An Open Letter to Social Conservatives

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

– St. Augustine

Dear Social Conservatives,

I hesitate to address you by that name in a political sense, because being socially conservative isn’t really a theory of government, it’s a theory of culture.  One could be socially conservative in a totally stateless environment.  That’s why there’s been a high degree of overlap between your endeavors of late and those of the Liberty Movement, and that’s why many of us can comfortably identify ourselves as socially conservative libertarians.

Now of course the Liberty Movement is incredibly diverse, and has shown an uncanny ability to unite a wide range of political and social groups in a quest to reduce the size and scope of government.  Some of us are socially liberal, some are socially conservative.  Some walk the Randian line between liberty and anarchy, and others just want a return to the government of the Founders.  Some want to legalize drugs to use drugs.  Others want to legalize drugs because we think that a government that can tell you what you’re allowed to ingest is more dangerous than any drug.

Most folks within the Liberty Movement, like Ron Paul, believe that our rights come from God and must be protected by government.  We believe that law is moral in nature (though we probably mean it differently than you do), and that government must derive its authority from the consent of the governed.  We believe in the primacy of natural law and in pouring everything through the filter of the Declaration and the Constitution – no exceptions. This ideological consistency strengthens us against the Left and allows us to advance our own premises, instead of having to constantly defend against theirs.

And to be honest, that last part – consistency – has become a bit of a wrinkle in our relationship with you.  I’m guessing that whether you consider yourself a tea party conservative or a social conservative, you agreed with most of the principles I just mentioned. After all, the foundation of conservatism is Constitutional government and the Rule of Law. But we’ve noticed that the broader conservative base of the GOP has been slowly, inexorably pulled to the left, and now rather than fighting to cut unconstitutional spending and programs, you find yourselves fighting over which unconstitutional programs to support and fund and promote.

What I am about to say is likely to sting a little, but rather than being defensive, take a moment to think about this and let our movements sharpen each other, as iron sharpens iron.  Conservatives and Libertarians both have areas of strength and weakness, and in order to work together against mutual foes, both sides need to be able to accept reproof at times.  Many of us within the Liberty Movement have been challenged by conservative arguments on issues ranging from religious freedom to immigration.  You have tested our reasoning in many ways and forced us to either fortify or change our thinking in some ways.  But reproof is always a two-way street, and there are some things we need you to consider, if we’re going to be able to establish common goals and priorities and fight side by side to save this nation from moral, social, and fiscal ruin.

Unfortunately, conversations like this require some generalization, so if one or all of the below admonitions don’t apply to you personally, then they aren’t meant for you.  The intent is not to offend, but to exhort.  If you’re in agreement with some of the items below, help us win others.  If not, then here are a few things to consider and open a dialogue about.

  • You reject entitlements on the grounds that they are an unconstitutional redistribution of wealth, but many of you continue to support government subsidies for agriculture, industry, and education.
  • Instead of insisting that only congressionally declared wars be fought by United States soldiers, you’ve fallen victim to the nation-building mindset, and accepted the idea that our unconstitutional and undeclared wars are actually spreading Democracy.
  • You rail against foreign aid, but are unwilling to even consider ending taxpayer-funded aid to Israel, who has told us that they don’t need it.
  • You rightfully oppose union cronyism, but you often turn a blind eye to corporate cronyism masquerading as “pro-growth” policies.
  • You oppose government pork-barrel spending… unless it’s going to faith-based initiatives.
  • You cross land and sea to fight for the religious freedom of those business owners who don’t want to perform services that violate their religious beliefs, but you’ve been largely unwilling to challenge the myriad other abuses of private business rights perpetrated by agencies like OSHA, adopting the liberal premise  that “some common sense regulation is needed.”
  • You wrestle with the godlessness of public schools, but shy away from the thought of eliminating the Department of Education and privatizing schools.
  •  You empower Republican presidents with unconstitutional authority (Patriot Act, NDAA), and then are surprised when Democratic presidents use that authority to target you (IRS, NSA).
  • You fight to protect the 10th Amendment and States’ rights when opposing Obamacare, but want to dismiss a state’s right to define marriage, which – unless altered by a Constitutional Amendment – is still a right reserved to the states and the people.
  • You ridicule the government for trying to regulate school lunches and ban large soft drinks, but insist that the federal government continue its hapless and failed war on drugs.
  • You clamor for the release of an American pastor languishing in an Iranian prison, but stay silent about the drone bombing of an innocent American teenager in Yemen.

