I used to think a big part of being a conservative meant bashing immigrants and minorities. Things I would today consider fear mongering.
At the time I would have said I was being “real.”
That’s how hateful minds work. They believe that all people—particularly other white people—see the same “truths” they do about immigrants and minorities and are just too scared to say so.
Everyone is just being “politically correct.”
I said, as a radio personality and writer, that Mexicans were “taking over” the country, all Muslims were a threat, anyone who cared about blacks or their concerns was “pandering.”
Thankfully, I became a libertarian.
I wrote about this evolution at Politico in 2013 as it related to Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign:
Something else was happening to me around that time—as I listened to Paul, my worldview began to evolve. Paul was serious about border security, but unlike other Republicans, he didn’t seem angry or hateful. Libertarianism, after all, is based on the relationship between the state and the individual, often with little regard for culture or groups. I had always thought this was shortsighted, but I began to change my mind. Ron Paul blamed illegal immigration on government, not immigrants. “If we had a truly free-market economy, the illegal immigrants would not be the scapegoat,” Paul said at the third Republican debate in 2007.
“Not the scapegoat? Many conservatives, including me, had spent years scapegoating Hispanic immigrants themselves,” I wrote.
“Paul never went there. He attacked government, not people,” I said.
Thursday night, Donald Trump attacked people. He peddled the idea that an omnipotent government—his—would have the magical power to stop immigrants, Muslims and blacks from murdering us all.
Reason’s Peter Suderman had a reaction similar to mine, “Donald Trump’s speech accepting the Republican nomination was easily the most overt display of authoritarian fear-mongering I can remember seeing in American politics.”
“The entire speech was dark and dystopian, painting America as a dismal, dangerous place beset by violent outsiders,” Suderman observed. “In response to the nation’s problems, Trump had only one solution: Donald Trump, the strongman who would take America back, by force if necessary.”
Now if you asked Trump if fear mongering or peddling hate was his intent–I don’t think he’s a bigot but isn’t self-aware enough to understand the dark emotions he’s recklessly unleashing—he would likely scoff and accuse you of being politically correct.
To make such an accusation is to encourage Trump and his followers who actually are racists even more.
They love this.
This election wasn’t supposed to be this way. Or at least, I had hoped.
A year ago my presidential candidate was Rand Paul. I hoped he could win the nomination and recast the Republican Party in a libertarian-conservative mold similar to how Trump has transformed it into a vehicle for populism and nationalism.
A more libertarian GOP would have featured a less interventionist foreign policy; an economic agenda that prioritized free markets over government solutions; vigorous enforcement of the Constitution including and especially the constantly threatened 2nd and 4th amendments; a serious commitment to border security coupled with practical immigration reform; and cultivating a pro-life culture, among other things.
It also would have aggressively courted minorities and other groups Republicans have historically shutout. Libertarians would grow the party’s base. A more libertarian GOP would emphasize how big government is minorities’ enemy too, as Sen. Paul emphasized and continues to do.
Emphasizing individualism as a priority—individual rights, protections and basic dignity—is key to any American government worth having and any conservatism worthy of that name.
Billionaire Peter Thiel actually did this Thursday night by standing up for gay Americans, and also Trump, to his praiseworthy credit, also delivered a very pro-gay message to a party not known being accepting of LGBT Americans.
There are a few minor aspects of Trump’s agenda that can be found in the libertarian one described here, some agreement on the futility of nation building and mindless wars and also the importance of protecting the 2nd amendment.
But if basic liberty is a concern—as it should be considering it’s what our country was founded on—what Trump represents is the inverse of this.
Individuals and individualism matters less, except perhaps when it comes to entrepreneurs. For Trump, groups matter greatly—and those groups are coming to kill you.
And Donald Trump is going to protect you.
The whole spectacle was depressing. Reason’s Suderman observed:
Trump framed the speech by painting America as a nation under siege from urban crime, terrorism, and immigrants. He talked of rising homicide levels in some cities. He warned darkly of terrorist and immigrants, practically conflating them with urban violence, and told stories of Americans killed by those who had entered the country illegally. The simplest and more straightforward way to interpret Trump’s speech was as a warning that outsiders are coming to America to kill you and your family.
“Portraying America in such a dark light let Trump cast himself as the nation’s dark hero, a kind of billionaire-businessman fixer, unbound by rules or expectations of decorum—President Batman, the only one with the guts and the will to fight for the people,” Suderman said.
My political philosophy is based on opposition to fear mongering for two primary reasons: It’s wrong and will inevitably hurt innocent people. It also inevitably means bigger government in the name of protection and thus, less net freedom.
Fear mongering is not new. It has been with us throughout American history and has correlated with the worst parts of our history. Trump’s campaign has even cited Japanese internment camps and other atrocities as precedents for his authoritarian agenda.
A liberty-less Republican Party is not one worth having and we saw it on full display Thursday. If this is what the GOP now is and shall remain, it’s not for me.
Donald Trump was right about one thing in his speech: We should take America back. From fear.
Disclosure: I co-authored Senator Rand Paul’s 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington.