Jim DeMint Is Right: It's Time for a Debate Between Conservatives and Libertarians

Conservative Senator Jim DeMint (R-S. Carolina) is not hoping that libertarian Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) drops out of the GOP race for the presidential nomination…at least not for the time being. In fact, he’s hoping that the other GOP candidates will learn something from him.

Sen. DeMint told The Daily Caller, “I really don’t want Ron Paul to drop out until whoever our front-runner is is collecting some of the ideas that he’s talking about.”

Though the senator has predicted that Mitt Romney will win the South Carolina primary, he himself has not endorsed any of the “not-Romney” candidates. Yet, Mr. DeMint has a suggestion for his party:

The debate in the Republican Party needs to be between libertarians and conservatives. … There’s no longer room for moderates and liberals because we don’t have any money to spend, so I don’t want to be debating with anyone who wants to grow government.

Sen. DeMint, who has spent much of his political career fighting against big government, went on to say, “”I’d like to see a Republican Party that embraces a lot of the libertarian ideas.”

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Though Ron Paul has acknowledged that he might not make it to the nomination, he hopes that his supporters will have a major role in the national party organization. “The more delegates I have, the more leverage I have,” Dr. Paul said in a New York Times interview. “We’ll go after delegates, and we have staying power.”

Perhaps the issue that divides conservatives and libertarians the most is that of foreign policy. Sen. DeMint states:

I don’t agree with Ron Paul on foreign policy and his disengagement around the world, but we’re going to end up where he is because we don’t have any money. So the Republican Party needs to become the big tent of Americans who really want freedom, prosperity, opportunity and that’s just synonymous with a more limited government.

Sen. DeMint’s approach is right on. The “not-Ron Paul” candidates all have gaps in their conservatism, some more than others. The area of agreement between “true” conservatives and libertarians is limited government and a balanced budget. While most conservatives agree, along with Sen. DeMint, that Ron Paul’s foreign policy dictates “disengagement,” Congressman Paul’s continued presence in the race will push the other candidates toward a fiscal policy that will be compatible with both true conservatives and libertarians. Ultimately, if Ron Paul, in fact, is not the nominee, he who is nominated will need to move- and stay– on the side of limited government. In addition, if both true conservatives and libertarians begin to use the same language, i.e., small government, limited government, freedoms, liberty, prosperity, opportunity, etc., they can, together, work to elect a Congress in which those who believe in smaller government will be the majority. A president who is lacking, in any way, in limited government philosophy, will then be checked by a Congress in which liberals and moderates are the minority.

The obvious way for true conservatives and libertarians to intersect is through the Tea Party movement. Both political philosophies have had a major presence in the Tea Party, and have contributed greatly to its rise. Libertarian Ron Paul is often termed, the Founder of the Tea Party, yet conservative Michele Bachmann heads the Tea Party Caucus in Congress. The Tea Party movement is also clearly identified by its opposition: liberals who have labeled it “extreme.” The candidates who decide to reach out to the Tea Party will have the best chance of securing the nomination, when true conservatives and libertarians, much of the Republican electorate, emphasize that limited government, balanced budgets, freedom, and prosperity are the goals.

A freedom-loving, limited government senator is calling all true conservatives and libertarians to a conversation that may truly save the nation from further tyranny. Will they answer the call?