Matt Collins has written a defense of his refusal to shake Congressman Zach Wamp’s hand, which I blogged about the other day. It’s more a response to A.C. Kleinheider than to me, but there are still a few points worth making.
Libertarians and serious small-government conservatives face a dilemma: The Libertarian Party and the Constitution Party are both principled (despite some differences in their principles) but almost entirely ineffective at getting candidates elected and policies implemented. The Republican Party is much more effective at getting candidates elected and policies put in place, but is frequently unprincipled. The end result is a failure to shrink the federal government. Ron Paul Republicans are trying to break this cycle — to both be more principled than the standard-issue GOP while being more effective than the Libertarians and Constitutionalists.
If a strategy of working within the Republican Party is to be successful, it will require two things: 1.) taking over where possible, by electing like-minded folks such as Matt Collins to political offices and party leadership positions and 2.) working with the other members of the party where taking over is not possible, trying to bring your fellow Republicans closer to your point of view. Refusing to extend common courtesy to Republicans you disagree with makes #2 very difficult and may ultimately complicate #1.
Take a look at Ron Paul’s audit the Fed bill. It has 271 cosponsors in the House. Those cosponsors include Republicans like Wamp who voted for the bailout. It includes Democrats who are basically socialists. The bill’s leading champion in the Senate is Jim DeMint, who voted for the Iraq war while he was in the House. Some of these supporters are sincere converts. Some have long been good economic conservatives. Some are political opportunists. Very few of them are consistent constitutionalists.
Should we shun these legislators or should we pass the bill?
The Campaign for Liberty is a fine organization doing important work. I’m a contributing editor to the magazine published by Young Americans for Liberty. I’m obviously sympathetic to what the Ron Paul Republicans are trying to do. But for all the excitement that surrounded Ron Paul, we still ended up with a choice of John McCain versus Barack Obama in the presidential election. We still live in a country where most of what the federal government does is unconstitutional and completely alien to the Founding Fathers. If a president who tried to follow the Constitution actually got elected, millions of Americans would want him impeached!
Changing all that will require persuading large numbers of people, not comparing them to home invaders. Being co-opted by an establishment hungry for the money Ron Paul raised is something to guard against. I’m again reminded of the Ron Paul Republicans who worked hard to get delegate slots at the national convention only to vote for John McCain when they got there. But self-marginalization is also something to guard against, and a constant temptation among true believers.
Hey, it’s a (somewhat) free country. Matt Collins doesn’t have to shake the hand of anyone he doesn’t want to. But shunning is a better tool for reinforcing existing norms than changing them.