|North Carolina HB2 shows split in conservatives
||[Apr. 24th, 2016|03:47 pm]
North Carolina's HB2, the "bathroom bill", has gotten a lot of attention. But while various people are shouting all sorts of things ("It's a reasonable bill!", "No, it's not!") I think we're missing the cause of the bill, which is the fracturing of the conservative movement.
A little background. HB2 regulates the use of bathrooms. It also does more: it regulates the abilities of cities and municipalities in North Carolina to raise the minimum wage (in their jurisdictions) and enact worker safety regulations. Basically, it strips the power of cities and towns to vary their business rules from the state's rules.
This is an interesting position for Republicans. Republicans (and conservatives) often advocate for locality of governance, stating that "local government is better". The reasoning is that local government (state over federal, and city over state) is more in touch with the needs of the governed. It's a reasonable argument. (The counter argument is that larger governments are in a better position to fund and administer large projects like levees and dams for flood control.)
But Republicans abandoned the "local is better" approach for HB2. Why the inconsistency? I have an idea.
The Republican party is not a monolith. It is not "the Borg" with all members connected through telepathic-like networks. It is an assembly of groups, with two prominent groups being the libertarians and the authoritarians.
The libertarians are for, well, liberty, and they advocate a small government with limited powers and freedom for individuals (along with personal responsibility). Libertarians see government warping society, and minimal government has the least affect. (Libertarians are not anarchists -- they agree that government is necessary for some functions in society.)
The authoritarians are for, um, authority, or more specifically a well-defined social order, and they have no compunction against using government to enforce that order. They also advocate personal responsibility and freedom of individuals, but only within one's proper place.
Thus it is the authoritarians who pushed for HB2, not the libertarians. And that is the fracture in the Republican party. For years, the Republicans have included both libertarians and authoritarians but given more voice to the former. The latter were not driven out in the 1960s by William Buckley, but were merely silenced. Buckley had National Review, the magazine that defined the conservative party and its readers. The authoritarians had nothing comparable.
The internet, web pages, FaceBook, and talk radio (free of the "equal time" doctrine) let the authoritarians regroup and find a voice. And found it they have. FOX News has played to this group, raising specters ranging from violence to financial uncertainty to illegal immigration to a war on Christmas (and by extension, Christianity).
For decades, authoritarians went along with the Republican party, not happy with the results but with nowhere else to go. When you're alone with your views, you think you are too small to effect change. Now, with new communication methods, they realize that they are not alone, that they are a multitude, and they want change.
None of this helps the "traditional" small-government libertarians. They were content to have the authoritarians on the bus, but not driving the bus. Now, the libertarians are not driving the bus. And they are not happy.
I'm not sure that the differences between libertarians and authoritarians can be bridged. It may be that one of the two will leave the Republican party, to either join the Democrats or form a new party.
We should be careful of the terms "libertarian" and "authoritarian". People are complex, with some of each. There are very few "pure authoritarians", and very few "pure libertarians". Libertarians will disagree among themselves on goals, strategy, and tactics. Authoritarians will also disagree among themselves. A person who wants a well-defined social order is not evil, or a bad person. (But we should be careful about our social order. Slavery was a social order, based on race. Women were denied the vote, based on gender. Both are now considered inappropriate.)