Can Partisan Reflexes Lead to Philosophical Transformations?

Congressman Justin Amash, whom I’ve been praising a lot lately, has been doing a fantastic job on his Facebook page of educating people not only about the unconstitutionality of the President authorizing military strikes without congressional approval, but also regarding specific policies being pursued by the Obama administration, and the actual opinions and ties (hint: al-Qaeda) of Libyan rebel leaders. Amash has done a commendable job standing up as an indispensable voice of conservative opposition to the poorly thought out intervention in Libya – and has been influential in the face of both liberal and neoconservative praise of the operation.

Now of course, when it comes to Libya, my tried and true neoconservative friends wholeheartedly support this intervention as much as they did the policies of Bush, Bolton, Rumsfeld, etc; and honestly, I applaud them for their philosophical consistency. Their reaction, wrong as I think it may be, transcends partisanship and derives from strong convictions. Admittedly, I appreciate the intellectual honesty of it.

But, what both, somewhat confusingly, manages to frustrate and encourage me simultaneously is the seemingly partisan reaction to Obama’s Libya policy that’s currently permeating political discourse. While I was reviewing the great information Amash has posted on the matter, I came across a contributor to the conversation who applauded the Congressman for his work on the issue. However, what I found strange yet compelling was that this person went into a diatribe about how what Obama is doing in Libya can be described as nothing short of complete madness; that he’s ruining the country; that no one should have ever voted for such an imbecile; that people were warned about his incompetence during the campaign, etc. That’s all well and good – but it reeks of reactionary partisanship. Let us refresh our memories for a moment. Who was fervently calling for a “No Fly Zone” over Libya weeks before the President took a position on the matter? A certain Senator McCain.

Would this individual commenting on Amash’s page be horrified if a Republican President were pursuing the exact same policy? Because that’s where we’d be with President McCain; just a few weeks deeper into the north African nation’s civil war. I’d like to think that  partisans such as this commenter could objectively recognize the, as he aptly put it, “madness” of such a policy. However, I fear that’s typically not the case.

Yet on the other hand, I’m encouraged by the potential for educating those with hyper-partisan tendencies while the pendulum is swinging in our direction. If, as non-interventionists, we approach partisan Republicans who see the problems with our current policy in Libya with a thoughtful desire to educate them about the fact that the insanity they are currently capable of detecting transcends President Obama, we’re in a position to influence for the better, the worldviews of those who are receptive.

Perhaps we can only change the minds of some – but the value of harnessing partisan reflexes as a catalyst for education, and translating that into true philosophical transformation is undeniable. What it all comes down to is our approach as liberty minded individuals. Will we insult and drive potential allies away? Or will we approach them with an open mind, focus on educating them (without being condescending), and potentially bring them into the movement?

With philosophy trending in our direction, now is the time to change hearts and minds; to build bridges and inform, instead of attacking what we (perhaps rightfully) perceive to be ignorance. It’s tempting to lash out at the hypocrisy of partisan reactions – but won’t we benefit more as a movement if we approach people civilly and with an open mind when we see that they’ve demonstrated the potential for comprehending a philosophy of freedom? Frankly, that’s what I find so exciting about the Tea Party movement. Despite obvious imperfections, it’s a step in the right direction. Let’s follow the Rand Paul model, and be a part of defining it.

Clearly, given the mixed reaction on the right to our intervention in Libya, you can see that not every conservative should be inherently labeled a “neocon” – as much as the Bush era may have tempted us to believe otherwise. As frustrated as seemingly hollow partisan reactions make us, let’s take advantage of them while it benefits us. The task of redefining and reviving conservatism has been foisted upon us now, after decades of Republican failure. Young Americans For Liberty is about affecting generational change – and we’re perfectly positioned to do so at this very moment in time. Play the hand you’ve been dealt as a young liberty activist in today’s political climate wisely and with grace; the future prosperity of our nation depends upon it.

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