There were two lively panels at CPAC today, meaning two panels that actually featured people with opposing views who aired their differences (in a civil manner, I might add). One involved the tension between national security and privacy. The other, much more relevant to the life issues, was about whether social conservatives and libertarians can ever get along. The discussion among the four men on that panel included reaction to the suggestion that lightening up on the social issues is the only way to make the GOP appeal to the rising generation. (The young people in the audience were by no means united in their responses to that.)
This topic interests me, because some of my closest political allies on the state level as far as life and marriage issues are concerned identify themselves as libertarians or “liberty Republicans.” We get along fine. Then again, a few fierce opponents of policies I favor are libertarian. Experience tells me that the answer to the can-we-get-along question is “sometimes.”
Michael Medved, author and political commentator, was the panelist whose ideas leaned most toward a natural synthesis of SoCon/libertarian. “Easing up on social issues is not an issue, because we both have a bigger problem: Big Government. What works, what we’ve seen work, is libertarian means and conservative goals.”
The example Medved cited was the right to life. In the past few years, many state-level laws regulating abortion have passed, and there has been a corresponding drop in the abortion rate, which is something prolife Americans have been working towards. The changes came at the state level, not federal. They came by legislative action – the branch closest to the people – not by judicial fiat, which has been seen far too often in state decisions on marriage. The changes in laws, Medved believes, reflect the gradual shift in public opinion that has come from local-level example and persuasion over the long term. Libertarian means, conservative goals.
I think he’s on to something. It’s not a complete treatment of the SoCon/libertarian tension, and it doesn’t address the fact that viewing the right to life as a local option makes it not a “right” at all. There’s no denying, though, that persuasion and state-level action have brought progress towards recognition of the right to life, while undermining the ’70s-era philosophy that pitted mothers against their preborn children.
And since neither SoCons nor libertarians are going away, insights like Medved’s are valuable.