For a long time, I was kind of amazed by the libertarian rhetoric of the GOP, the way that somebody could argue for torture and corporate welfare and unchecked police powers and massive deficits and a global empire, and then follow it up with “Because I believe in limited government and the free market.” The cognitive dissonance wasn’t what bugged me (I’m cynical enough to take it as a given that politicians know how to lie) but rather that they would even bother appealing to the small government crowd that they feel free to screw over. I mean, aren’t we, like, a miniscule faction?
And then it hit me–it was never about us. All those dog whistles that libertarians respond to whenever Republicans blow the whistle? Those were for other people. Second amendment? It’s a cultural thing, not principle. Free markets? Intellectual cover for corporate welfare. Limited government? This is their way of saying to the subsidized farmers of the Great Plains and the employees of the Military-Industrial Complex and all the other beneficiaries of GOP-style redistribution “Don’t worry, you aren’t a welfare recipient like all those city folks that I bash. You’re better than that. You’re a hearty, self-reliant person who supports limited government.”
I already knew that all of the stances that the libertarians like were just there for other elements of the GOP coalition. But I used to think that the “limited government” rhetoric was a way of fooling us. Nope, it was never about us. The fact that too many of us were fooled was a coincidence (one that Republicans probably still laugh about over drinks). It was for everyone else in the coalition. The fact that we fell for it was just a coincidence. The fact that some of us actually provided them with pet intellectuals was just icing on the cake.
What brought a lot of this to the fore was seeing libertarians swoon over Sarah Palin as she blew dog whistles. I was never fooled by the whistles, but I did miss the purpose of the whistles: It was never about us. It was about the rest of Team Red.