There is sizable element within the Republican Party who are never-enlisted warmongers and chickenhawks—like South Carolina Republican Party’s hateful political operative Todd Kincannon—who secretly wish antiwar veterans dead in body bags. Last week, Kincannon went on a diatribe on Twitter against antiwar activist and Iraq War veteran Michael Prysner, saying that Prysner should have “come home in a body bag.”
.@mikeprysner You are an Iraq veteran? Shame you didn’t come home in a body bag.
— Todd Kincannon (@ToddKincannon) March 24, 2013
What Kincannon wrote on Twitter was disgusting. Sadly, this sentiment is shared by many in the Republican Party. This is not an exaggeration. When I participated in the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, a lot of the signs I produced for our group were specifically antiwar. The slime that was directed at us from passersby because of those signs were always dripping with partisan language.
Because, after all, it was unthinkable even then that someone could be against wars under both Democrat and Republican presidents, and anyone protesting the wars must be an Obama-loving peacenik. However, the worst insults were always reserved for the Veterans for Peace contingent of which I was also a member.
What could explain this hatred? I believe it is simply the matter of their patriotism being implicitly challenged, particularly among chickenhawks, by veterans who served their country and came back questioning American imperialism. There is a discomfort in knowing that you did not have the courage to put your own life on the line in a war you eagerly supported only then to be confronted by someone who did and who can call you out for being a coward. Michael Prysner might be a socialist—he actually is one!—but I have more respect for him than I do Kincannon and people like him.
For Republicans, it is not limited to just hate directed against antiwar veterans. Mitt Romney’s memorable “47 percent” gaffe, Rep. Don Young’s “wetback” slur, John McCain’s “Obama is not an Arab, but a good person” comment, and more recently, Rick Santorum’s promise that the Republican Party will never change their anti-gay platform.
If it were not for Ron Paul, it would be easy for me to make a generalization of the entire Republican Party and just say, “This is the hate they believe in.” Thankfully, I did not fall into that trap.
Today, it would be inconceivable for me to think of Justin Amash or Rand Paul of being capable of that kind of hate. However, we in the liberty movement need to recognize that many Kincannons exist in both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, just as racists prosper in both parties.
And while party reformists in the liberty movement are making great strides in changing the face of the party (young, hip, multiracial, and radical), it is going to take a while before the perception of the Republican Party changes particularly among groups unfortunate enough to have been targets of their bile.
Black people, Hispanics, gays, Muslims, and women are not going to suddenly embrace the Republican Party if those in the liberty movement who are attempting to reform the party refuse to acknowledge this history of hate or fail to explicitly, loudly, and outright reject the very people who hold these views. What that means is that the party reformists-wing of the liberty movement will have to account for those views and the people who defined the Republican brand for so long.
If the party reformists’ intent is to change the Republican Party and become the new establishment, there is going to be a need for the reformists to clean house and not just apply a fresh coat of paint.
What that means is that we need to take a step back and evaluate very carefully what it means to be “for liberty.” If this means making common cause with politicians who are, as Ron Paul puts it, “psychopathic authoritarians,” then what is the point? Enabling authoritarians by giving them your consent is just as bad as full-fledged endorsement of their ideas.
The liberty movement as a whole rejected the Bush foreign policy of aggressive war and Big Government statism, and it was able to do so because it was a movement that formed outside the Republican Party. It was a revolution and ideological awakening that was very different from the culture of compromise and backdoor-dealing enjoyed by insiders within the establishment. Anthony Gregory warns us:
The Revolution sparked in 2007 can always be reversed by a counterrevolution if the temptations of political expediency and allure of rightwing fusionism or complacent liberal utilitarianism detract us from the radical goal: the total destruction of state oppression and the full liberation of humanity.
For people to suddenly forget the radicalism that sparked the Ron Paul Revolution in favor of backroom deals and compromise in a party apparatus is to forget what this effort is all about: liberty, and not the single-minded pursuit of power over your fellow citizens. It must be principle over power. Lord Acton once remarked that “power tends to corrupt.” But what is a political party but a power structure? If power tends to corrupt, then political parties must be enablers of corruption.
1. I will be speaking at the California YAL State Convention. If you are attending, say hello! If you are not, why aren’t you?
2. Yahoo! News got in touch with Bonnie Kristian asking for short first-person accounts from young people on how they discovered libertarianism. It is a great read, and it is nice to see the diversity represented in the list. Here was my submission titled, “A Libertarian Foreign Policy is Based on Peace.”Published in