Libertarians and Republicans Make Alliances While Liberty Perishes

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March 21, 2007

In the "Garden State" of New Jersey where I live, the Department of Tourism had a slogan: "New Jersey and You; Perfect Together." The slogan stuck, and after a while, politicians began using it in their campaigns to attack their opponents. For example, a conservative Republican running against a moderate in the primary would show a picture of the latter standing next to an unpopular Democratic Governor with the caption "Perfect Together." That slogan popped into my mind recently as I read that a featured speaker at the New Jersey Libertarian Party's annual convention (Steve Lonegan) would be the leading Republican spokesman for conservative causes in the state. While not exactly a household name (though he would like to be), Lonegan is widely known among political junkies in New Jersey as a crusader against gays, immigrants, feminists, secularists and any other group that preaches tolerance and respect for diversity. His featured appearance at the NJLP convention confirms my belief that there is a symbiotic relationship between conservative Republicans and statist libertarians based on the mutual desire to gain political influence, even at the expense of compromising on core beliefs. This relationship illustrates why statist libertarians, who cling to the naive belief that liberty can co-exist with limited government, will never be successful in achieving their desired goal of a free society. My own experience with Lonegan's political career, and his mutual backscratching relationship with statist libertarians, goes back several years. In 1997 I was an activist in the New Jersey Libertarian Party (NJLP) working for the election of our gubernatorial candidate Murray Sabrin. The latter gained national attention when he raised enough money to qualify for participation in the major candidate debates, and for public financing of his campaign. Despite this, he lost badly in the election, and only got about half the votes earlier polls had predicted he would get (he wasn't under the political radar but over it). A few months after this, I received a letter from Sabrin soliciting donations for Steve Lonegan, who was running for Congress in the Republican primary. Needless to say, I was disappointed that only a few months after his defeat, the standard bearer for the NJLP was raising money for a conservative Republican. I threw the letter in the garbage, along with any respect I had for Murray Sabrin. A year after Lonegan lost the primary election, Murray Sabrin switched parties and ran as a conservative Republican in the primary election for US Senator. Even in a Republican primary, a conservative in New Jersey has as much chance of winning as Osama bin Laden becoming Prime Minister of Israel. Sabrin hasn't been heard from much since then, but Lonegan managed to resurface two years ago when he ran in the Republican primary for Governor. This time he led a no-holds-barred campaign, accusing his opponents of everything except being Jack the Ripper. His committee sent me a colorful brochure with all kinds of unflattering portraits of his opponents. One such portrait, obviously doctored, showed former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler wearing a turban. Lonegan criticized Schundler for pandering to terrorists for giving a speech before a Muslim group in Jersey City, which has the highest number of Muslims in the state. Thankfully, this sort of childish dirt throwing didn't resonate well with Republican voters, who gave Lonegan only about 11% of the vote. Currently Lonegan serves as the Republican Mayor of Bogota, New Jersey, a small town located in the densely populated northeastern part of the state. As I stated previously, he desperately wants to become a household name, and he continues working at it. Last summer he led a boycott against McDonald's--which gained national attention--for advertising in Spanish. As mayor, he sought to make English the town's official language, but county officials thwarted that attempt. His latest crusade is against the recently enacted state law that requires government officials who are licensed to perform marriages to perform civil unions as well. It seems Lonegan is determined to get himself elected to statewide office one way or another; if not as a Republican then perhaps as a Libertarian, which is why I suspect he may be courting the NJLP by speaking at their convention. That doesn't surprise me; what does is that the NJLP leadership is letting him appear in the first place. The convention program describes Lonegan as the current Mayor of Bogota and former candidate for Governor, but does not mention that he is a Republican. I suspect the omission is intentional so as not to arouse the ire of the general membership. Lonegan's appearance is justified by his leadership of a group called Americans for Prosperity - New Jersey (are there any Americans who are not for prosperity, even socialists?), an organization that purports to champion lower taxes and limited government, but in reality exists to promote the political career of Steve Lonegan. This is evident by perusing the various articles and press releases on the website. Even Murray Sabrin, Lonegan's ally and New Jersey's political chameleon, has resurfaced with an article full of libertarian rhetoric designed to motivate activists to donate their time and money. It is common practice for politicians aspiring to higher office to organize and lead advocacy groups in order to keep their names before the public between elections. I have no criticism of a libertarian organization presenting featured speakers on specific topics who are not libertarian themselves but are experts in their field. If the NJLP's intent was to feature a speaker who could educate their audience on the topic of taxation and government tyranny, there are countless numbers of people they could have gotten who would be better qualified to speak on the subject than a small town political hack with ambitions for statewide office. I believe that Lonegan's appearance before the NJLP convention is another example of mutual backscratching that typifies the symbiotic relationship between conservatives and statist libertarians. This is currently happening on a national level with former conservative Republican Congressman Bob Barr's ascension to a leadership position within the Libertarian Party. Frustrated conservative politicians like Lonegan and Barr, whose aspirations for higher office are thwarted by moderate Republicans, try to hijack the Libertarian Party as a platform on which to continue their quest for political power. Leaders within the party allow them to do this because they are convinced that any publicity is better than no publicity. If Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell offered to run for President on the Libertarian ticket, there are those who would support them if they thought it would mean more publicity and a higher percentage of the vote. In the final analysis, statist libertarians, like all politicians, will eventually sell their beliefs and their position to the highest bidder. This ensures that the state will endure until the political process itself is eliminated.

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Ken Bank's picture
Columns on STR: 12

Ken Bank has done some writing (including movie reviews) from a historical and libertarian perspective, and his background includes masters degrees in history and business.  He used to be active in the Libertarian Party but has given up politics.  He currently resides in Barnegat, New Jersey.  He is a retired real estate broker, and currently works part-time as an investment manager and consultant.


redgar's picture

I agree with much of your post! All this post is rather old I wanted to say that most NJLP activists would completely agree with you.

The Ron Paul campaign has attracted many right wing, big government types to the so called "freedom movement". Fortunately many of them are young and can learn what freedom is really about.

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