Many of us on the American political right are sympathetic to Frank Meyer's "fusionism," but is it a realistic idea worth pursuing?

Tea Parties, Libertarians and, Paulites: America's Only Hope

Approximately a year ago, I opined … that Conservatives and Libertarians should join forces … that the areas where the two factions agree were more important than the areas of disagreement. Off and on since then, I have engaged with several conservative and libertarian bloggers to see if I could drum up some interest in pursuing a dialog on the fusion of the two groups. I was disappointed to find very little interest. The majority if both camps wanted nothing to do with the other.

It's true that libertarians and conservatives have large areas of agreement on which they could build a coalition. In fact, libertarians and conservatives have done just that. Indeed, the fusionist spirit is alive and well! You can find it among bloggers such as Old Rebel and myself, and even in the more highbrow joints like The American Conservative and So, yes, fusionism is realistic and possible.

But here's where it gets interesting … Fusionism may be alive and well, but only among the traditional libertarian and conservative strains. It falls apart, I'd even argue it's impossible, among those who adhere to neoconservative ideology and/or those who are only interested in what Jack Hunter calls (correctly, I think) "identity conservatism."

Even though traditional conservatives and libertarians have important philosophical differences, they are compatible. The same, however, cannot be said regarding neoconservativism - an ideology greatly at odds with both libertarianism and traditional conservatism. Call us the Remnant, because unlike neocons, we certainly haven't made peace with the New Deal (or any other part of collectivist statism for that matter).

Instead of seeing the American electorate as Republicans, Democrats, Independents and, a smattering of small third parties, I now see the electorates as being made up of two groups. The biggest group, in my opinion, are those that promote and believe in Big Government (BG). To my way of thinking, the BG includes the so-called independents. Independents vote either for BG Republicans or BG Democrats. The second and smaller group of the electorate support the constitution and the rights of the individual. In essence they support Small Government (SG).

FWIW, I consider myself an independent, because life has taught me there is no reason whatsoever to identify myself with any given political party. Even the most casual reader of this blog will quickly come to the conclusion that I'm thoroughly anti-state and that I passionately despise "BG Republicans or BG Democrats." So be careful when adopting mainstream media (left or right) definitions. Think about it. Can the word "independent" even be logically applied to a BG sycophant?

I've always seen the political divide as between collectivists and individualists, but I think a better way of describing the divide is between liberty and power. Which is also the divide between libertarians and neoconservatives. To paraphrase Russell Kirk - a traditional conservative if there ever was one - knowing human nature for a mixture of good and evil, a libertarian does not put his trust in politicians. Instead, as Jefferson said:

It would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism -- free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence … In questions of powers, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.

This goes a long way toward explaining the irreconcilable differences between neoconservatives and the Remnant. Neocons heart power. The Remnant is suspicious of it.

The PATRIOT Act, for example, was an abomination regardless of which "team" supported it and whatever "benevolent" reasons they gave. The TSA … Well, being that it spits in the face of the Declaration of Independence, no matter which "team" supports it, said team can shove it up their ass*.

But the real problem is tribalism.

Identity vs. Philosophy

Most voters do not think in philosophical terms. This is not to say they don’t have political philosophies. It’s just that they arrive at their politics—first and foremost—according to which politicians they like most.

I'd go further and say it's simply what "team" they like most.

Much like Obama Democrats and their hero—conservatives love Palin first and foremost because they recognize her as one of their own. Palin is the purest example of what I like to call "identity conservatism" in that "who" she is — a self-identified and widely recognized conservative — is far more important than "what" she believes specifically.

For the Remnant, what a politician believes trumps everything else. Who they identify with matters little (if at all). Seriously, why should it matter to me that Mitt Romney is a Republican when only his rhetoric is different, while philosophically he's the same as Barack Obama? Yes, Republican statism is every bit as bad as Democratic statism.

But, but … here's where the fights start. The Remnant won't support a statist for the good of the party tribe. Worse, they support someone who genuinely believes in rolling back leviathan - Ron Paul. And "identity conservatives" not only HATE Ron Paul, but HATE his supporters as well. You can't build a coalition with hate anymore than you can make friends by bombing people's homes.

The best current opposite example of Palin on the Right is Ron Paul. Ask the average Paul fanatic what they like about him and all you will hear nothing but specific policies: "Follow the Constitution!" "End the Fed!" "End the War!" Paul is the purest example of what I like to call "philosophical conservatism" in that what he believes — strict adherence to limited government and Constitutional principles — is more important to him and his followers than how his party perceives him. In fact, the problems Paul has had with Republican voters at the national level have always been to what extent identity conservatives have welcomed him as one of their own.

And the party today is now far more welcoming.

Well, sort of.

Many conservatives are coming full circle back to their roots, finding themselves in agreement with libertarian principles. Others are catching on to the fact that a central bank is the antithesis of a free market. Against Rove. And even that democracy is no panacea and that nation-building is just another utopian nightmare. According to one study, "71% of conservatives overall, and 67% of conservative Tea Party supporters, indicate worry" about the costs of war, while only "24% of conservatives believe we should continue to provide the current level of troops."