image001If there is a chance for us to join and win, it has to start now, and some trust needs to be established between our camps. We have to shed the fear, the stereotypes, the buzzwords, and the grudges, and form a new conservative phalanx – spears forward, shields locked.

A house divided against itself cannot stand, and as Republicans and Democrats strive for unity before the general election, we have to look at the foundations of our causes.  Both conservatives and liberals find their cohesion in identity.  The identity of the Left is determined by practicality, the identity of the right by principle.  But the strongest weapon against principle is hypocrisy, and that’s why we have to guard our ideological consistency with our lives if we hope to prevail.  The more consistent our ideology, the stronger our identity and our message.  The left will key on any shred of inconsistency and use it to tear us apart – they’ve been doing it for years, and have become adept at it.

Traditional Conservatism is the older brother of the Liberty Movement.  We can be brash and impetuous, but right now we’re picking fights that need to be picked – against enemies much bigger and stronger than ourselves.  We need backup, and it’s going to take the full muscle of a new kind of Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy to pull us back from the brink.

We know you’re passionate about life and marriage, and that’s okay.  But don’t close your eyes to the rest.  In war, predictability is death.  A one-dimensional political approach is easy to defeat.  The Left has a lock on your top issues, and while they play give and take on the edges of the major social issues, they are binding and gagging us in our homes, businesses, communities, and states.  The most recent example of this is the (justly) celebrated Hobby Lobby decision, which, while providing a minor victory for religious liberty for “closely-held corporations”, surrendered the premise and provided de facto justification for the government’s violation of the religious rights of other organizations and businesses.

While the culture war has raged in the headlines for the last four decades, your government has quietly destroyed the Bill of Rights, shrinking the very ground beneath your feet.  As you continue to fight abortion, your tax dollars now fund it.  And the bills that make it happen aren’t abortion bills at all – they’re budget bills, that few people pay attention to.  Your own tax dollars are fighting against you.image003

Like Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day, we’re here to tell you that “They’re using our own [issues] against us… and the clock is ticking.”

We in the Liberty Movement want to see you succeed in stopping Obama’s war on Religious freedom.  We want to see an end to the American Holocaust of abortion.  We want to see strong families, businesses, and communities that are able to self-govern, as they did in times past.  We’re willing to help you toward these ends, but in this fight – and particularly within the GOP – you’re the sleeping giant.  It’s up to you to turn the silent majority into a loud one.  Pastors need to step up and become engaged in the civic arena once again.  Socially conservative leaders need to start speaking up about issues beyond the social.  Conversations need to start happening again in families, in churches, in communities, about what is happening here in the real world, while most of America hides behind their TV and computer screens, teetering between distraction and despair.

Hold to ideological consistency, and stop making exceptions that negate your principles.

Recognize your collective strength, and don’t settle for lip service from your public officials anymore.

Learn the rules of the political game, strap on your pads, and get some grass stains on that jersey.  Add perseverance to passion and your spark will become a steady flame.

Use your relationships.  Your Church, your Bible Study, your homeschool group, your men’s retreat, your women’s conferences are still powerful centers of information and communication – engines of spiritual, cultural, and political change.  Start the difficult conversations outside of social media, and watch the fires spread.

I know that sometimes we Liberty people can be contentious, condescending, or even downright rude, but the truth is that we need your help, and the future depends on our ability to work together against the statist machine that is set to deliver the knockout punch to liberty and virtue together.

With a little bit of grace and patience, maybe we, like the Founders, can pull together a diverse coalition of patriots in time of need: divided in a hundred ways, but united in purpose.  Then maybe – just maybe – we can grow beyond a unity of necessity to a unity of vision.

