Archive for the ‘Thomas Massie’ Category

The Fight For Liberty Will Always Transcend Presidential Politics

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Originally published at Every Joe

I’ll admit it. I kind of lost it when Donald Trump won New Hampshire this week. I know, the polls showed it was a long time coming. But after Ted Cruz took him out in Iowa, I thought there was at least a chance that someone could repeat the performance and bruise the alleged tough guy’s ego enough to induce Trumper Tantrum part two. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Trump won New Hampshire with 35% of the vote; more than double second-place finisher John Kasich.

This presidential cycle, I’ve written extensively about how anti-establishment instincts are not inherently pro-liberty. If anything proves that from a data standpoint, it’s the fact that Trump won the New Hampshire towns where Ron Paul performed the best in 2012. Sanders also did well in those areas on the Democratic side. Of course, we don’t know how well Rand Paul would have done if he’d stayed in for New Hampshire. But polls showed him hovering around just 4% in the weeks leading up to the race. Dropping out to focus on his Senate race made sense at that point.

Simply put, it’s just not a good year for liberty on the presidential side. But what I needed to remember while I was busy seeing red on Tuesday is how much progress we have made. When Rand Paul dropped out after Iowa, the first thing I did was pen an optimistic piece about how much the liberty movement has accomplished in the past decade, and why there’s so much more to work toward. And as I raged on Facebook post-primary about how I feared my work had helped, even if slightly, to pave the way for the Trump juggernaut, I got a nice reminder that reinforced my typically optimistic outlook.

“Corie, I have about 40 colleagues in the House Freedom Caucus who agree with my principles and positions to a degree I never would have imagined just a few years ago,” wrote Congressman Justin Amash on my status. (How cool is social media, by the way?) “I’ve run openly as a libertarian Republican (without using Ron Paul’s more paleoconservative rhetoric that appeals to Trump voters), have been challenged aggressively, and consistently win by large margins,” he added. (True story; a Chamber of Commerce backed, self-funded challenger tried to take Rep. Amash out in a primary two years ago and failed miserably.) “Things are moving in our direction in the background, even as things get worse in the foreground,” he concluded.

The truth is, Rep. Amash is absolutely right. Congress is in a much better position to fight for reform than it has been in quite some time. And I’ve long expressed my belief that the fight for liberty is largely a generational one. I continue to believe that despite temporary setbacks amid the normal ebb and flow of politics. The vast majority of young Republicans tend to lean libertarian, and there are pro-freedom instincts present among Millennials – it just takes the right messengers to tap into. Some look at the support Bernie Sanders commands from young people and conclude that there’s no hope. He’s a socialist, after all! But it’s a lot more complicated than a cursory look reveals.

As Bonnie Kristian wrote at Rare this week analyzing a Nate Silver piece on Bernie Sanders’ youth support, “Silver argues, Sanders’ success—and Ron Paul’s success among the same Millennial generation—is about how ‘younger Americans view political labels like ‘socialist’ and ‘libertarian’ differently than older ones.’” As Kristian noted however, the data Silver presents shows that Millennials don’t actually like socialist economic policies. As she explained, “In other words, young people continue to be a little bit more left-wing than average, but they drift right with age. What else is new?” And as Kristian noted per Silver’s data, Americans under 30 actually have a more positive view of libertarianism than socialism.

Ultimately, I agree with Kristian’s take here: “Millennials like me have grown into adulthood with an awful economy and constant war. Each new newsday seems to bring yet another report of some secret, dastardly way the government is violating our liberties and trampling the rule of law,” she writes. “Of course, Paul and Sanders aren’t saying all the same stuff, but they are both saying that revolutionary change is long overdue. That’s incredibly appealing to the most politically independent generation ever.”

As Kristian adds, “[T]he good news is that libertarianism could well win out: Even with favorable feelings toward ‘socialism,’ Millennials are comparatively conservative with our money, ready for a more responsible foreign policy, and disinterested in running other people’s lives. That said, there’s certainly work to be done to provide Millennials the economic education they need to match their excellent pro-liberty instinctswith specific pro-liberty policies. But economic education is hardly an insurmountable hurdle—and honestly, simply growing older and taking on more financial responsibilities can accomplish a lot in that regard. In short, Millennials’ political independence is no cause for dismay for anyone except the moribund political establishment we’re no longer willing to support.”

