We Need to Push Past Labels in Politics

Labels in politics are usually unhelpful or even misleading.

political labels

The Federalist has published an excellent discussion on the problem with labels: “Libertarian Populism Isn’t Really Libertarian or Populist.”

Libertarian populism has lately been generating a great deal of attention on the Right. Many believe it represents a viable reform agenda for the GOP. Dave Brat’s victory over Eric Cantor in June lent credibility to this notion. As the title of libertarian populist Conn Carroll’s post at Townhall unequivocally declared, “Dave Brat Proves Libertarian Populism Can Win.”

In the rush to anoint libertarian populism as the future of the GOP, however, people have glossed over two points.

First, there is little about libertarian populism that is distinctly libertarian. Much of the libertarian populist agenda represents nothing more or less than a return to constitutional conservatism. In fact, libertarian populism is not nearly so much an endorsement of libertarianism as a repudiation of Republican departures from limited-government conservatism, particularly George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.”

Second, libertarian populism, in most instances, is only populist insofar as it mirrors conservatism properly understood. Meaning, there is often little popular support on issues where libertarian populists depart from conservatism and take a more libertarian stance. Herein lies the fundamental paradox of libertarian populism: the more libertarian it becomes, the less populist it is.

This has wide application in politics. The Democratic Party of today would be unrecognizable to those who inhabited it a Century ago. The same is true of those who call themselves Republican.

[See also, “Why I Am a Radical Liberal Progressive.”]

Personally, I have been leaning more and more toward those who profess to be “Libertarian,” though I am not in agreement with many, historically Libertarian positions or issues. My primary allegiance is not Republican, nor Libertarian—I am a Christ-follower. That means I stand for glorious freedom within Biblical contours, and reject the ugly compulsion which has become the foundation of most modern politics. This turn toward compulsion is turning every election into a nasty battleground for stolen loot, and tyrannical control.

Most so-called “Conservatives” today are not conservative, just as a majority of “Christian” television is not recognizable through any of the Church’s historic and accepted statements of belief. Let’s get past labels and require people to define the substance and basis of their positions.

True unity is only possible when we are united in principle, not by a mere label.