Scott Tibbs

What are the options for small-government conservatives?

By Scott Tibbs, March 19, 2021

Earlier this month, I said on Twitter that we should "stop pretending that the Republican Party as a whole is for limited government." I stand by that. The Republican Party abandoned fiscal responsibility while George W. Bush was President, growing both government and the deficit. That got worse under Donald Trump, with runaway government spending blowing up the deficit even worse.

This, of course, leads to the obvious question: What is a fiscal conservative to do with Republican party that as a whole is not fiscally conservative or committed to limited government? What are our options and how do we vote, if we really want limited government? What are the actual solutions to this problem?

Obviously, joining the Democrats is out. They are worse than the Republicans are, which says a lot. Republicans at least temporarily rediscover fiscal restraint when a Democrat is President, such as the Republican Congress elected in 1994 and the Tea Party wave of 2010 and 2012.

So what about the Libertarian Party? Putting aside the disagreements over social issues (and those are significant) there is the issue of effectiveness. Libertarians generally do not get more than two or three percent of the vote. There are exceptions, but if we want to actually see policy implemented that reduces the size of government, the Libertarian Party is not a realistic option. The Constitution Party, which is closer to more traditional conservatives' views on social issue, is even more of a long shot.

So the best option is the primary process. That has worked many times to remove "moderate" Republicans and install more liberty-minded people in their place. This was the meaning behind the hashtags at the end of my Tweet. Conservatives should use the tools at our disposal to reform the Republican Party from the inside. As we see from repeated lapses into reckless spending, that is a process that can never end.

As irresponsible as the Republican Party has been, the GOP remains the only realistic option for a limited-government conservative. It may be fun to point to Republicans' recent history and sneer at conservative voters, but the best answer to that sneering and accusations of "hypocrisy" is a very simple question: What would you have me do? I have no interest in the heckling of those who refuse to provide a realistic solution.

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