Yes, times are changing indeed. Until, that is, we get back to tribal partisan politics, where philosophy gets thrown out the window in the name of cheap, unsubstantiated pot shots. Then guys like me will call them out on it and the Internet will light up with posts about how Paul supporters ruin everything by sticking up for the one guy in DC who actually wants liberty … and there will be no "fusion."

The Liberty Movement isn't going to support a statist. Period. Experience has taught us that the "lesser evil" is still evil. Our guy, Paul, isn't our "leader" either. Top-down politicking is as nonsensical to us as identity politics. Paul represents an idea - liberty. So when you attack him, we take it as an attack on us personally. On what we believe. On the very idea of liberty itself.

That's the message you send when you attack either Paul or us directly - you hate liberty. Maybe that isn't true, but if it isn't, I suggest you work on your "messaging." Because that's what we hear.

The Liberty Movement is making a lot of headway too. Paul changed the Republican debate. Paul supporters are, quite literally, taking over the Republican machinery. Rand Paul is now a popular Senator. The Liberty Movement backed Thomas Massie is now the Republican Party candidate in Kentucky's 4th Congressional district. The Federal Reserve is under fire. Gary Johnson's campaign looks to be the most successful Libertarian Party bid ever. And btw, leviathan is dead frickin' broke.

Fusionism is alive and well among the Remnant. The question is, when will the rest of the right join us?


*Conservatives who are still (???) sympathetic to the Republican Party need to understand what I'm about to say, clearly. Republicans own the police state. The Remnant hates the police state. To the Remnant, the DHS and TSA are treasonous. And this spy center … pure evil. We hate the police state more than you hate Democrats. Think about that for awhile.

  • republican mother

    We hate the police state more than you hate Democrats. Think about that for awhile.

    That pretty much sums it up.

    We're talking and dealing with ideas on a whole other level than the average identity conservative. They aren't even understanding what its all about.

    • theCL

      Exactly. Who cares if we "beat the Democrats" when the result will be exactly the same - more statism. Modern "conservatism" and the remnant are fighting 2 completely different fights. We want to roll-back statism, they simply want their "team" to be in charge.

  • Budd E. Shepherd

    I am not that clever or well-schooled enough to articulate a good argument so here are some ideas I've been thinking about.
    1. I think Christianity was the one common ideal that made it work.
    At the founding of this country Christianity was interpreted to support individual rights, plus individual responsibility. Its history steeped in the blood self sacrifice. It put the founders in the mindset that ideals were worth dying for. It put specific ideals forward, the 10 commandments were drilled into school child.
    2. Advanced thought was not reading Catcher in the Rye at college and misunderstanding it, rather it was studying the Greeks and reason and fighting duels over honor and drinking abismith (spelling-I'm in a hurry-have work to do). Not doing a bowl and talking about victimhood.
    3. For adventure-people sailed the world and engaged in hand to hand combat. They better understood what it was to live and die. (I think)
    4. If you didn't save up enough nuts for the winter you died...

    So you may debate tribalism, collectivism vs individual rights, neocons vs the devil and it will be a good argument but the bottom line is that the majority of people have no real beliefs. There is no underlying point of honor that they will not cross. There is no unifying acceptance of higher power, life beyond, real beauty, doing the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing-cause after all, what is the right thing?

    Finally, the rejection of Christianity as the cultural glue and the revisionism that has focused on all bad and non of the good, has taken with it the lessons we should have learned from our past and our mistakes.
    Instead you have victim and oppressor, power vs powerless, and no higher ideals to compare and say, "That was a great injustice against God and man. Let us repent and sin no more."
    In my opinion...

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  • Jim at Conservatives on Fire

    Excellent post! We are in agreement for the most part. I do understand that there are some independents like you and I; but I stand by what I said for the vast majority of the independents. I have given up on fusion ever occuring. The Tea Parties and the Paulites are doing the smart thing by infiltrating and in many cases taking over the Republican Party at the county and state level. If their success continues it will pay big dividends.

    Although voting for the lessor of two evils has not worked in the past, it may be more worthwhile now, precisely because of the work being done by the TPs and Paulites. Nobody confuses Romney with a conservative. He will do nothing to shrink the size of government. He will do nothing about the Federal Reserve. But, he will reduce taxes for business and roll back some of the most stifling regulations and he will open up some federal lannd to oil and gas development. That is a lot more than we can expect from another four years of Obama. It will take many election cycles for the TPs and the Paulites and the LP to take control of Washington and the Republican Party. In the mean time we should take what gains we can.

    I wish the LP would join with the TP and the Paulites. We could achieve our goals quicker. However, I don't believe that is ever going to happen.

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  • Sherman Broder

    I think I'm a remnant...of the 19th century.

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