In 1975 the Republican Party and the conservative movement in general in the U.S. were still close enough to the original principles of the American conservatism and the ideology of the Founding Fathers for Ronald Reagan to be able to write the following words:
If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals–if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.
There was no reaction against these words of Reagan at the time. All Republicans understood that Reagan was right, and that he wasn’t inventing a new Republicanism but only following in the steps of the previous generations of true conservatives. While libertarianism has different shades and different views about specific points of policy, conservatives at the time knew that conservatism and libertarianism are the same. Five years later, Reagan won the elections and change the course of America. It is debatable whether his policies really followed his rhetoric. But still, the libertarian ideas were conservative ideas, period, and no Republican at the time could get in trouble or be spoken of negatively is they professed libertarian ideas.
It is in the tradition of Ronald Reagan that Senator Jim DeMint, the man in Washington DC with the greatest political contribution to the Tea Party movement in the last elections, the most conservative member of the Senate, warned the Republican Party that saying negative things about Ron Paul hurts the Republican Party. While the Republican establishment has been eager to point to Ron Paul’s libertarianism as a “proof” that he is not a true conservative (what would they say to Reagan then?), Jim DeMint called the party back to its true ideological roots. He said that the refusal of the other candidates to listen to Ron Paul is to “our detriment.” Jim DeMint added the most interesting comment one can find these days within the Republican field, that the debate within the Republican Party he is most comfortable with is between conservatives and libertarians.
This must give food for thought to the more conservative voters in the Republican Party. So far the establishment has been dismissing Ron Paul, but every alternative candidate has a record of big-government statism and business as usual. Some like Santorum have even openly declared that one of the foundational rights given by our Creator, as written in the Declaration of Independence – the Pursuit of Happiness – is what is destroying America. Others, like Gingrich, have worked to introduce legislation to make internal passports compulsory for all Americans within the United States. Of course, at the end, the call for more government intervention in the society is not different from the liberals’ own version of statism – or the differences are only in the details but not in principle.
DeMint may have another point too: The astounding difference in the average age of the voters for Ron Paul and the voters for the establishment candidates. The establishment likes to dismiss this with the words, “Ah, young people just want legal weed.” But such demeaning attitude won’t help the GOP. In a few years, the party’s main adversary will be the average life-span in the US, not any political opponent; the only mass influx of fresh blood is through the Ron Paul rallies. Alienating these crowds of enthusiastic young people may prove to sign the death certificate for the GOP in the next few years. And contrary to the establishment propaganda, these young people don’t “just want legal weed.” They want much more: liberty. And they see that liberty in the old conservative principles that Reagan wrote about, and Ron Paul is preaching and defending.
Jim DeMint, after all these years in the Senate, has proven to be a wise man of strong convictions. When the Republican field was still uncertain as to what they should do about the Tea Party, and even Michelle Bachmann was debating whether she should speak to the Tea Party rallies, DeMint threw his full weight of a conservative politician behind it, calling the Tea Party a “spiritual revival,” and that “people are awaking to the fact that government is not and can not be god.” And now, while disagreeing with Ron Paul on specific points, DeMint is able to see that only the message of liberty can save the Republican Party from its current state of a country club gerontocracy. The Republican establishment – and the Republican voters too – better take his advice.