Why Utah conservatives attack Utah libertarians

Why Utah conservatives attack Utah libertarians
By Jesse Harris

I’m going to state right up front that I like, respect, and am friends with both Connor Boyack and Paul Mero. Even the people who disagree with every single last policy position of both can’t seem to avoid begrudgingly saying “yeah, those guys are mostly okay” if they’ve met them in person. (Believe me, I’ve seen it myself.) It also seems like the two of them seem to get into tiffs over policy positions on a somewhat regular basis. Heck, it seems like almost all of Paul’s recent posts allude to positions staked out by Libertas, Connor’s pet project. Connor has taken notice too:

A lot of you probably find yourselves wondering why libertarians and conservatives would spend so much time going after each other despite having so much common ground. Both groups are generally in agreement that less government is better, lower taxes are better, and what government we have should be as small in size and scope as possible. Reagan, the patron saint of modern conservatism, even praised libertarianism as the basis of conservatism. So why would these two brothers spend so much time fighting?

Because in Utah, the Democratic Party might as well be a third party.

No, I’m serious. Elected Democrats are so few in number and lacking in power that the Republican Party and its members don’t consider them a threat. As a supermajority party and one where the Republican share of the electorate actually grew with urban population increases, there’s no reason to sharply define yourself against a lackluster opposition that has all but lost the war of ideas. When you have no external groups as opposition, you eventually start looking inward.

Paul is a smart guy and no doubt gets this. (Please, speak up if I’m mistaken.) Defining the Republican Party is a question of which group in the party has the greater influence. The libertarian wing has been ascendant (though by no means dominant) since Ron Paul took a couple of runs at the presidency. For the various flavors of conservatives within the party, this is a threat to both what the party stands for and their own standing in it. This produces a need to very clearly define who they are and why the party shouldn’t support this rising group.

Battles of ideas are never won, but the power balance does change. So long as the GOP stays as a supermajority, this fight will continue. As long as it’s done constructively, it’s healthy for the party and for Utah.


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