November 6, 2008 7:40PM

Whither Fusionism?

One of the victims of the Bush presidency, along with limited government and the Republican Party, has been “fusionism,” the idea that conservatives and libertarians ought to come together to oppose the forces of socialism (and The Left generally). Indeed, this Tuesday’s election probably saw the highest‐​ever percentage of libertarians — depending on how you count them — vote for the Democratic presidential candidate (at least in the modern era, with the possible exception of the Nixon years). This despite that Democratic candidate being commonly seen as the most statist major‐​party candidate in history.

Cato adjunct scholar Ilya Somin who blogs at the Volokh Conspiracy and in his day job is a law professor at George Mason (currently visiting at Penn) — Ilya being a popular name among libertarian legal community — today puts up a smart post on the state of the erstwhile libertarian‐​conservative. Here’s a snippet:

Obviously, a lot depends on what conservatives decide to do. If they choose the pro‐​limited government position advocated by Representative Jeff Flake and some other younger House Republicans, there will be lots of room for cooperation with libertarians. I am happy to see that Flake has denounced “the ill‐​fitting and unworkable big‐​government conservatism that defined the Bush administration.” Conservatives could, however, adopt the combination of economic populism and social conservatism advocated by Mike Huckabee and others. It is even possible that the latter path will be more politically advantageous, at least in the short term. 

Indeed, if conservatives choose some version of the Huckabee‐​Palin route, fusionism is dead — and so, might I add presumptuously, is the Republican Party. That just ain’t where the majority of the nation is, or where it’s heading (though, as Ilya says, that direction may be politically advantageous in certain parts of the country under certain circumstances).

But this type of discussion may be beside the point; libertarian‐​conservative (in the sense of socially conservative, economically squishy) fusionism may have run its course, a relic of the Cold War. The new fusionism may well be fiscally conservative and socially tolerant (not necessarily liberal, just not wanting government to do anything about the way people live their private lives), including folks who might call themselves conservative cosmopolitans, crunchy cons, South Park conservatives, or indeed libertarians. Or they might eschew labels altogether but are sick of the rot coming from (or to) Washington. In other words: Purple America,