This is all a good reminder that there is a lot to be optimistic about. It’s true that nothing is foolproof and that there are authoritarian strains in our politics to be worried about. But there’s strong evidence that people are fed up with the status quo, and want something different. It’s up to libertarians to explain why our ideas are the best suited to fill the gap caused by a lack of trust in political elites. And we no doubt have a long and arduous road ahead. But as Matt Kibbe, the former president of FreedomWorks and head of a Rand Paul Super PAC recently wrote, “Rand Paul is out – but libertarianism is finally mainstream.”

Said Kibbe: “Rand has seeded another generation of liberty-minded young people, much like his father did in 2008 and 2012. When I was a kid, there was no broad social movement for liberty like we see today. Rand juiced the build-out of this community simply by being on the presidential stage, by offering a compelling alternative to the establishment’s failed foreign policies, and by speaking about civil liberties and the failures of mass incarceration to new audiences that few Republicans have been willing to engage with.”

There’s much to continue working for. As Kibbe said, “Politics is a lagging indicator of social change, and the measure of a social movement is better taken upstream from voter turnout.” As libertarians, I believe we should continue to tap into the dissatisfaction people very clearly and justifiably feel. Now is the time to continue making the case that our ideas are viable. We’ve made incredible progress in a relatively short period of time. Instead of giving up, we should double down and push harder. Libertarian Republicans may have lost the presidential battle this year, but the war no doubt rages on. And the truth is, the liberty movement has more ground troops now than at any point in modern history. As Rep. Amash suggested, I’ll keep fighting.

RLC member who switched from Paul to Cruz: “I’m in no position to endorse anybody”

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

The Republican Liberty Caucus (RLC), which was founded in 1991, has long promoted libertarian ideals within the GOP. In both 2008 and 2012, the group endorsed Ron Paul for president and has supported liberty Republicans such as Congressmen Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.).

The RLC endorsed Ted Cruz for U.S. Senate in 2012, just as they had Rand Paul in 2010. Both Ron and Rand Paul endorsed and campaigned for Cruz in 2010.

Now that both Paul and Cruz are running for president, some RLC members are split between the two candidates. In the group’s straw poll at their national convention in October, Paul edged out Cruz.

“The RLC membership is diverse and while most of us support Rand Paul, Ted Cruz has his supporters too,” said RLC Vice Chair Dave Nalle. “For most of us, Cruz would be an acceptable second choice if Paul were to drop out,” he added.

One RLC national board member however, says that although he sees the two candidates as equally acceptable, he holds a different view of what it takes to win.

Steve Hoffman, who made news recently for an apparent defection from Paul’s camp to Cruz’s, describes himself as a longtime Ron Paul supporter who simply thinks Cruz’s campaign is more effective.

“In today’s political environment, it’s extremely important that a liberty movement candidate be the Republican nominee for president,” said Hoffman, explaining that both Paul and Cruz fit that bill. But Hoffman believes Cruz is likelier to win, especially in his home state of South Carolina.

Doug Stafford, a senior advisor to Rand Paul’s presidential campaign, disputed the claim that Cruz has a better shot, saying, “we are organized heavily in all of the early states.” Stafford also made it clear that he does not believe there are two liberty candidates in the race, explaining his view that Rand Paul has the overwhelming support of those who are truly concerned with liberty.

“Rand Paul was candidate who led the fight to expire the Patriot Act while Ted Cruz voted to renew it,” said Stafford. “Rand Paul fought to end unconstitutional ban on bulk collection, while Ted Cruz bragged about increasing the amount of spying we do on stage in the last debate,” he added.

Hoffman, though he is currently working as a paid canvasser for Keep the Promise, a Cruz supporting political action committee, insists that he hasn’t formally endorsed Cruz.

“I’m in no position to endorse anybody,” said Hoffman, noting that he doesn’t want people to confuse his official capacity on the RLC’s board with his choice to work for a Cruz PAC.

“It would be inappropriate for me to come out and say I endorse so-and-so,” explained Hoffman. “The RLC goes through a well-established, documented process before we endorse anybody.” Presently, RLC board members are walking through that process and are expected to make their formal presidential endorsement this month, prior to the February 1st Iowa caucus.

