Coalition Building: Making Friends, not Enemies

This post was written by Steve Heidenreich, but honestly, if he hadn’t written it, I would have done it myself.  CPAC was awesome, and the strong presence of liberty supporters made a huge statement at an event that would otherwise have been dominated by warmongering and neoconservatism.  I can personally attest that the vast majority of YAL and C4L people were courteous and took the opportunity to build on agreements with others in the conservative movement.  However, some Ron Paul supporters engaged in incredibly inappropriate heckling and rudeness. 

Our numbers may be growing, but we’ll never win friends by screaming at them.  Think about it:  Did you become a libertarian because someone yelled during a speech you wanted to hear?  I didn’t think so.  It is incumbent on us to remain absolutely gracious at all times.  Please read this entire piece.

CPAC ’11, like CPAC ’10, was a wild success for libertarians. Ron Paul not only won the straw poll this year, but liberty candidates and discussions could be seen and heard in every corner of CPAC. In spite of our great numbers and enthusiasm, we also felt the sting of being marginalized and ignored by the more neoconservative crowd. With surprise and horror we had to listen to Donald Trump announce his potential candidacy and watch Donald Rumsfeld be given the “Defender of the Consititution Award.” Obviously, despite Ron Paul winning the strawpoll, there is a lot we’d like to see different in CPAC.

However, that is no excuse for the type of behavior some of our number engaged in at CPAC. Whether it was the yelling of “Ron Paul” at random moments during speeches, chanting “End the Fed” at moments that had absolutely nothing to do with monetary policy nor the Federal Reserve, or calling Dick Cheney a “War criminal,” a vocal minority of the libertarian showing at CPAC made absolute asses out of us.

As the 70s have proven before, no amount of obnoxiousness will change anyone’s mind, let alone the Republican elite.

On Thursday, the “War criminal” comment was made about our former vice president, and “Ron Paul” was shouted during various speeches, leading to negative comments towards Ron Paul by the likes of Donald Trump, and others. I was pretty embarassed, but I felt alone in this sentiment and didn’t want to “ruin the fun.” Later that night, my roommate at the Adam’s Inn confided that he, too, was apalled by the behavior. The next day, the other four members of my chapter happened to agree, just as strongly, and even spoke of talking to Jeff Frazee directly about the issue. Friday night, drunk at the Adam’s Inn with a dozen or so other libertarians, I brought this up. Fortunately, they agreed; this behavior just makes us look illegitimate, rude, and unthoughtful, the same way conservatives would classify liberal activists. We all see just how easily conservatives, and especially neoconservatives, steamroller over obnoxious liberal protests, why should we expect to be treated any differently if we act like any “fight the machine” douchebag?

Our movement has spread due to libertarianism’s inherent logic and reason behind it. College surveys show that libertarians have the highest IQs and demonstrate the highest knowledge of current events compared to any other group. We’ve converted a lot of liberals and conservatives by reasoning with them, not by yelling “End the Fed” and rudely laughing their ideas off. When the strawpoll results were announced, we cheered and screamed, but a large portion of Republicans were booing. I know plenty of conservatives, and most of them they don’t hate Ron Paul.  Neither do these CPACers; they were booing us, because of a minority of obnoxious Paultard supporters.

We may have the truth, we may have the logic, but in the end only 15% of America at BEST is libertarian. If we want any hope of reducing the scope, size, and waste of federal government, as well as bring about social and economic reform, we have to build a coalition. If we’re going to go to CPAC and use the Republican Party to our ends, then maybe we shouldn’t call their leaders “war criminals” and offend the old people that donate their time and money to make Republican candidates winners. The Republican party needs change, incredible and vast change, but it requires an incremental, reasonable, and respectful change. Otherwise it won’t be the neoconservatives being kicked out of the Republican party.  t will be us.

So do me a favor, next time you have the urge to act like a rowdy high schooler, just don’t. It’s a very good thing that we get up and ask questions — even difficult ones that the Republican establishment has trouble answering. It’s even a good thing that certain ideas and statements get booed, like Ryan Sorba’s homophobic comments made last year.  But booing candidates before they even speak, yelling unrelated and even offensive lines during speeches, and generally acting like the hippie douchebags that failed to change the status quo decades ago will get us nowhere.

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