Graphics and Opinion by Wil Levins
In my May 8th, 2012 Op-Ed: A Day of Reckoning for the GOP, I highlighted the threat posed by the GOP to its own future by ignoring the Liberty Movement spearheaded by Congressman Ron Paul and carried forward by Libertarian Party Presidential Nominee, Governor Gary Johnson.
In my piece I wrote: "With (Ron) Paul out of the General Election picture, and not running on a third party ticket to protect his son Rand's future in the Party, Gary Johnson will stand to gain millions of liberty-minded voters to his campaign. This will take many (if not all) pro-liberty Republicans and numerous Independents away from Romney, and undoubtedly, hand President Obama a reelection victory."
In explaining why I believe this chain of events is a long-term positive for the GOP, I wrote: "The debate about the importance of the Liberty movement within the Republican Party would come to the forefront of the intra-party conversation, as the GOP's future success will depend in significant part on the support of a growing number of liberty-minded voters. A loss in this election cycle will force Party leaders to reexamine the GOP's future and come to a reckoning with the Liberty movement. They will do so because Ron Paul's mission has everything the GOP needs to succeed in the years to come and Party leaders have begrudgingly begun to realize his messages' value in gaining young enthusiastic supporters, reasoned principles that attract Independent voters, creative grassroots activists, and a large internet presence."
The graphic I created above also briefly depicts what I think will happen in the weeks and months following Romney's election loss. A number of GOP establishment wonks will blame libertarians for snatching victory from Governor Romney's campaign by splitting some of his vote with Gary Johnson. Libertarians will also be blamed, by those same wonks, for allowing President Obama to proceed with his "socialist agenda."
A number in the GOP will hold onto this excuse, like blaming a referee for a loss in a close game, while completely disregarding the fact that if Romney had been a stronger candidate - with inviting ideas and initiatives other than not being Obama - he would have won hands-down against a sitting President who holds a dismal economic recovery record and an over 8% unemployment rate (not to mention Obamacare). They will turn a blind eye to the fact that Romney's flip-flopping, lack of steadfast principles and tepid convictions are what turned many voters away from his campaign (aside from insulting 47% of Americans).
But the smart members of the Republican Party - the truly shrewd, perceptive, and far-thinking political chess players - will see how the liberty movement has broad appeal to young people (those who will be asked to support the Party in the future), disenfranchised Democrats and Independent voters. Libertarian principles, being centered around the concept of Fiscally Responsible and Socially Accepting, fit the self-characterization of an overwhelming number of Americans - not to mention minorities that don't see a place for themselves inside the current GOP.
Those in the GOP with true foresight will see the benefits of incorporating the libertarian principles of protecting individual rights, civil liberties, private property, a strong currency, peace, and personal freedom as a way to access the support of more voters. They will also learn to stray away from the morally and politically hypocritical zealots who are driving the Party farther and farther to the Right-Wing fanaticism that has so damaged the Party's fortunes over this past decade.
If this happens as I believe it will, than the words of Woodrow Wilson (strange, I know, that I would cite a central planning - statist progressive here) will ring true: "I would rather lose in a cause that will someday win than win in a cause that will someday lose." The GOP will recover from the loss, be much stronger in 2016, and advance with the ability to put more sought after swing voters back into play.
So what if I am wrong in my prediction? What if Romney squeaks out a win and somehow gets to 270 electoral votes to be our next President? Well, aside from thanking his Mormon Prophet for a whopper of a miracle, I would think if he wants to remain in the Presidency longer than George H.W. Bush he will need to make serious strides to draw libertarians and the supporters of the liberty movement toward his causes.
If anything, Mitt Romney is like a chameleon - in the sense that he adapts to his political environment to survive. He will not be foolish enough to expect a electoral miracle twice (twofer miracles were all used up on George W. Bush) and will look for energetic and motivated activists to gather around him in solidifying a broader range of support.
In order to get anything past a fiercely divided Congress, Romney will need the support of those in the House and the Senate (like Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Justin Amash to name a few) who can appeal to fiscally conservative and socially liberal members in both Parties and in both chambers.
Either way, I think the liberty movement that Ron Paul started - and Gary Johnson is continuing - has gained enough inertia that it will continue growing stronger as it finds youth, reason and time on its side. If the GOP has not learned any lessons from this past Primary fight, if it hasn't seen the potential in the liberty movement, if it hasn't seen opportunities to strengthen the Party for decades to come, than they are truly foolish and condemned to be a Party of lessening significance.