fail because it overreached and under-delivered. A revamped liberalism will now get its turn, and when it fails in 5, 10, or 20 years (not if) a revamped conservatism will get another bite at the apple. Its just a big a merry go round, with no particular destination.

          • NotYourDaddy

            Dean wrote “Those making les than $100K a year pay a higher percent of their incomes than those who make more than $100K.”

            This is not correct. The top 20% of earners paid 86.7% of the total taxes collected, with the top 10% shouldering 72.7% of the total tax burden for everybody.
            https://notyourdaddy.wordpress.com/2008/02/21/eating-the-rich

            Dean wrote “And sorry…the claim that Bush is not really a conservative? Its a bit late for that since he staked his career on it. And all those Republicans in Congress who claimed conservatism as their flag, then fed at the trough? Too late for them as well.”

            Just because a politician claims to be a conservative doesn’t mean he is one. What distinguishes a conservative is the principles he upholds and, if he’s an elected official, his voting record. These psuedo-conservatives have made true conservatives lose faith in the Republican Party, and they’re abandoning it in unprecedented numbers. But that doesn’t mean conservatism is dead. It means that conservatives are disgusted that psuedo-conservatives have taken over the Republican Party. It’s time for the true conservatives to take it back.

            Dean wrote “Conservatism has been tried and it did inded fail because it overreached and under-delivered.”

            Unfortunately, it has not been tried. Not in many years. The Republican Part is at fault, and it’s now paying the price for letting down its core constituency. But maybe it will get the message now. I hope it doesn’t take turning over the government to the left for 4-8 years for that message to hit home. After all, the current Democratic Congress has the lowest satisfaction rating of any Congress in history — lower even than the satisfaction rating with President Bush. So, as disatisfied as the nation is with psuedo-conservative RINOs, it is even more dissatisfied with liberal Democrats.

            Dean wrote “A revamped liberalism will now get its turn, and when it fails in 5, 10, or 20 years (not if) a revamped conservatism will get another bite at the apple.”

            Let’s hope it doesn’t take that long for America to come to its senses.

          • dean

            NYD…I was being specific to social security and medicare taxes in my post. People who make less than $100K do indeed pay a higher proportion of their incomes in these taxes than do those making more. Your figures I believe refer only to the federal income tax. And if one considers all taxes, the proportions shift downward.

            Conservatism failed to deliver on the promises made. It did not eliminate or significantly reduce the welfare state. It did not result in increased growth rates (GDP growth was higher and more sustained under Clinton than under Reagan or either Bush). Conservative foreign policy beligerance also failed badly in Iraq. Conservatism failed to come to grips with serious environmental and energy issues that are now biting hard. And conservate tax cutting during a time of war led to runnaway deficits.

            Saying that true conservatism was not tried is denial. Its like when socialists said true socialism had not been tried in the Soviet Union or Mao’s China, thus explaining away those failures.

            A tenet of conservatism is taking responsibility for one’s actions. Yet it seems your movement is unwilling to take any responsibility for what it has produced, or failed to produce. You are simply placing the blame on others rather than looking inward.

  • Anonymous

    “From the outside looking in, it seems to me that your “true conservatism” went off the rails when “movement conservatism” took over. Attempting to repeal the entire New Deal is a radical, not a “conservative” (Burkian) agenda.”

    Well of course. In dean’s world, where all parameters are defined by “deanian” facts and logic, he’s always right, reasonable and caring.

    Back here in the real world, we recognize that the derailment occurred when dean’s ilk saw their opportunity to pervert public discontent to the creation of the welfare state and its concomitant bureaucracies. These Goebbels adherents, whose amorality frees them to prey on the poor and disadvantaged to further their own agendas, are worse than evil.

    It’s the facility with which they use people that distinguishes them from those who believe in self-reliance and limited government. The fiction that “we’re from the government and we’re here to help” has, sadly, become something other than comedic.

    Tragically, it’s become more and more accepted by the many groups on whom the great lie has been perpetrated.

    If the goal of increasing that dependent class to the point of majority is achieved, there will be a reckoning. Fortunately, there are still many in this country who understand the peril – not least among them recent *legal* immigrants and their families. The lie, told to too many at once, will provide its own undoing.

    • dean

      The “real world?” As experienced from under your rock? “Goebbels adherents?” Whatever.

      The real world you inhabit could make good use of some prozac.