Veteran Republican consultant and adopted New Orleanian Mary Matalin shocked the political world last week when she announced on Bloomberg TV that she had switched to the Libertarian Party. Matalin explained her switch in an email interview with Gambit.
Gambit: You announced your new party affiliation May 5, but you had expressed some frustration in late March, at the Ed Renwick Lecture Seriesat Loyola, describing yourself then as a "conservative" and a Libertarian at heart. How long have you been considering changing your party registration?
MM: I became a Republican in 1980 because I rejected the groupthink identity politics of liberals. The essence of conservatism to me was — and will always be — personal responsibility predicated on time-honored values of the virtuous citizen, in the Socratic definition of such a person. We have demonstrated in New Orleans how people taking responsibility for themselves and their community is not only doable, but preferable.
G: You told Bloomberg that you are a "provisional Trumpster" pending an opportunity to see and hear more about Donald Trump's platform. We know you won't vote for Clinton, but is it possible you'd vote for some other candidate on the ballot?
MM: A responsible citizen in a representative republic is not a slave to a party platform or person, but an adherent of first principles. See: American Creation by Joseph Ellis. Our constitution has provided myriad checks and balances, separation of powers, etc., to preclude tyranny of intemperate leaders and times. If Trump embraces some modicum of first principles (e.g., a constitutional SCOTUS nomination), whatever other havoc he could wreak, we could survive. He did not hijack the GOP. We left the keys in the car and the motor running.
G: What do you see as the role of the Libertarian Party in this election, specifically? Would voting for a Libertarian candidate just be a protest vote, or is there an opportunity for real party building here?
MM: The history of established parties has been one of an ongoing struggle over two distinct governing principles. The founders loathed established parties, Washington famously warning of their evil spirit in his farewell address; Jefferson claiming if he could go to Heaven only with a party, he would not go at all. But, the ongoing struggle persists with or without established parties. The libertarian first principle of individual freedom and responsibility can never be wrong. (For instance, importantly, I am a pro-life Libertarian, which strikes some as counterintuitive, but to me represents the essence of personal choice.) What is always wrong is giving up on the fight for personal liberty.
G: What advice would you offer to local Libertarian Party activists moving forward?
MM: Continue to fight for personal liberty, constitutional government and connect the principles to everyday examples of how an ever-encroaching centralized government is a kamikaze mission.
G: When Republicans who are frustrated with the Trump nomination talk about other options, they tend to mention a third party candidacy in general terms, never mentioning Libertarians. Why hasn't the Libertarian Party been a greater part of the discussion?
MM: Third parties tend to elect the worst option. The better strategy is to convert hearts and minds in the party that was founded on liberty and has empirically proved its superiority for self-governance.
G: So far, we haven't heard prominent Bernie Sanders supporters talk about switching to the Green Party, even though the Greens' platform dovetails with Sanders'. Do you foresee a movement away from Democrats to the Greens?
MM: Democrats have been moving toward consolidated, centralized autocracy since Hamilton.
G: Is the two-party system really threatened, or is this just a temporary moment personified by Trump and Sanders?
MM: Trump and Sanders are symptoms, not the disease. Again, parties are not inviolable sacrosanct institutions. They only exist, and can only survive to the extent that they represent the will of the people and with the consent of the governed. Americans rightly see both parties at the federal level either incapable or unwilling to govern sensibly, productively or morally.
See a full story on third parties in Gambit’s May 10 issue.