As RLC members discuss their endorsement, it’s Nalle’s view that both Paul and Cruz are much better on core liberty issues such as adherence to the Constitution and government accountability when compared to all other candidates in the Republican field.

“I see Paul as the gold standard and Cruz as silver, but the rest are zinc or tin,” said Nalle.

Reason: Being Libertarian vs. Being Anti-Establishment: The Crucial Difference

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

Nick Gillespie at Reason picked up my recent piece about the differences between being anti-establishment and pro-liberty.

“Here’s an interesting piece from Corie Whalen Stephens, writing at EveryJoe. It’s a meditation on the Tea Party, the Ron Paul Revolution, “libertarian populism,” and the current Trump moment. ‘This Presidential Cycle is a Reminder That Anti-Establishment Doesn’t Mean Pro-Liberty,’ reads the headline. Snippet:

I’ve noticed in the months since this presidential cycle has unfolded that a surprising amount of people from the liberty and tea party networks I’ve built up are sympathetic toward Donald Trump; a man that Ron Paul has in my opinion correctly labeled a ‘dangerous authoritarian.

The tea party movement, which ushered libertarian-leaning politicians like Rand Paul, Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, Raul Labrador, and Mick Mulvaney into the halls of Congress, was in my view a resounding success. It was a political force that I was elated to have been a part of since its inception, and it’s still my belief that these particular men represent the best of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.

What has come as a less than pleasant revelation however, is the fact that a sizable chunk of the group that helped to empower these honorable individuals is not made up of people who are meaningfully pro-liberty. Thanks to Trump-mania, it’s become clear that a contingent of the coalition responsible for these elections was simply ‘anti-establishment,’ in perhaps the most vapid way imaginable.

As Congressman Thomas Massie said recently to a group of young professionals in his district, ‘I’m thinking, wow, the American public really seems to like these libertarian ideas. And then Donald Trump runs and he gets all of their (Rand Paul and Ron Paul) voters, he gets all of my voters. I’m thinking, no, they’re just voting for the craziest guy in the race. It was very sobering for me. I’m that guy.’

I’m confident that Trump the candidate will fade, though there’s every reason to believe that a lot of his attitude and temperament will live on, whether in the candidacy of Ted Cruz or somebody else. The mix of bravado, bluster, and bashing (of immigrants, of foreign powers, of other candidates as “weak,” etc.) is appealing to lots of people, after all.

Where Whalen is understandably disillusioned by her experience, which she notes is in part generational, I’m actually kind of encouraged to see so many different people from different places drawing distinctions between forms of anti-establishment attitudes. The libertarian instinct will ultimately prevail for many reasons, but not least of which is that it’s built not upon fear and anxiety but on appeals to the positive dreams and aspirations of people.”

This Presidential Cycle is a Reminder That Anti-Establishment Doesn’t Mean Pro-Liberty

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Originally posted at Every Joe

Approximately nine years ago, I could often be found standing atop various northbound Massachusetts overpasses, waving a homemade sign at people I hoped were New Hampshire voters. My teenage years had concluded with an almost immediate foray into the world of early grassroots-led Ron Paul Meetup groups, an admittedly odd activity for a 20-year-old girl halfway through her junior year of college.

I had just moved back to my home state of Massachusetts from New York City, new boyfriend who would go on to become my husband in tow, when I heard something that would end up drastically changing the course of my life. I was listening to then talk radio host Jay Severin while driving from Boston to my hometown twenty miles west, when he explained that there was a dark-horse candidate for president, a congressman from Texas.

Jay didn’t very much care for this particular contender, but there was one thing he respected: Ron Paul said that his political platform was the U.S. Constitution. As a history lover and budding libertarian, this piqued my interest. Like many others in early 2007, I eagerly Googled Ron Paul. I was drawn at the time to his ideological consistency, and the fact that he was a thorn in the side of an unsavory Washington establishment.

Disappointed in both political parties, but especially Republicans for the extent to which they grew government under Bush’s watch, I jumped headlong into the Ron Paul movement. I quickly learned the essential activist lesson that politics makes for strange bedfellows, running into some less-than-rational actors in both the Boston Ron Paul Meetup group that I quickly rose to become a co-organizer of, and the New Hampshire groups with which we collaborated closely.

