Would You Hedge Your Vote in the Name of Peace?
The “Blue Republicans”
In 2011, during an election far, far away, a British expat with a passion for libertarian principles looked at the slate of Republicans running against the incumbent President Barack Obama and wondered if the state of the union could do better. Placing civil liberties and a non-interventionist foreign policy first and foremost, political communications expert Robin Koerner devised a plan he would call the “Blue Republican” strategy.
The goal- get enough anti-war, pro-civil liberty Democrats to register as Republicans (just this one time, not permanently) during the 2011 Republican primaries in order to help push forward the candidacy of libertarian-Republican Congressman Ron Paul to the general election. The Texas congressman, who had once run for president as the Libertarian Party nominee in 1988 and again as a Republican candidate for the GOP nomination in 2008, had half a lifetime’s worth of evidence to show he was the champion of civil liberties and a Washingtonian foreign policy, something neither his Republican opponents or President Obama could say during the 2012 race.
Koerner’s method wasn’t met without criticism, stating in his viral article that “I know that the Republican party stinks to many Democrats and Independents who care about social justice and civil rights, but we all need to be smart and play the system to get the political outcomes we seek: you don’t have to like a party or even identify with it to sign up as a Republican for a year to help make sure that the Republican primaries are won by the one representative who has always been for peace, has always voted against bailouts, and has always opposed the reach of government into your bedroom, your relationships and your person.”
As we are forcibly marched towards another presidential election, libertarians and Ron Paul Republicans may have a chance to bring their issues to the national conversation by helping advance the campaign of another proven pro-peace candidate with a staunch civil liberties streak- Democrat Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who announced her bid for the White House this past week.
The State of the Game
While President Donald Trump is not a libertarian, libertarians have in fact benefited from his presidency during his first term – when you take into account deregulation on the economic front, as well as foreign policy regarding intervention and aid. The primary reason for concern among libertarians and Ron Paul Republicans came from Trump’s controversial sale of military arms to Saudi Arabia, a decision he was against during the 2016 primaries but instead supported once he reached the Oval Office. Along with that, the question of a total military withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan has been met with a quivering response from the White House as a formal decision doesn’t seem to yet be reached. The sudden resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis has also made many strong Trump supporters question whether the administration has a full understanding of the theater of war.
Gabbard, a US Army Veteran who has deployed twice overseas (and still serves in the Hawaiian National Guard) has stood with President Trump when his foreign policy goals were to remove US troops from what the majority of the public deems unnecessary conflicts, and against him when American tax dollars and military arms went to nation’s whose partnership with us were less than ideal.
As the number of Democrats entering the primary grows, few of the declared and potential candidates have stood as principled on the issue of foreign policy as Gabbard. Gabbard’s bipartisan effort to promote a non-interventionist foreign policy started as far back as the Obama administration when she criticized Obama’s use of combat drones in nations we did not declare war on through congressional approval.
Civil Liberties Defined
As Reason Magazine contributor Eric Boehm pointed out in his article regarding Gabbard’s civil liberties chops, Gabbard has a proven record of standing against egregious law enforcement programs such as civil asset forfeiture, warrantless surveillance, and supporting the legalization of marijuana at the federal level. While her economic policies (such as her support for a Green New Deal) lack much desirability, her socially liberal policies regarding drug and criminal justice reform match that of the majority of Americans.
A Humane Foreign Policy Focused on Peace
Going back to foreign policy, Gabbard can speak to Democrats and Republicans in a language they both understand, citing the moral case against war in a way the Left understands, and citing the fiscal and constitutional grounds for a non-interventionist foreign policy that matches of the mindset of many Ron Paul Republicans. This isn’t a political hopscotch for Gabbard, the topic of war and peace is authentic and natural for her to speak of. In April of 2017, Gabbard became the leading voice of peace in the House of Representatives, going to the floor with such memorable speeches as “we need to speak up and loudly against this [long term foreign conflicts] and for peace. Because of the trillions of dollars spent on wars, our schools are languishing, our infrastructure is crumbling, and we are fighting for scraps for the most basic human needs. We can’t afford to act as the policeman of the world and rebuild and plan for strong communities at home.”
The DNC Has No Clothes
The gutter the DNC has found itself in is its own doing. The long term Democrat plan was always for Hillary Clinton to succeed Barack Obama, and since her defeat they have struggled to understand where their future will take them. In the 2016 race, Virginia Senator Jim Webb ran a brief campaign against the Clinton machine that ran the DNC like its own personal bank account during the Democratic primary. Much like Gabbard, Webb was a Democrat with a history of working across the aisle, supporting civil liberties, and advancing a non-interventionist foreign policy even when he went against his party so he could stand on principle.
While Webb had no chance of defeating Clinton (as things turned out, no one running in that primary did), there is no Clinton in this race, making it an open field where the odds, at least at face value, seem fair enough for Gabbard to have a chance at the nomination.
Not Another Operation Chaos
In 2008, the Republican establishment and conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh advised conservatives to vote for an inexperienced, yet popular senator from Illinois in order to potentially keep Hillary Clinton away from her party’s nomination in an effort they dubbed “Operation Chaos.” It worked, but their plans backfired and that man who was never supposed to beat the heir-apparent to the White House, John McCain, lost to the youthful and energetic Barack Obama. Things have never been the same since.
While Limbaugh wanted what seemed to be an easily defeatable candidate to face the GOP nominee come the general election, Koerner’s method was more ideologically-based stating that “Ron Paul’s electoral weakness is not a difficulty in winning a presidential election. It is in winning a primary in a party with a Conservative constituency that includes the religious right and neo-cons. An influx of peace and freedom-loving independents and Democrats would change the math on the Republican side and potentially the future of America by setting up a presidential contest with a pro peace, pro-civil rights candidate (who could outflank Obama on those issues, at least, from the left).”
If libertarians and Ron Paul Republicans wish to put civil liberties and foreign policy at the forefront of the national discussion during this upcoming election, what better chance do they have at forcing the Republican and Democrat apparatus than with a Trump vs. Gabbard election? The choice seems clear, and if the goal is to force the Overton Window towards greater freedom, what is there to lose?