It’s no secret that libertarians are viewed with skepticism by those in mainstream politics, as well as people who are less-informed about policy debates. Those who don’t understand libertarians are often quick to believe the crazy “wacko-bird” stereotypes the establishment is feeding them. Each political party has attempted to associate the Liberty movement with the opposing party by painting us as “crackpot ana-caps” or as Ann Coulter put it: “Libertarians and your pot!” This is how both parties, but especially the GOP, are missing an opportunity to capture precious votes from valuable groups: young people, minorities, and especially women.
The Democratic Party has been the party of Santa Claus in the past few years, giving away health insurance to those who can’t afford it and mandating things like birth control be covered by nearly all health insurers. These “gifts” have given the democrats the ability to present anyone opposed to them as “waging a war on women.” Rather than defending themselves on rational economic and moral grounds, the GOP has gone the other way and begun making emotional, evidence-less claims, making martyrs of previously unknown actors like Sandra Fluke, and implying that there are different levels of risk associated with rape, depending on its “legitimacy.” Even from a sympathetic viewpoint this looks a lot like a “war on women.”
The GOP doesn’t need to engage in this debate though. If it wants to succeed in convincing women of the benefits of limiting the scope of government, it needs to understand that the average voter is rationally ignorant of many of the minute details of running a government. Because they cannot know all that happens on the Hill, and most don’t have the time or interest to follow every economic development, people vote with emotion. It takes little imagination to see why the party waging a war on women is losing votes.
Rather than playing the defensive and trying unsuccessfully to deny the Democrats’ attacks, the GOP should go on the offensive and explain to women why it is truly in their best interests to limit government. Republicans need to make a moral case for personal liberty. There are many ways they could approach this topic:
1. Historically big governments have been the most successful at subjugating women,
2. Spending decisions big government is making now will deplete the coffers of social programs and leave our children broke and without a safety-net,
3. The more involved the government becomes in the workforce, the more difficult it will become for women, minorities, and the poor to excel and advance in their careers of choice, and
4. What the government has the power to give, it has the power to take away, while powers left to the individual remain with the individual.
Any of these avenues would create a platform for Republican leaders to speak to women about the importance of limited government, while still appealing to the issues that are important to female voters.
Of course, in order to push these points, the GOP would have to make some concessions to maintain internal consistency. To attract women, the GOP needs to make the moral case for personal liberty in all aspects of life: freedom to vote, freedom to pursue a career, freedom to purchase any level of health insurance, and the freedom to exercise full control over one’s body- always.
If the GOP wants to overcome its image as the fountain of old male WASPs, it needs to fully accept the libertarian principle of liberty: the principle of freedom from government intervention in all aspects of one’s life. The party would grain credibility for being internally consistent, and it would gain new voting blocks. Once individuals feel safe that their personal liberties are no longer under attack, they will be free to vote in the interest of their economic liberties, and that would mean voting Republican.