W. James Antle writes on Rep. Justin Amash’s leaving the Republicans:
What came after in the form of the Tea Party brought together fiscal and social conservatives in defense of the Constitution… At its peak, this new movement helped elect two important skeptics of military interventionism, Rand Paul and Justin Amash. With fellow traveler Mike Lee and such later additions as Thomas Massie, they outnumbered more hawkish newcomers like Marco Rubio, even if they remained a minority among congressional Republicans overall.
It looked like a free market populism could take hold of the GOP. Instead populism without the modifier took over via Donald Trump and Amash is now out of the party, declaring his own independence on the Fourth of July. While Amash’s frustration with partisan politics had been growing for years, it was his break with Trump that made this move seem inevitable.
To some extent, we’re witnessing a fight between those who want conservative leaders to be good and those who want conservatism itself to be less individualistic and more oriented toward the common good. …
The federal government keeps getting bigger no matter which party holds the pursestrings. There’s a case to be made that fusionism as practiced by the GOP and mainstream conservative movement shortchanged both libertarians and social conservatives.
But tax cuts and deregulation happen more frequently than any real progress on social issues, even though evangelicals and conservative Catholics supply most of the votes for Republican candidates. The most electorally viable economic conservatism is really a form of social conservatism, a secularized version of the Protestant work ethic. Yet even making tax cuts more family-friendly, whether through child tax credits or incentives for parental leave, inspires considerable pushback.
Moreover, atomistic individualism, if not real libertarianism, has played a role in social conservative setbacks on abortion and marriage, among other issues, without producing similar gains for religious liberty. This has led many traditionalists to question at a more fundamental level the concepts of personal autonomy at least partially fueling trends they dislike.
All this has occurred amid shrinking libertarian influence over Republican voters in general. A The Hill/Harris poll conducted in June found Republicans resistant to cutting federal spending in all 19 categories tested. This includes not just traditional GOP priorities like law enforcement or defense, but also education, infrastructure, health care, and unemployment insurance.
Many libertarians have doubled down in the face of this resistance. It would be better to abolish the welfare state than to regulate immigration, they say, without identifying a political constituency for such plans.
This phrase could describe an incredible number of advocacy groups and lobbyists in Washington: “…they say, without identifying a political constituency for such plans.“