Kurt Wallace: This is Kurt Wallace and our guest today on Rare is Edward Hudgins, Director of Advocacy for the Atlas Society, his new book The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win? Ed thanks for being with us today on Rare.
Edward Hudgins: Glad to be with you.
Kurt Wallace: Let’s start go ahead and start talking about what’s happening in the Republican Party right now. You state that in your book the Republican Party is in a civil war. We’re seeing that kind of play out at the moment. This has been happening over a period of time. Could you give us a little bit of a background of what your case is in the book and an overview of the three factions that you discuss in the book?
Edward Hudgins: Certainly, yeah. The Republican Party has been in this three-way civil war for some time and now it’s been breaking out across the country in political battles.
First you have the establishment Republicans. These are the ones who basically want to keep the welfare state or they just think that there’s no way to get rid of it and so all they want to do is tweak it and make it work a little bit better. These are the people like Mitt Romney the people like John McCain. These are the people who want to save Social Security, save Medicare and so forth. And really don’t want to get rid of the welfare state.
The second faction is what I call extreme social conservatives. These are folks who have a liberty limiting agenda. Especially concerning gays, often immigrants, things of that nature. And again the issue is that some of them are politically in favor of free markets and some of them are not very free market. But the point is they put a liberty limiting agenda. These are people like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee.
And then third you have the libertarian oriented Republicans. Old Goldwater-Reagan sort of Republicans who basically believe in limited government, individual liberty, free markets, decentralization of political power. And it’s interesting that in the last year or two a lot of Republicans have tried to jockey for inclusion in this group. Rand Paul certainly, Ted Cruz again they have feet in several of the other camps, in some senses, but they really are moving into that camp.
That’s the situation right now and unfortunately the debates and the fight is not terribly friendly many times. You have money in all three factions fighting against each other. Religious conservatives have raised something like $200 million to push their agenda, the Koch brothers tend to support the libertarian faction – they’re the good guys as far as I’m concerned. Karl Rove and John Sununu and people like that tend to be the establishment guys.
And so unfortunately this is bad for the GOP in the long run. The GOP might win the senate in the fall, I think that they probably will. But in the long-term, the party is in a demographic death spiral. And the reason is because traditionally for example: White evangelicals support the Republican party, white evangelicals are a shrinking part of the population. Hispanics voted something like 44% for George W Bush it was only twenty something percent for Mitt Romney. Young people, the same sort of thing, these people are going to be the future. Young people voted forty something percent for George W Bush, I’m not a big fan of his but I’m just pointing out the numbers here, twenty something percent for Mitt Romney. The Hispanic population is growing, I’m not talking about illegal immigrants, I’m talking about citizens who vote and they don’t tend to be very Republican-oriented.
So, if the GOP doesn’t change in the near future, it’s going to see its popularity continue to decline and that’s not going to be a good thing for the GOP, and it’s not going to be a good thing for the GOP as a vehicle for liberty.
Kurt Wallace: We’re seeing a fight for the identity of the Republican Party right now.
Edward Hudgins: The soul!
Kurt Wallace: The soul of the Republican Party, the messaging and the outreach, to be able to grow the Republican Party. The old guard, the establishment, the warhawk, the Cheneys, the Bushs, we have Jeb Bush probably going to jump into the race. We have Rand Paul there – he’s a front-runner. A lot of people are going after him in the Republican Party over foreign policy calling him an isolationist but really he’s kind of approaching foreign policy from a position of restraint. Strength and restraint, more of a Reaganesque style approach to this. How do you see this playing out in terms of the popularity of his ideas vs. the popularity of the old guard establishment?
Edward Hudgins: Well, I disagree a little bit with both sides but I think that Rand Paul, in this sense, is pushing in the right direction. In the 80’s and 90’s especially the so-called neoconservatives had a vision explicitly articulated for America as a kind of imperialist power and I think this has caused a lot of problems. The purpose of the United States government should be to protect the life, liberty and property, which of course is part of pursuit of happiness of American citizens.
Now, I do think that the international scene is complex. It’s better for Americans to have a world of free countries than to have a world of totalitarian or authoritarian countries. But saying that doesn’t mean that you see it as the mission of the U.S. military or the U.S. government, let’s say, to overthrow every government that you think is a nasty government. It’s interesting that Reagan, because he was perceived as powerful, as somebody who wouldn’t hesitate to use force if necessary, didn’t have to use force as much as he might otherwise have. Because people said ‘We’ve got to take this guy seriously. The other important thing about Reagan is that he put forward a vision of a free world and it was that vision that really spurred a lot of revolutions.
I’ll tell you a little story. I was in the Soviet Union in 1989 and 1990. I was there in 1981 as well and I met in ’89 people who were active dissidents. I was actually on the first free market conference behind the Iron Curtain. These folks told me, they said ‘We heard the message of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, that gave us the inspiration to push for liberalization and so forth.’
