Making the arguments for liberty

Since I wrote my open letter to State Rep. Sam Moore, I’ve been called a “statist” and “patsy” as well as being accused of doing the bidding of the Georgia GOP establishment. Those of you who’ve gotten to know me since I began writing at Peach Pundit in 2006 will no doubt find some humor in the silly comments from those who are a little more than upset with me for speaking out.

As I wrote yesterday, in order to have a discussion about liberty-based ideas, we have to make an arguments for them. Dropping a piece of legislation in the hopper and crying “liberty” isn’t going to convince 178 other legislators to suddenly say, “Yes! Liberty!!!” I wish that were the case, but it’s not the world in which we live. The system isn’t going to change overnight, especially when a couple of legislators keep giving the establishment excuses to marginalize us, no matter how unfair that may be.

For those who are truly interested in moving the ball forward, step-by-step, you need only look at two liberty-minded Republicans who have helped change the conversation, not just inside the GOP, but also the national discussion.

Take Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), for example. On March 6, 2013, the Kentucky Republican stood from his desk in the Senate chamber for 13 hours to filibuster the appointment of John Brennan to serve as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The issue that Paul chose to raise was President Obama’s drones policy, which, some surmised, could include drone strikes against American citizens inside the United States, the prospect of which defied the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process.

At the time, Paul was on the “wrong” side of public opinion, especially in the Republican Party, which, unfortunately, had been dominated by hawkish politicians who are totally fine with the prospect of perpetual war.

“[A]s the presidential race was taking shape, The Washington Post’s pollster asked voters whether they favored the use of drones to kill terrorists or terror suspects if they were ‘American citizens living in other countries,'” wrote Dave Weigel at Slate a few weeks after Paul’s filibuster. “The net rating at the time was positive: 65 percent for, 26 percent against.”

But Paul and the other senators who participated in the filibuster changed the narrative and started a national discussion, one that couldn’t be ignored or marginalized. He wasn’t bombastic, nor did he scream “statist” during the filibuster. He simply presented a reasoned, measured case for a protected civil liberty. Americans heard it, and they responded.

“[A]fter a month of Rand Paul-driven discussion of drone warfare, Gallup asks basically the same question: Should the U.S. ‘use drones to launch airstrikes in other countries against U.S. citizens living abroad who are suspected terrorists?’ The new numbers: 41 percent for, 52 percent against,” noted Weigel. “The lede of the poll is even kinder to Paul, finding as high as 79 percent opposition to targeted killing in the United States. But that’s a new question. On the old question, we’ve seen a real queasy swing of public opinion.”

Another example is Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI). Shortly after the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs became public knowledge, the Michigan Republican, a stalwart civil libertarian, began making the case that the NSA had undermined Fourth Amendment protections, essentially using general warrants to obtain phone metadata of Americans, including those not suspected of terrorist activity or affiliations.

The administration and supporters of the NSA programs claimed that the intelligence agency had the power to obtain metadata (the haystack to find the needle, if you will) through Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the 2001 anti-terrorism measure. In reality, this provision of the law was intended to be limited to actual investigations into terrorist activity, but the Bush administration interpreted it a different way, and the Obama administration simply took the next step.

But the actions of a courageous whistleblower exposed the what the NSA was doing. Amash, then, began pushing for legislation to end the program, or, at the very least, limit its reach within the clear text of Section 215. He made the arguments and worked with Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for a vote on an amendment that would restore congressional intent. Keep in mind that the PATRIOT Act, including Section 215, had been cleared without much opposition in the past. Section 215, for example, was renewed in 2011. There was some brief procedural drama in the House, but renewal provisions passed by 275 to 144 vote.

Though the Amash amendment was defeated, the 205-217 margin was remarkably close. What’s more, several members who voted against have stated publicly, as more disclosures about the program have been reported, that they wished they supported the amendment.

These are crucial examples that those in Georgia’s liberty movement should follow if they want to exact change in the Peach State, you just have to be willing to follow them, and it can be done without betraying or compromising on core beliefs and principles.

Everytime the ball moves forward on the field puts us closer to the endzone, no matter how small the gains may be. Unfortunately, some believe that we can throw “Hail Marys” from our own 1-yard line and win the game. It doesn’t work that way, folks, and that “strategy” hurts the rest of the team.


  1. gcp says:

    Does your version of “liberty” also include not forcing individuals to pay for the health care, groceries, children, housing, unemployment and lifestyle of other persons or is it mainly to stop government droning and government viewing an individual’s phone records? That’s my problem with libertarians/civil libertarians; too much emphasis on “privacy” and droning but nothing on economic issues. I don’t know about anyone else, but economic issues affect me a lot more than those other issues.

    • Jason says:

      Because of the nature of the controversy that’s consumed political discussion in the last few days, this post was written with civil liberties in mind. But to answer your question, I’m a free marketer, someone who subscribes to F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman. But I do believe there should be a small and limited social safety-net, though not the welfare state that we have today.

      • Jon Lester says:

        If we eliminated all corporate subsidies, we’d have plenty of money for health care and whatever else we really need, and everyone could enjoy lower rates, too.

