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Unite the right
By A. C. Kleinheider
After many elections, those on the Right probably feel much like Al Pacino in Scarface when he proclaimed, "Is this it? Is this what it's all about, Manny? Is this what I work for?" Despite the preponderance of conservative activists, organizations and political parties it seems that few substantive political victories are achieved and even less are maintained. The dilemma for the Right is that the truly energized folks are far too spread out.
WorldNetDaily's Tom Ambrose recently left the Republican Party in favor of Howard Phillips' Constitution Party. Finding himself in a small marginalized Party he wrote an article suggesting that the Libertarian Party merge with the Constitution Party. I would take it much further than that.
In this last Presidential election, I, as a constitutionalist conservative, could have conceivably voted for no less than four Presidential candidates. I could have voted for Harry Browne (Libertarian), Pat Buchanan (Reform), Howard Phillips, or I could have cast a "lesser-of-two-evils-type" vote for our current President, George W. Bush. In addition to the three national right-wing third parties there are no fewer than two Southern (or secessionist) parties with at least three state parties affiliated with neither national organization. The accumulated Presidential vote of right-wing third parties in the last election was in the neighborhood of one million votes, or 1 percent of the vote. Granted, it is a small portion overall but we have to realize that individuals who go out and vote for ideological third parties are highly engaged in the process. These are activists. The casual voter seldom pulls the level for a third party unless it is a "phenomenon" candidate like Ross Perot or Jesse Ventura.
If these one million activists were engaged in a project together (along with Republican right-wingers like supporters of Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer, and Steve Forbes) maybe something could get accomplished. Many will say that this would never work because these right-wingers are so different. There are profound differences, yes, but no more so than within any other political party. To achieve results the Right needs not only to ban together but it also must be open to different coalitions. The Republican elite, that somehow manages to water down conservatism in the Republican Party until it is no longer recognizable, has clearly worn out its usefulness and should be viewed with suspicion. What the Right needs is a firm, principled and cohesive "Freedom Coalition". This coalition may work for gains in the Republican Party or it may form a Third Party but it has to stay focused, independent, and firmly planted in the grassroots.
Those on the Right who have either given up on the Republican Party (or are very frustrated with it) have more in common than they realize. Every "outside-of-the-box" thinking conservative these days believes in an anti-interventionist foreign policy and a drastically decentralized federal government. Most have grave concerns about globalism and the decline of our nation's sovereignty. Libertarians want to end the drug war while the Constitution/Reform folks want to reduce immigration. Issues such as these do highlight the differences between the factions. However, if the main goal -- bringing down the Permanent Regime in Washington -- is kept in mind certainly room can be made for accommodation. Immigration Reform is not incompatible with libertarianism especially when it comes to illegal immigration. Certainly the Constitution/Reform Party folks can recognize (while retaining their belief that drugs should be outlawed) that the way the military-industrial complex carries out the Drug War insults the Bill of Rights. Who knows, maybe the Constitution/Reform folks might even be convinced to decriminalize marijuana. After all, how many drug laws could there have been at the Founding of our country? What could possibly spark a rebirth of Jeffersonian Agrarianism like the legalization of hemp?
Just because the Republican Party might be bought out and unprincipled doesn't mean the Right needs to do a 180 degree flip and abandon pragmatism altogether. The problem with third parties of the Right is that they are entirely too parochial. Educating the public about an ideology is what magazines and think tanks are for -- not political parties. If those on the Right mean to have true political influence they need to be "pragmatically principled" because to unseat a powerful entrenched elite you need a coalition. Narrow ideological parties are never going to make much difference but a principled coalition party might.
While pragmatism is needed, the Right still needs to embrace its principles. "Modern Conservatism" (especially its third party splinters) always seems to come from the top-down. A "charismatic" figure steps up and says he will run for President and then the organizing in the "hinterlands" begins. This is "bass ackwards" as my old math teacher would say. Not only does this top-down process not work, it is contrary to the decentralist principles in which the Right believes. The Right preaches the devolution of power in government yet it fails to practice it in the organization of its own political parties.
In a perfect world, there should be one "Freedom Party" in each state organizing and running candidates at all levels with little to no connection to a national organization. These parties would be truly organic entities serving the interests of each state independent of outside influence. Then when the next "charismatic" national figure emerges there will be a network and a power base in place to fight the entrenched power that will emerge against that leader. Additionally, the fact that this leader would have to go around and woo each of these parties separately would make him a more authentic leader than those who seem only to be interested in selling a personality, an ideology or raising cash money.
The two party system is entrenched and established so until the Right can erect an effective and independent third party in each state there is no point in wasting resources in narrow ideological third party efforts. If you want to meet like-minded people join a social club. If you want to educate people on liberty or the Constitution join the NRA or the Ludwig Von Mises Institute. Political parties are for engaging in Realpolitick.
I am not suggesting that the Right adopt crass pragmatism and sell out its principles. That sort of thing is already quite commonplace in the Republican Party and "mainstream conservative" circles. "Conservative" has become synonymous with Republican. It is not. The Right can work within the Republican Party but only when the Party works towards its goals. When Republicans fail one localized grassroots alternative needs to be in position in order to exert influence in the process. Political parties are secondary -- a means to an end. They are umbrellas where coalitions are housed in order to affect the political realm.
The Right needs to remember what its principles are and what it is trying to achieve. The Right needs to be principled enough to stand for freedom but free enough in its principles to see the strength of coalitional pragmatism. The Right can be watered down in two ways -- if it is weak and acquiescent in the Republican Party or if it cordons itself off in a parochial ideological Siberia. Presently, the Right is doing both these things. It must strive to do neither.
A.C. Kleinheider writes from Nashville, Tennessee.
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