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Catching Up: CPAC Edition

Feb
25
2005

For the past week, there’s been a really interesting debate going on between Ryan Sager, the folks at the National Review and some of the bloggers from CPAC about the intersection of the libertarian and conservative movements.
Sager filed a long and interesting column up at Tech Central Station saying, in essence, that the far right has abandoned its roots as a small-government-loving, non-interfering entity. “Make absolutely no mistake about it: This party, among its most hard-core supporters, is not about freedom anymore. It is about foisting its members’ version of morality and economic intervention on the country. It is, in other words, the mirror image of its hated enemy.”


Now this observation isn’t new but it is at the very heart of the political thinking of that group I call Progressive libertarians. “Are those Lefties with money?” Erick Erickson asked. The answer: Yeah. That’s exactly what they are. Except they’re not hippies. They’re business guys.
Now, in some cases, the thinking of these non-partisans borders on the dismissive toward those who don’t agree with either their somewhat self-serving agendas or with their adamant bi-partisanship. But they really are tired of the rhetoric from the left and from the right and they are looking for new ways to do things. I am not sure which party will end up claiming this group. In California, where it’s easiest to spot them among the self-made movie stars, the self-made small business guys and the self-made tech millionaires, their political leadership crosses party lines. Which, they’d happily tell you, is the point. For now, many like Sager, are registered Democrats. But they’re up for grabs as the reaction – and a surprising strong one at that – has filtered in to Sager’s column indicates. Conservatives from The National Review and Andrew Sullivan have commented. And their comments – and some of the resistance to his criticism – illuminates, in a very interesting way, Sager’s main points.
My take on CPAC was a bit different. Conservatives are, to my mind, as stuck in the “way-back” machine as their liberal counterparts on the hard left. Hippies look back to the 1960′s when Liberals wore their moral virtue lightly in the Civil Rights and anti-war movements. Conservatives see the anti-communist 1950′s and Ronald Reagan’s White House tenure in a similarly triumphant light. The crowd of young white kids that gathered in Washington for CPAC isn’t entering either of those worlds as much as their parents and teachers would like them to be doing. And they aren’t being very well prepared for the political decisions and realities they’re going to face in a nation where they soon will be – ethnically, perhaps socially and certainly economically – a minority. Progressive libertarians with their belief in the triumph of brains over brawn, their emphasis on self-reliance (economic and otherwise) along with their tolerance for a wide range of social practices are, in some respects, more prepared for a chaotic and unsure future. It’s an interesting bridge they provide but, as Sager’s demonstrating it’s one that’s getting rather soundly rejected.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 10:16 AM | Permalink

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