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      Ask any libertarian what their opinion is of the IRS. Oh yes, economic freedom is included in the philosophy.

    • Jason says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if that was actually being written by some. I’m fairly sure that I’ve been excommunicated from the liberty movement for my two posts. Because, you know, the truth hurts.

      • Lo Mein says:

        As if you’ve been in the “liberty movement” for the last 7 years. You’ve proven repeatedly that you aren’t.

        • Jason says:

          Mmmky. Speaking out against people with whom I disagree on tactics means that I’m not part of the liberty movement. Makes complete sense.

          • Lo Mein says:

            No, speaking out against every single member of the Liberty Movement who has had the balls to actually get active in partisan politics means you’re not part of the Liberty Movement, and nothing but a back-bench ankle-biter who thinks showing up to a GOP breakfast and sitting quietly in the back qualifies for “standing for liberty”. Even your old LP brothers are glad you’ve so quickly faded into irrelevancy. Good riddance.

            • Jason says:

              Sigh. I’m not going to please everyone, and I realized that when I wrote these two posts. Also, I’m involved in partisan politics, though I’ve chosen to work with liberty-minded friends at the local level, through activism on tax and spending issues and the county GOP.

              And while I respect my “LP brothers” and remain friends with several of them, I really don’t care what others think of me. If I did, I wouldn’t have written those posts with the understanding that I would alienate and piss off a lot of people.

              The fact you are insulting me, rather than addressing points I’ve raised, means that you don’t really have anything constructive to say. That’s too bad.

  2. Anyone But Chip says:

    Why does everything have to be a “race to the extreme”? At points in my life I have considered myself a TEA Party member and Constitutional Conservative. I have abandoned these monikers not because my perspective has changed, but because the platform of each of these has become more and more extreme.

    I couldn’t agree more that the use of drones domestically, the militarization of our police and eavesdropping on my ‘private’ conversations is abhorrent and should be challenged and repealed at every step. But if I have to sign up for dropping legislation against sexual predators in the name of “platform purity” I’m gone.

    What I see is the same in each of these movements. Walk in lock step, agree with absolutely everything we say or you become an enemy.

  3. Red Phillips says:

    Give me a break Jason. The Establishment Republicans deliberately used this opportunity to attack someone they see as a threat and not part of the old boys club and YOU KNOW IT! To pretend like this was all a legitimate uprising because of some truly awful offense is a deliberate sham. Any issues with the bills, whether actual or just potential opportunities for grandstanders to make rhetorical political hay, could have been addressed in a measured sensible way in a back room somewhere as is usually the case. More senior members of the party who were actually interested in right governing instead of striking a blow against their right flank would have quietly made suggestions to Rep. Moore with an eye toward protecting a new member rather than grandstand like a bunch of shameless peacocks. They have taken a page stright from the PC Cultural Marxist rightthink enforcement playbook with their “point and sputter” and feigned outrage game playing. Pretending not to recognize this does not make you a “statist” or a “patsy.” It makes you a co-conspirator. And I dare you to forever sacrifice your credibility as a political commentator to here for all the world to see pretend that you don’t realize that this was about political game playing and not about the merits or lack thereof of any piece of legislation.

    • xdog says:

      “They have taken a page stright from the PC Cultural Marxist rightthink enforcement playbook”

      That sounds like a hell of a book.

    • Jason says:

      And I dare you to forever sacrifice your credibility as a political commentator to here for all the world to see pretend that you don’t realize that this was about political game playing and not about the merits or lack thereof of any piece of legislation.

      I’ve already written about this in response to some of the patently absurd criticism to my original post. To wit:

      The extent to which House leaders criticized Moore and his legislation was grandstanding and overkill. I don’t disagree with that, though I would say that they had to at least publicly renounce the bill.

      If this had happened in an off-year session, like last year, it probably wouldn’t have been that big a deal. There would have been some admonition and everyone would have moved on.

      The catch, however, is that this is an election year, and Gov. Nathan Deal looks increasingly vulnerable in November and there’s a real chance that the open U.S. Senate seat is competitive.

      If you step back for a moment and look at their thinking, they wanted to avoid stories on MSNBC or ThinkProgress or a number of other left-leaning outlets that would have tried to push the narrative that Republicans support child predators. The headlines on these stories would have written themselves. Once a narrative hits the media, it’s hard to change it.

      Additionally, there were a few liberty-minded legislators who had to distance themselves from Moore. They want to be effective legislators for their constituents. I don’t fault those guys for doing so. In fact, it was a smart move.
      With no explanation of what he was trying to accomplish, Moore dropped the bill, without seeking advice from likeminded legislators (there are about 12 to 15 liberty guys up there), and was completely unprepared for the backlash. Addressing this issue could have and should have done in a different way.

      Unfortunately, the way in which this was all handled gave the establishment an inch, they took a mile. It hurt us, and to deny that it did is to ignore reality.

      I’m not interested in conspiracy theories or accusing people of nefarious actions because a legislator didn’t understand the impact of his actions, no matter how well intentioned he may have been.

      • Red Phillips says:

        If there were problems with the bill, either actual or political appearances, then calmly so state. The issue is that the grandstanding is what should be decried vigorously here, not rationalized and defended.

