Libertarians make voices heard
By Beth Cody, Writers’ Group member
Iowa City Press-Citizen
Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Last month, my husband and I attended the Iowa Republican Convention in Des Moines.

As a “Ron Paul Republican”, I have voted for Republican candidates in the past, but I’ve never been excited enough to attend a convention before. This year, there was a concerted effort by libertarians to attend the convention, to try to influence the direction the party is taking.

Even though Ron Paul has formally finished his run for President, he has started an organization, “Campaign for Liberty”, that is trying to assist libertarian Republican candidates and bring back the traditional Republican ideas of small government and freedom to the Republican Party. Those ideas were clearly evident at the Convention.

The night before the Convention, the five districts met to elect delegates to send to the national convention in September. Apparently, our 2nd District was the most contentious with the most candidates (many of them libertarians) running for the positions that anyone could remember, and it ended up running late into the night.

Saturday’s Convention started way too early, was filled with more voting and speeches, and ended with the all-important platform debate. The platform is the substance of what we want our party to stand for, and it was clear that the Platform Committee had worked very hard to come up with a platform that represents the Republican ideal. I was pleasantly surprised by how much it emphasized limited government, individual rights and free markets.

One of the highlights of the Convention was Mike Huckabee’s appearance. The former presidential-hopeful was supporting John McCain’s candidacy, but clearly left himself room for a future bid. Amazingly, I actually agreed with most of what he said. Although he did go for the pro-life and pro-marriage applause lines, he dwelled longest on the issues of small government, individuals solving problems, and the Constitution.

In fact, throughout the weekend I especially noted the amount of lip service paid to “the Constitution” and the prominence of the words “freedom” and “liberty”. I credit much of this to Ron Paul’s popularity, and hope that it is the beginning of a resurgence, not merely the tail end of a trend.

But as a trend it would be a good one, among the many not-so-good ones. In recent years, Republicans have had an unfortunate tendency to focus on issues that divide us, not unite us.

The abortion issue aside, many oft-discussed issues are really just peripheral to genuine Republicanism: For instance, Republicans seem to like to work themselves into a lather over non-“one man, one woman” marriages, although it’s still not clear to me how their marriages could lessen my marriage.

And trying to keep out immigrants seems almost un-American, given our common history as hardworking newcomers. Flag burning and English-only laws are also unnecessary distractions.

But modern Republicans’ greatest folly seems to be their failure to understand that war nearly always decreases the liberty of Americans, instead of defending it, as intended. Defense of our borders is crucial, but policing the world falls outside that mandate, and costs us more than we realize.

These issues should all take a back seat to the core Republican principle of small government. Low taxes, less spending, and fewer regulations to control Americans (including gun control) – these are ideas that appeal to all Republicans, and also to millions of Americans not currently affiliated with the party.

But the Iowa GOP Platform notwithstanding, Republicans instead seem content with pursuing pork, trying to get in on corrupt K Street schemes, and imitating Democrats as “compassionate conservatives” (what’s so compassionate about burdening taxpayers and our children to expand government bureaucracies and entitlements?).

They have turned their backs on the principle that made America great: Freedom. Freedom from onerous government, from unending international entanglements, from the economic stranglehold of entrenched special interests.

The corruption will not go unnoticed at the polls – I still haven’t decided who I will vote for in November. Even though Obamanomics socialism makes my blood run cold, I’m not convinced that McCain doesn’t merely favor another flavor of big government. Will voting for Libertarian candidate Bob Barr adequately convey my outrage at Republicans who spend like Democrats? Or is the lesser of two evils the better choice?

We’ll see.