The point is that ideas are powerful and right now we have a president that does not believe in freedom and does not believe in liberty. And I think part of the world crises is he doesn’t have those ideals. Wouldn’t it be great to have a president who had the ideals of, say, a Reagan? Those ideals, probably more than bullets or in addition to bullets, are gonna change the world.
Kurt Wallace: In these ideals you talk about party realignment. We see some bold moves, again, by Senator Rand Paul in terms of mandatory minimum sentencing, allow people to vote who have been imprisoned with felonies for victimless crimes. Mainly the war on drugs and kind of reversing all of that. And taking a more common sense approach to that. That’s a big outreach for Hispanics and blacks to invite them into the Republican Party. Is this a good strategy?
Edward Hudgins: This is an excellent strategy. And I’ll give you a couple more examples.
You know, it’s interesting, Jack Kemp, you know, I might have some disagreements with his policies, but he used to joke that he showered with more black people than most Republicans knew. Because he was a football quarterback and a lot of the players were black. And he actually went into the inner cities, he worked with inner city people to say you should, rather than living in government housing, you should own the house, it should be your property. That was an incredible message.
But let me give you two other examples of where Rand Paul and people like him can and are arguing good things. Number one, outreach to Hispanic,s as I say Republicans have been losing the Hispanic vote. And there is an issue of about controlling the border and about the humanitarian mess that Barack Obama has made down there. On the other hand what the Republicans should be saying is most of the Hispanic immigrants come here because they want opportunity, they have the spirit of Americans, okay. Rather than sitting in Mexico and Guatemala and suffering and watching their families suffer they get off their butts, they don’t see a good way to get through the American immigration bureaucracy. They say screw it I’m going to go across the border and stand in front of Home Depot and work my butt off and realize the American dream. What we should focus on is not keeping these people out, but celebrating their values and saying we want an immigration system that allows them to come in legally that weeds out the gang members and the bad guys, that’s what the Republicans should be doing saying we celebrate that spirit.
Let me give you another example. Rand Paul is key-noting or has keynoted, depending on when you are listening to this interview, a conference out in San Francisco put on by Lincoln Labs outreach to what I call the new modernist achievers the new wealth creators. You have a whole new young generation, what I call the Steve Jobs types, who appreciate the power of human reason, who realize the individual is the spark plug of any good things of changes of inventions and so forth. And they love their work. I like to say, if you’re familiar with Ayn Rand’s novels, they have the values of a Howard Rourke but they still need the politics of a John Gault. They don’t want to have anything to do with the Republican Party that is perceived as bigoted, that are anti-gay that are anti-immigrant and so forth. Rand Paul is doing the right thing, he’s reaching out to these folks and saying ‘Hey we would like you, you guys should be part of us.’
What that also means in terms of your realignment question, Mike Huckabee, for example, is one of the extreme social conservatives who has said that if the Republican Party goes to back his agenda, for example he’s against gay marriage, these kinds of ill-liberal policies, he will walk, he will leave the Republican Party and he will take as many of his followers as possible. I say if you don’t have your priorities straight, Mike, if you don’t get behind a freedom agenda, haste la vista! Goodbye, don’t let the door hit you on the way out!
Because it’s that kind of Republican that keeps out these new wealth creators. They don’t want to be in a party with a Mike Huckabee or a Rick Santorum. So, my message to social conservatives is guys, in my book The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win? There is one photograph, one photograph, only of my now three and half-year old fraternal twin girls. I got skin in the game. I am socially, you might say, conservative in as much as I want a certain kind of world for my girls ok?
But I realize that the government that can’t run the postal service very well, they can’t run Amtrak very well. You know that Obamacare has been a complete fiasco. You think that giving that government more power over our lives is going to help your values or my values? Are you nuts? Guys get your priorities straight if you are a social conservative. I know many of you will disagree perhaps on theology. We might disagree on the other things. But, what we should agree on is the importance of liberty. And the good news is if you look at the tea party movement you’ll find that about half of them are social conservatives, half of them are more libertarian. But they are social conservatives that give priority to rolling back government, opposing Obamacare, opposing government spending and so forth.
And that’s what I’m saying, social conservatives get behind the freedom agenda. Establishment conservatives, you guys have to recognise that part of the reason the system can’t change is because you guys have given up. If you’re an establishment conservative and you understand that the system is not working very well, what you have to do is work to change it radically. Essentially to become a libertarian conservative you might say. And to look for ways you can do this politically. And its with that kind of an agenda that we can move freedom forward, we can re-establish freedom in this country and re-establish the culture of personal responsibility, of individual autonomy of individual liberty that we need.
Kurt Wallace: Edward Hudgins, Director of Advocacy for the Atlas Society, your new book The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win? It’s a great book. Thanks for being with us today on Rare.
Edward Hudgins: Glad to be with you.