Selective Libertarianism: The practice of claiming anti-government overreach when it advances government control, while at the same time claiming that the government must limit or eliminate certain individual liberties when such actions advance government control.
See also: 90% of Idaho Republican lawmakers
Is it just me, or are most of the “conservative Republican” lawmakers acting an awful lot like liberal Democrats? Last year Brad Little locked the entire state of Idaho down, limiting and eliminating thousands of small businesses. Speaker of the House Scott Bedke says he’s in favor of lockdowns if the pandemic gets bad enough, and he also supported the lockdowns of 2020. Last summer the Twin Falls city council held a two-week series of meetings to discuss whether or not the city of Twin Falls should impose a mask mandate. Is it oppressive in here, or is it just me?
The primary issue I see with Idaho Republicans (and most of the GOP in the United States) is their use of selective libertarianism. That is: when a Republican lawmaker wants to appear conservative, pro-small-business, and pro-individual liberties, he or she claims they are Libertarian (or at least have Libertarian leanings). Their hands are tied when it comes to unconstitutional actions on the part of the government, you see because they are “small-government” conservatives. The unwillingness of Idaho state legislators to outlaw vaccine mandates for hospital employees to protect doctors’ and nurses’ individual liberties is one example. These empty noises assuage the members of the Republican party who value individual liberty, a smaller federal government, and more personal responsibility.
When these same Republicans want to appease the more moderate, fence-sitting voters in the party, they become “common sense conservatives” who champion government lockdowns (“we’re in a pandemic, there’s no time for rights!”), more onerous regulations, and a complementarian view of international affairs (see China/U.S. trade policy.) To refer back to the above example regarding hospital employees: you don’t hear these selective libertarians raising a fuss over Joe Biden’s nationwide vaccine mandate, and in many cases they champion it.
Among the many examples of this in action is the recent “withdrawal” of our troops from Afghanistan. The very same Republicans who in 2002 voted to invade Afghanistan, who in 2007 voted to increase troops in Iraq & Afghanistan, and who throughout the 2010s voted time and again to maintain or increase the number of taxpayer dollars flowing to corrupt Afghan officials, suddenly changed their tunes and championed the withdrawal. No matter how high the price, their argument goes, it is worth paying to ensure that not one more U.S. soldier is killed in this “endless war.” No mention is ever made of the fact that the GOP and these same lawmakers started, continued, facilitated, and augmented the endlessness of the war. Former war hawks magically transform into Libertarian anti-interventionists at the stroke of midnight.
These turncoats are the self-same Republicans who, prior to March 1, 2020, were the most outspoken anti-Trump members of the GOP you could find because of his “egregious dictatorial leadership style.” They decried the heavy hand of the federal government as unconstitutional and a threat to democracy. As soon as the media started whipping up concern over a virus out of Wuhan, China, these Republicans In Name Only demanded that the federal government enforce dictatorial lockdowns on businesses, impose mask mandates on individual citizens, and supported the ban on national park visits. They are currently the congresspeople offering no opposition to Joe Biden’s unlawful and unconstitutional vaccine mandate. How did we get here?
It started when those of us who hold to the spirit of individual rights and liberties began accepting the platitudes of those in the party whom we knew were disingenuous. We accepted that the federal government needed to detain suspected terrorists without a spec of evidence as part of being in a war. We knew it was wrong, and some of us even recognized that that power could eventually be turned on U.S. citizens. Rather than calling out this dangerous overreach of power, we explained away our discomfort as conspiracist paranoid thinking. This unwillingness to call attention to unconstitutional behavior on our side of the aisle led to an outcome none of us saw coming – moderates in our party were pulled further to the left. Had we made the arguments out loud that we all made in our own minds, perhaps this hemorrhage of conservative, common sense values could have been stemmed. Where do we go from here?
Speak up. Conservatives are already late to the party, and we have no time to figure out a slow strategy. In Idaho, this means making reasoned, common sense, relatable arguments to our friends, coworkers, and neighbors against voting for concessionaires like Brad Little and Scott Bedke. We must join in the in-person physical spaces of debate in our lives and begin making the arguments that we long ago abandoned against unconstitutional big government programs, mandates, and handouts. It’s too late to do what the left did and infiltrate all the levels of academia and government. We must go straight to our fellow voters where they are and reason them back to common sense.