Earlier this evening (November 13) I attended the Independence Institute’s annual banquet. It was a lovely and fun night. Jon Caldara was in top form. Unfortunately, it will probably take me a few days to get up the photographs and audio interviews, as I need to attend to a family matter. For now I want to address the most important issue of the evening: Michelle Malkin’s endorsement of faith-based politics in the form of abortion bans.
Hers was an uncomfortable message to bring to the Independence Institute, an organization known for sticking to matters of economics and self-defense and avoiding divisive “social” issues like abortion. Malkin is wrong in principle. And if Colorado Republicans take her advice, they are doomed to perpetual failure.
What of those who, like me, endorse the separation of church and state and advocate a woman’s right to get an abortion? Malkin said Republicans should “let them go their own way” — in other words, leave the Republican Party.
We have left.
The result is that Bob Beauprez lost the governor’s mansion, Bob Schaffer lost the U.S. Senate seat, Marilyn Musgrave lost another House seat, and candidates like Libby Szabo lost the state legislature. (See my pre and post election comments on the GOP’s faith-based political disaster.)
Fittingly, the Denver Post published Paul’s Hsieh’s article on the matter the same day that Malkin offered her comments. Hsieh writes:
I want to let [Republicans] know that they lost the vote of many former supporters (including myself) because they have chosen to embrace the Religious Right.
I voted Republican in 1996, 2000, and 2004. I believe in limited government, individual rights, free market capitalism, a strong national defense, and the right to keep and bear arms — positions that one normally associates with Republicans.
But I didn’t vote for a single Republican in 2008. I’ve become increasingly alienated by the Republicans’ embrace of the religious “social conservative” agenda, including attempts to ban abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and gay marriage. …
[T]he government’s role is to protect each person’s right to practice his or her religion as a private matter and to forbid them from forcibly imposing their particular views on others. And this is precisely why I find the Republican Party’s embrace of the Religious Right so dangerous. …
The Religious Right’s goal of outlawing abortions would violate that important right, and sacrifice the lives of actual women for clumps of cells that are only potential (but not yet actual) human beings, based on religious dogma. As a physician, I find that position abhorrent and deeply anti-life.
As Ryan Sager writes for Reason, this is a widespread trend (leaving aside the controversies over the “libertarian” label):
The Cato Institute has done excellent work over the last few years tracking the shift in the libertarian vote — the roughly 10 percent to 15 percent of the American public that can be categorized as fiscally conservative and socially liberal.
Based on an analysis of the American National Election Studies, Cato found that between 2000 and 2004, there was a substantial flight of libertarians away from the Republican Party and toward the Democrats. While libertarians preferred Bush by a margin of 52 points over Al Gore in 2000, that margin shrank to 21 points in 2004, when many libertarians — disaffected by the Iraq war, massive GOP spending increases, and the campaign against gay marriage — switched to John Kerry.
While it is true that faith-based politics is only one of the issues driving liberty voters away from the Republicans, it is also true that the faith-based politics of Bush and McCain is of a cloth with their big-government spending. Bush ran as a “compassionate” conservative — i.e., a religiously altruistic one — while McCain selected the evangelical economic lightweight Palin as he himself suspended his campaign in order to rubber-stamp Bush’s $700 billion Great American Rip-Off.
Malkin made a couple of references to Ayn Rand, saying she recently moved to Colorado to get her own piece of Galt’s Gulch and that she has “most virtuous” selfish reasons for wanting local conservatives to succeed. I am continually amazed by how many conservatives selectively read Rand — and understand hardly a word of what she wrote even as they invoke her works. Notably, Malkin did not quote what Rand had to say about abortion or faith-based politics generally.
Unlike Bush and McCain, Malkin sticks with liberty when talking about economic issues. She hammered McCain for supporting the bailout, pushing environmental controls, and lamenting the evils of profits.
Malkin was positively inspirational. She said the proper Republican strategy is “simple: we stand up for our principles.” We don’t rebrand our beliefs, “we defend them.” “We lock and load our ideological ammunition.” “We do not whine, we do not wheedle, we fight.”
Malkin said Repubicans must oppose any new stimulus, must oppose new “windfall profit” taxes, must oppose federal loan guarantees. “If you get rid of the ability to fail,” she said, “you get rid of the ability to succeed.” Right on.
Republicans who endorsed the bailout suffered “ideological pollution.”
But then, in an instant, the anti-liberty Malkin took the stage. She said Republicans should not “de-emphasize” or hide their “pro-life” — i.e., faith-based anti-abortion — stance. To do so also would be to suffer “ideological pollution.” Republicans “need to stand up for life unapologetically,” she said.
And those who do not share Malkin’s desire to impose religious faith by force of law? “Let them go their own way.”
However, as Diana Hsieh and I explain, the faith-based opposition to abortion is not “pro-life,” it is anti-life. It would sacrifice the lives of actual people to fertilized eggs. I do not advise Republicans to “de-emphasize” or soften their calls to outlaw abortion: I advise them to completely reject faith-based politics and defend the individual rights of actual people.
Malkin’s conundrum is the one faced by the Republican Party generally: she tries to defend and violate liberty at the same time. Her stance is fundamentally untenable. It is no coincidence that the religious right is drifting away from matters of economic liberty and increasingly interested in welfare spending, environmental controls, and of course draconian social controls.
Malkin’s treatment of abortion contrasted sharply with her comments on immigration. She admitted that there are “cleavages” in the Republican Party over immigration, but also things “we agree on.” Oh, you mean that there are no “cleavages” over abortion? The facts prove otherwise. Yet, for Malkin, on immigration Republicans can agree to disagree, while on abortion the nonsectarians must be shown the door. (As I have argued, it remains possible for secular liberty voters to reform a coalition with those religious voters who endorse the separation of church and state.)
As Paul Hsieh reviews, Rush Limbaugh wants to purge the Republican Party of those who decline to toe the faith-based line. Malkin offers the same advice. She wants me to go my own way. So long as Republicans insist on imposing religious faith by force of law, I remain her obedient servant.
See the collected posts about the Independence Institute’s 2008 banquet.