A lot of libertarians are feeling a little frisky nowadays. We sent the Republican party a message that we couldn't be taken for granted. Now isn't it time to press our claims, get rid of the social conservatives once and for all?
Rod Dreher says no:
Let me make a point that's going to be overlooked among secular conservatives of Reformist impulse: no conservative movement that hopes to be successful can do so without religious conservatives. It will be very easy for secular Reform conservatives to sell op-ed pieces to newspapers, in which they argue that the GOP will not be revived until and unless it cuts itself free from the Religious Right. It'll be easy for them to sell that point because it suits the prejudices of the kind of secular liberals who run the media. But it's quite wrong.
As a tactical matter, I think he's correct. There are not enough fiscal conservatives/social liberals, or even fiscal conservatives/who cares? to make a party.
Where does that leave the libertarians, though? Since the end of the cold war, when our military policy was at least arguably explicitly pro-market, the libertarians have been slowly unbinding themselves from the embrace of the Republican party. Can we live with a party that embraces socially conservative goals? Should we go to teh Democrats? And if we stay with the Republicans (in broad sympathy, if not in votes, etc), then how do we build an acceptable common platform?
Federalism is helpful. If you take the position, as I and, I think, most libertarians do, that there is no explicitly libertarian position on abortion*, then it makes sense to demand that the federal government take no stance on that issue. Even gay marriage can be finessed, I think; in five years, conservative Christians facing social change may well be ready to support getting the state out of the marriage business.
But federalism will not get us the whole way. If the Republicans want not merely grudging, but enthusiastic support from libertarians, I think what we need is in many ways a more minimalist platform, one refocused on having the government do as little as possible. We'll probably still end up electing a lot of pro-life congressmen who want to do something about that. But if the Republicans stop making it an issue for the party as a whole, they'll pick up more votes in the northeast and the west coast.
Is it worth it for them to change to woo us? I don't know. I don't share the libertarian confidence that we are going to achieve massive new affirmative steps in our direction; a lot of the things we want, like a simpler tax code and privatized social security, are actually issues that the Republican leadership agrees with us on, and the greater American public does not. But perhaps it's worth trying to prune the party platform back to the common ground, and then build from there.
* the belief that there is an explictly libertarian position is held, as far as I can tell, almost entirely among liberals furious at pro-lifers. Persons have a right to be protected against the initiation of force, and libertarianism has no basic principles that answer the question of when personhood begins.