By Karen Kwiatkowski
The Republican Liberty Caucus (rlc.org) published a resolution critical of the Republican National Committee's execution of the this year's convention in Tampa, Fla.
The RLC believes the GOP leadership behaved badly. In addition to conducting fraud, it exhibited "a pattern of behavior" that "sacrificed the best interests of the party and the rights of party members...[and] reduce[d] the influence of the grassroots and of state parties in the future." These are strong words by Republicans about Republicans.
The Liberty Caucus has been around for over 20 years. It was established to advance principles of "limited government, free markets and individual liberty within the Republican Party." Around here, we don't have any elected Republican politicians who are members of the RLC. The RLC is publicly associated with Ron Paul, and we Republicans know what THAT means.
It means the Liberty Caucus is a potentially dangerous spoiler, always whining about principles, referring to the Republican creed, and pointing out that many in the party seem to prefer power over principle. It means elected or soon-to-be elected Republicans may be publicly criticized by fellow Republicans because they support big government and big debt over the Constitution and a market-based monetary policy.
The emergence of a liberty, states' rights and anti-central banking wing of the party echoes what happened almost 200 years ago. Let's review.
In 1825, an anti-populist, pro-central banking party, known as the National Republican Party, was founded. By 1833, it had evolved into the Whig Party. Whigs were strong in the industrial Northeast and promoted an activist central government. In 1840, the Whigs finally won the White House, with popular Gen. William Henry Harrison as their candidate. When Harrison died after only a month in office, his vice president, John Tyler, took over. But Tyler turned out to be something of a Trojan horse. He was a former Democrat, and as a new Whig, he opposed Whig nationalism and central planning. Like any good Virginian of his day, he passionately supported states rights.
With Tyler in power, the Whigs were philosophically betrayed by one of their own. Tyler's insistence on principle, as he understood it, was the death knell of the party. Whigs factionalized, and one of these factions, known as plain old "Republican," emerged. Twenty years later, in the four-way presidential race of 1860, the very first Republican president, one Abe Lincoln of Illinois, was sent to the capitol.
Today, the modern GOP may have arrived at another serious tipping point, with the neo-conservative establishment federalist wing forced to pay serious lip service to the conservative populist Tea Party and the Constitution/Liberty factions. The possibility of the emergence of whole new, and numerically significant, parties fielding electable candidates may be only one or two elections away.
The Republican Liberty Caucus is trying to tell the GOP that they are not happy. The door may be opening for a powerful alliance between populist Tea Party conservatives and constitution and liberty-minded radicals in the party. The current tension could birth a whole new party, that unlike the modern GOP, could activate and satisfy formerly independent voters and the under-40 demographic who have a low tolerance for government debt, spending, and hypocrisy, and a high tolerance for individual freedoms.
These days, we don't know much for sure. But we do know this: no one in our party wants to be called an "establishment" Republican.
Karen Kwiatkowski is a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, a farmer, a part time professor, and a liberty-minded conservative. She writes from the southwestern edge of Shenandoah County. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org