Nevertheless, I looked past many of these differences at the time, and for many years later, because we shared a common cause: limiting government and furthering liberty. Or so I thought. I’ve noticed in the months since this presidential cycle has unfolded that a surprising amount of people from the liberty and tea party networks I’ve built up are sympathetic toward Donald Trump; a man that Ron Paul has in my opinion correctly labeled a “dangerous authoritarian.”

Statistically speaking, it’s true that Trump is popular among independents and moderates while he doesn’t perform as well among committed conservatives. However, there are factors that often resonate more strongly with people than ideology, and one appears to be, among a certain subset of voters, the perception that a candidate is “anti-establishment” and “against Washington,” his actual policy positions, apparently, be damned.

In my relatively few years of activism amid the broader scheme of time, I’ve been tied to the “anti-establishment” crowd, because it just so happened that on the Right in the past decade, this has generally meant support of free markets and an opposition to big government corporatism. I recognize this has not always been so, and that historically speaking, populism is often ugly and void of anything valuable to those interested in liberty.

But in the era of Obama, I was – and still am to a degree, mostly in a generational context – optimistic about the rise of libertarian populism as an answer to the President’s desire for centralization. But there are good reasons to be pessimistic in the near-term.

The tea party movement, which ushered libertarian-leaning politicians like Rand Paul, Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, Raul Labrador, and Mick Mulvaney into the halls of Congress, was in my view a resounding success. It was a political force that I was elated to have been a part of since its inception, and it’s still my belief that these particular men represent the best of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.

What has come as a less than pleasant revelation however, is the fact that a sizable chunk of the group that helped to empower these honorable individuals is not made up of people who are meaningfully pro-liberty. Thanks to Trump-mania, it’s become clear that a contingent of the coalition responsible for these elections was simply “anti-establishment,” in perhaps the most vapid way imaginable.

As Congressman Thomas Massie said recently to a group of young professionals in his district, “I’m thinking, wow, the American public really seems to like these libertarian ideas. And then Donald Trump runs and he gets all of their (Rand Paul and Ron Paul) voters, he gets all of my voters. I’m thinking, no, they’re just voting for the craziest guy in the race. It was very sobering for me. I’m that guy.”

Massie’s realization has hit many liberty activists equally as hard. It’s difficult to quantify anecdotal evidence, particularly via social media, but there’s nonetheless been enough circulating to raise eyebrows. Massie however, had some hard data to share. He cited a poll from October that showed Trump with over 30% of the vote in Kentucky’s fourth district, noting that he apparently has to tread carefully as his supporters are Trump’s voters. At the very least, even if these people don’t ultimately support Trump, they’ve been sympathetic to him; a concerning sign for a libertarian-conservative given Trump’s diametrically opposed views.

But Trump is, in a lot of ways given his bombastic style, seemingly “anti-establishment,” insofar as you define that by his present behavior rather than his record of donating to figures like Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer. To those who were interested in Ron Paul because he poked the establishment in the eye, it’s plausible, as Massie said, that Trump is an equally appealing “middle finger to Washington.” To those who were interested in Ron Paul because he espouses small government positions however, the thought of Trump as president is nothing short of terrifying.

This is the dichotomy I recently brought to light as the moderator of a panel on the tea party movement at the Republican Liberty Caucus’ national convention. I noted that many libertarian-leaning conservatives had for years conflated anti-establishment sentiments with support for free markets. There may have been a convenient intersection of the two that culminated in positive election results during the 2010 and 2012 cycles. But it now seems as though that coalition isn’t an especially enduring one; particularly as many self-described tea partiers or anti-establishment types elevate nativist fear-mongering that leads to economically restrictionist policies closer to what Bernie Sanders supports than anything even remotely described as free market or pro-liberty.

Of course, it shouldn’t come as a particular shock that blind anger at “the establishment” is often rooted in nothing more than frustration absent a substantive aim. What’s disappointing to many of us who have been organizing for liberty within that sphere for the past decade however, is that we perhaps over-estimated the extent to which that anger could be channeled toward what we had reason to believe was an emergent libertarian populism.

Though I have seen similar diatribes throughout my Facebook feed this presidential cycle, it hit me particularly hard this week when I saw a post advocating for Trump from what just months ago would have struck me as an unlikely source: The man who started the Boston Ron Paul Meetup group. In May of 2007, I had walked into a meeting in the basement of a restaurant in Harvard Square organized by him, knowing absolutely nobody and having not the faintest clue as to what I should anticipate.

My subsequent years of activism have yielded much that was unexpected, but nothing has shocked me more than the fact that many people seem to be equally satisfied with libertarianism or authoritarianism – two diametrically opposed ideologies – insofar as they’re both packaged as sufficiently “anti-establishment.” Today, I find myself learning the lessons of history I’ve always known to be true the way we all eventually do; through cold, hard experience. If a dangerous authoritarian like Donald Trump is the anti-establishment answer to a leftist demagogue like Barack Obama, count me out entirely.

This revelation has led to an uncomfortable confrontation with my political worldview that I’m admittedly working through at present. I suppose in some ways, it brings me full-circle: I’m the same constitutionalist I was when I was first seduced by Ron Paul’s elevation of our nation’s government-limiting charter. Mob rule – known in a friendlier context as direct democracy – isn’t an answer; even when it seems for a time that the pitchforks are conveniently aimed at your enemy.

What Do Conservatives Really Want From a New Speaker of the House?

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Originally published at Every Joe

“I think the House is bordering on ungovernable right now,” said Congressman Trey Gowdy this week in an interview with NBC’s Kristen Welker. In the wake of John Boehner’s sudden resignation as Speaker, Gowdy’s assessment has proven to essentially be true. When Boehner, who had been set to pass the torch to Eric Cantor before his stunning primary defeat, stepped down as Speaker last month, many were left wondering if a consensus candidate could possibly unite the increasingly disparate factions of the House GOP.

This remains a shockingly open question given the fact that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who was expected to easily replace Boehner even amid conservative opposition, dramatically withdrew his name from the race – under fire for both the manner in which he was expected to govern and questions about his “moral turpitude.” This has led to a situation under which Boehner has reluctantly agreed to continue as Speaker while party leaders scramble to encourage an acceptable replacement to run.

Most media assessments place the blame for this present dysfunction on the party’s right-wing, encapsulated by the House Freedom Caucus (HFC); a group of approximately 40 lawmakers, many of whom were ushered into Congress during the tea party wave of 2010. These individuals, who were elected by their constituents to serve as a bulwark against President Obama’s desire to expand government, hoped to use their position in the House to do just that.

This is largely why the HFC is regularly referred to as “bomb throwers” who are “taking the House hostage.” It’s true that legislatively speaking, the “no-compromise” attitude held by many of its members makes life difficult for GOP leadership. But it can be equally stated that leadership has made it virtually impossible for these members to make their voices heard, given their top-down approach to which bills are given a hearing and who is allowed to sit on various committees.

Amid all of this chaos, there’s a narrative present in the conservative movement that seemingly conflates the legitimate process concerns put forth by HFC and the level of discourse exercised by social media trolls who gratuitously deploy creative insults such as “SHAMNESTY, RINO, LIBTARD, and OBUMMER.” In a blog post that was passed around in conservative and libertarian quarters this week, the author wrote:

We’ve all been listening to the Freedom Caucus news, and most are wondering what the ever-loving debacle is about. The heroes of the underground GOP ‘fight club,’ representing all that is good and decent. Bla, bla, bla… We’ve spent the last few months hearing ‘establishment RINO’ more times than we’ve heard our own name, and ‘amnesty’ is now a word that has no real definition. Everyday I troll through Twitter and, without fail, find at least one ‘real conservative’ that I dislike a little more today than I did yesterday, and a little less than I will tomorrow.”

On this, I admittedly share the author’s pain. The indiscriminate anger present in many people who claim to want reform yet never seem to unite around any tangible solutions gets old, particularly to those of us who got involved in the liberty and/or tea party movements early on because we were ready to actually work, not just whine. While I agree with the basic premise my friends who shared this piece were making in doing so, it quite unfairly tarnished the actual “Freedom Caucus” in the context of its present demands.