This is our hope.

And it just might be our last one.


The Liberty Movement

Joel Kurtinitis is a columnist for the Des Moines Register, contributing editor for The Liberty Conservative, and operations director for the US Federalist Party.

Joel was a Regional Director for Ron Paul 2012 and served on the State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Iowa. He co-founded Liberty Iowa in the wake of the Paul campaign, and organized the Free DC Project during the government shutdown of 2013.

When not busy setting the virtual world aflame with controversy, Joel is actually an okay guy who enjoys reading, cooking, chess, bluegrass music, and an occasional foray into fiction writing. Joel and his family live in Des Moines, IA.


  1. I’m an Evangelical Christian and I will stand with you. I’ve been pulled to your movement by exactly what you have laid out: The R’s and the D’s both trying to grow government and take away the rights that only God can give. I will stand with you to help bring the Covenant of marriage back to the individual churches. I will stand with you as you address the war on drugs. This issue is best tackled by approaching drugs users in the Love of Christ, not, the talking points of the R’s or D’s. I will stand with you as we fight to restore our God given right to privacy. I will stand with you as we fight to return the rights to parents to teach and educate our children as we see fit. The money I’m blessed to make and the land I am blessed to own, are not gifts of government. They are blessings to me from my Creator. I will stand with you to ensure that however you view the wages you earn and the land you own are free for you to spend and use as you see fit. We can unite. Let this be the start of this coalition. If Adams could work with Jefferson, then all of us can pull together and ignite the flame of liberty once more.

  2. Thanks for the dialogue Joel. While I first got my feet wet in liberal politics in my misguided early college days, I’ve been a solid social conservative for over 20 years. I even worked on the Pat Buchanan Campaign. If your list represents the “fringe” of the liberty movement, I am encouraged as only the last 3 points applied to me and even those I’ve become more flexible on. Regarding the “drug war”, I disagree that drug use doesn’t harm anyone or only harms the user. We can see that drug addicts are by their nature harmful to others ie. driving under the influence, stealing from neighbors to fund the habit, becoming a drain on society because they can’t keep a job etc. And if we legalize drug use, what about kids? There will always be an illicit trade. I do agree though that we should move away from incarceration for simple drug use and treat it more as an illness.

    Also, as a conservative, what is it that we are trying to conserve if not some basics of our culture ie. the traditional view of marriage etc? This is why I don’t necessarily care if a mere fiscal conservative wins a race as it ignores something more fundamental to being a conservative than mere “economics man.” Do we as a nation have the right to determine what kind of a moral culture we should have? All laws are moral by their nature and we must determine one side of the coin or the other. Ultimately one “morality” will rule over the other and if you allow one state to condone “gay” marriage or polygamy, must other states or the Federal government also recognize it? When the state privileges traditional marriage because the family unit is a vital component of the health of the state, it does “discriminate” against all other types of “marriage” and that is the price we pay when we live in a state of self-rule by general consensus for the social benefit of the whole. Article IV of the U.S. Constitution requires that “Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.” Therefore what one state does must be scrutinized so that it doesn’t interfere with the rights of another state. So this is where I would say that DOMA was an appropriate clarification and protection of marriage that applied to all the states.

    I guess there are some other more utopian liberty issues that we could disagree upon ie. open borders, anarcho-capitalism that I don’t ever see coming to an agreement upon. In the end I agree that we must work together to advance the Liberty movement and get beyond some of our personal misgivings and focus on increasing peace and freedom and limiting the leviathan that is destroying those two ideas that unite us. <

  3. Those in government cynically use the mentioned issues to divide and conquer just as handily as the Democrats use race & identity politics for the same purposes. If you don’t likes something – don’t do it! Don’t let your little ’cause’ be used to erode liberty for all.
    ‘“That government is best which governs least’ – PERIOD! Even God only needed 10 laws…

  4. That’s a good list. Someone has to call them out on the blatant double standards. You can’t be ‘small government’ when your actions say otherwise.

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