I recently got into a debate on twitter with a pro-choice libertarian who will be voting for Gary Johnson if he’s the Libertarian Party nominee, which is highly likely, and will be determined later this month at their national convention.
He was trying to convince me that I should vote for Johnson because even though Johnson is personally pro-choice, as president he would appoint Supreme Court justices who are strict constitutionalists who would thus overturn Roe v Wade, since it is in fact unconstitutional.
My response was that it’s not enough for me for a presidential candidate to just say he’ll appoint strict constitutionalists, because not every judge interprets the constitution the same way, so there’s no guarantee any judge a president nominates to the Supreme Court would necessarily agree that Roe v Wade is unconstitutional, even though it clearly is.
That’s why I will only vote for a candidate, regardless of party, who gives pro-lifers like me an assurance that any judge he or she nominates for the Supreme Court understands that Roe v Wade is unconstitutional and would thus overturn it if given the chance to do so.
The Johnson supporter replied to this by saying that’s a litmus test for judges, and even Republican presidents don’t do that. I replied that it’s not a litmus test, it’s a test to see if any judge understands the role of the federal gov’t and the Constitution and will apply it correctly not only on the issue of abortion, but every issue. You might say it’s a Constitution test, and any candidate who wants my vote would have to assure me that the judges he nominates would pass it.
Those justices don’t have to personally be pro-life, or even conservative, they just have to be strict constitutionalists who understand that the issue of abortion should’ve never been made into an issue for the federal gov’t to deal with in the first place, just like many other issues have been made into federal issues despite the fact that the federal gov’t has no constitutional authority to deal with them.
Overturning Roe v Wade isn’t just a pro-life position, it’s a libertarian, federalist position because the Constitution doesn’t give the federal gov’t the power to decide whether or not abortion should be illegal. Therefore, any power not explicitly given to the federal gov’t is a power given to the states, and each state can decide if abortion should be illegal in their state.
As I said, Roe v Wade is unconstitutional, so overturning it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re pro-life, it just means you’re pro-Constitution.
In the end the pro-choice libertarian and I had to agree to disagree, but this entire exchange got me thinking.
It made me realize two things:
1)Libertarians and social conservatives have more in common when it comes to the role of gov’t in our lives than we have differences, at least if we properly apply our principles to the relevant issues we currently face in America.
2)If both groups ever wanna win elections, at every level, we’re gonna have to find a way to build a broad coalition that combines our social and political capital and the unique traits, skills, and beliefs that both groups possess.
I believe both of these ideas can be applied to the two biggest social issues dividing our country today- Abortion and marriage.
Let’s take abortion first.
Even though social conservatives and pro-choice libertarians don’t agree on the morality of abortion, in theory we should agree on what to do about it. That’s because in theory we both favor limited gov’t and the Constitution over the Supreme Court giving powers to the federal gov’t that it was never supposed to have.
Such is the case with abortion. Overturning Roe v Wade doesn’t make abortion illegal in all 50 states, it simply takes the power to criminalize it out of the federal gov’ts hands and gives each state the power to decide whether or not abortion should be illegal in that state.
This is federalism 101, and again, if both social conservatives and libertarians truly believe in the concept of federalism, this is something we should agree on.
As Sen. Cruz has said, the great thing about the Constitution is that it’s a unifying force. It has the ability to bring people together who don’t share the same values, as long as those different groups of people all value freedom.
Likewise, on the issue of marriage, here again libertarians and social conservatives at least could have a potential area of agreement. Obviously we disagree about whether or not marriage should be defined as only being between one man and one woman, but I don’t believe those are the only two options for us in terms of policy.
There’s a third option, which is to get the gov’t out of the marriage business entirely. Now I’m not naive enough to think all social conservatives will agree with me on this, but I think it’s time that they start seriously considering it.
For a long time now the gov’t has been involved in marriage, and how’s that working out for us? The state of traditional marriage in this country is worse than it’s ever been. The gov’t has made it easier to get divorced with no-fault divorce laws, and harder to stay married by have a tax code that penalizes married couples for having kids. Even worse, we have a welfare system that rewards young women for getting pregnant and raising their child without a father by giving them all sorts of benefits that married couples don’t qualify for. If you don’t believe me on that, google it.
Ben Shapiro has made a convincing case that the only way to save traditional marriage in this country and restore it to its rightful place in society is to get the gov’t out of it entirely.
Social conservatives will say the gov’t should be involved because it should be in the business of promoting good things that will help the country in the future, like marriage. In theory that’s true, but in practice, the opposite is true. As Ben points out, the gov’t sucks at pretty much everything, and that’s been particularly true when it comes to promoting traditional marriage.
Libertarians believe any two adults of either sex should be able to get “married”, so on this we disagree. But if libertarians truly favor limited gov’t, they too should want the gov’t out of the marriage business. They should believe that the gov’t shouldn’t be defining or licensing marriage for us in any way, either for straight or gay couples. Right now we have a situation where the gov’t is forcing whatever idea of marriage is most popular with the masses and codified by the Supreme Court down our throats. That’s not libertarian, that’s authoritarian.
That should be left up to local religious and civic institutions, who should have the freedom to choose who they want to marry and how they define marriage.
So again, on this controversial social issue, libertarians and social conservatives should be able to find common ground, because common ground exists.
If we ever wanna win a national election and take back the gov’t from the big gov’t progressives in both parties, we have to put our personal and cultural differences aside and build a broad coalition of people who may not share all, or even many of the same values and beliefs, but who value freedom and limited gov’t above all else.