When it comes to the Speaker’s race, these members of Congress aren’t running around parsing through Kevin McCarthy, Jason Chaffetz, or Paul Ryan’s voting records, calling them RINOs. In fact, they’ve united behind Congressman Daniel Webster for Speaker; a man who has a 64% lifetime rating from FreedomWorks and a 66% score from Heritage. As HFC member Congressman Mick Mulvaney explained on NPR:

(Webster) is an institutionalist, he isn’t even a conservative. If you look at his voting record, he’s one of the more moderate members of our conference. But what he’s been pushing is a more open and fair system where more amendments are allowed, more debate is allowed, and Congress is allowed to work as a legislative body.”

As Webster, who previously served as Speaker of the House in Florida’s state legislature, explains in this video promoting his candidacy for Speaker:

Are we going to just change personalities in the Speakership? Or are we going to fundamentally transform the way we do business here in Washington DC? Just like when I was in Florida, the pyramid of power exists here. If you’re in leadership (you’re up top), if you’re not (you’re on the bottom). To me, we push down the pyramid of power and spread out the base so every member can be a part. When I was Speaker of the the Florida House of Representatives, this is what we did.”

Webster is speaking to the process issues that HFC is hoping to solve. While there will always be a requisite number of hard-headed conservatives on social media hurling insults rather than working for change, the members that make up the HFC and those supporting them in the grassroots ought to be given credit for uniting around a replacement for Boehner and making the case for him.

In fact, Congressman Justin Amash, a darling of the tea party and liberty movements who was elected in 2010, spent time this week doing just that at a townhall meeting in his Michigan district. As Politico reported, “Rep. Justin Amash insists the group that pushed John Boehner to the exits isn’t just a bunch of bomb throwers. They want real reform in how the House works.” Amash’s statements echo those of Mulvaney, and of Webster himself. As Jake Sherman from Politico wrote:

“‘The problem isn’t that he isn’t conservative enough,’ Amash told about 40 people here during a town hall meeting Wednesday evening, referring to John Boehner, who announced his resignation amid growing pressure from Amash’s group. ‘The problem is he doesn’t follow the process. He operated a top-down system, and still operates a top-down system because he hasn’t stepped down yet. Which means that he figures out what outcome he wants, and he goes to the individual members and attempts to compel and coerce us to vote for that outcome.’”

This speaks to the ultimate problem and the root of vast conservative unrest. As many HFC members and sympathizers have pointed out, they’re continuously blamed by the media, Democrats, and even their fellow Republicans for inviting government shutdowns. Yet it’s the arcane rules, different in the House versus the Senate but ultimately responsible for the same result, that lead to last minute budget brinkmanship and a governing-by-crisis model. Amash, Mulvaney, Webster and their colleagues simply want a “return to normal order” and a seat at the table. It’s really not an asinine request.

Whether Webster, a little-known Congressman who isn’t part of the GOP’s inner leadership circle, can actually pull off a victory remains to be seen. Clearly, he’s not the choice of House leaders considering the fact that Boehner has been cajoled into staying until they find a suitable replacement. Reports indicate that Paul Ryan is reluctantly considering the position, but only if he’s able to shore up support from the entire conference.

Jim Jordan, the HFC’s chairman said that the group would “look favorably” upon Paul Ryan, and he has been complimented by several caucus members; with the caveat that to earn their support he’d have to commit to the type of decentralization Webster is promising. This is why Webster’s candidacy, whether he wins or not, is valuable. It serves as a bargaining chip put forth by the HFC that will have to bring a consensus candidate, whether Paul Ryan or somebody else, to the table. If he wants to earn HFC’s support, he’ll need to make at least some rules concessions to them.

Hopefully, whoever the next Speaker is, he or she will be able to restore the order that conservatives are rightfully requesting. It won’t be a silver bullet; policy disputes will inevitably continue, and showdowns with the White House might tread dangerously close to government shutdowns. But “flattening the pyramid,” as Webster has suggested, will help to restore good will among Republicans who have long been alienated by leadership’s top-heavy approach. Whether these changes will be ushered in sooner rather than later remains to be seen, but there’s more reason to be optimistic that now is the time than at any other point in recent history.