        No Rep. was under any obligation to publicly denounce this bill any more than he is to publicly denounce any bill he disagrees with. If MSNBC or ThinkProgress ran with some feigned outrage story then they should be denounced vigorously by all sensible people, not placated. It’s simply not credible that someone from the party that is criticized by leftists as the party of prudes secretly wants to make it easier for pedophiles to find victims.

        This culture of outrage makes discussing any controversial matter seriously virtually impossible, and it should be decried, not acquiesced to.

        • Jason says:

          Like I said, he gave them an inch, they took a mile.

          I don’t like what happened, but by the time I wrote the letter, the damage had been done. I felt compelled to say something to separate my approach to liberty rather let Ralston and others define my beliefs because of someone else.

          You can disagree with my approach all you want, and I don’t expect you or other people who take a “burn everything down” approach to understand, but to label me as some sort of “co-conspirator” in this absolutely ridiculous and completely unreasonable.

          • griftdrift says:

            “Strike me down with all of your hatred and your journey towards the dark side will be complete!” ~Saul Alinsky from the book, “The Statists Strike Back”

          • Red Phillips says:

            It is simply not credible that Moore was intentionally attempting to facilitate child molesters, so anyone who mounts the bully pulpits and denounces him and his legislation on those grounds is being deliberately dishonest. They should be called on that. O’Neal, Ralston, Ramsey… are the scondrels here, not Moore. This was message sending plain and simple.

            If some grandstanding reporter comes up to a Georgia legislator and asks breathlessly “Sir, what do you thinks about the Rep. Moore’s bill that would … blah, blah… sex offenders … blah, blah … children … blah, blah … pedophiles?!!!!” the appropriate and gentlemanly thing to do would be to laugh dismissively and say something like “Come now Ms. Reporter, you know better than to believe that Rep. Moore is attempting to facilitate child molestors. If there is language in the bill that needs to be changed then we will do so in the normal course of affairs, as we evaluate the overal merit of his proposal.” This gentlemanly and protective instinct should be stronger based on the fact that Moore is new, just as you would expect decent civilized employees to protect and guide a new employee rather than jump down his throat because he made a mistake. What is the Georgia Legislature now, a bunch of catty middle schoolers? Hey, let’s all ostracize the new kid!

            I’m not interested in burning the house down. I’m interested in not empowering the enemy by using their playbook and endorsing their narrative.

            • Jason says:

              It is simply not credible that Moore was intentionally attempting to facilitate child molesters, so anyone who mounts the bully pulpits and denounces him and his legislation on those grounds is being deliberately dishonest.

              Sigh. As I’ve already written, several times now, I realize that wasn’t his intent, and I understand his motives.

              The way in which he went about it is what I have problem with. He didn’t seek advise outside of his circle. When a legislators warned him of blowback he said something along the lines of “you’re either for the bill or against it.” That’s not a verbatim quote, but it’s essentially what he said.

              I’m interested in not empowering the enemy by using their playbook and endorsing their narrative.

              Perception is reality, whether we like it or not. When a legislator makes a rookie mistake, he opens the door for backlash. It is what it is. I simply promoted an approach to pushing libertarian ideas in a more reasonable way in the public square. I make no apologies for that, not to you or anyone else.

              Edited for clarity.

              • Red Phillips says:

                “Sigh. As I’ve already written, several times now, I realize that wasn’t his intent, and I understand his motives.”

                I know that. My comment was aimed at the grandstanding Reps. My point is simply that it is the grandstanders who are the villains in this tale, not Moore. While Moore was guilty of not being politically wise, I don’t see the utility in hindsight tut tutting him when it is Ralston and company who deserve nothing but scorn and contempt.

                • Jason says:

                  We’re going to have to agree to disagree. I’m not a fan of Ralston and, as I’ve already explained, what happened Friday was grandstanding and overkill. But, as I’ve also written, there needed to be some distance from the bill.

                  But at the same time, as I’ve been getting back involved in Georgia politics after a year of work-related absence (I explained this in my post), I felt obligated to state my disagreement with Moore.

                  While I agree that Moore isn’t a “villain,” I question his judgment. There’s a difference between activism and serving as a legislator.

        • Jason says:

          And this comment explains why I can’t see eye to eye with purists who see only two legislators as part of the liberty movement. I consider Scot Turner, Jason Spencer and maybe 10 or so others to either be liberty-minded or, at the very least, have some liberty-leanings.

          I may not agree with them all the time, but they’re not statists, nor are they my enemies.

                • Lo Mein says:

                  Jason Spencer hasn’t been “liberty-minded” since Ralston pulled these same kind of BS stunts on him just after HE was elected. Spencer apparently learned how to lick the glove that whipped him, and has now been relegated to lap-dog status for Ralston and his cronies. Now he brags about how his “home-brew competition” bill that got passed is some great victory for liberty. But ask him to introduce the bills he once co-sponsored with Bobby Franklin, and watch him turn tail and run.

                  He learned his lesson when tried to redistrict him out of office. When Ralston says “go make a statement against this bug I want to crush, or I’ll crush YOU like a bug,” he jumps to it.

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