- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 5, 2014

They are not just libertarians. Behold, it’s the Republican Libertarian Caucus, which has joined forces with Gary Johnson to show voters that the former third-party presidential hopeful is intent on remaining, well, a third-party presidential hopeful. The group has organized a meet and greet that includes much energy and select seafood: Mr. Johnson appears later this month at the Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette in Houston for a splashy luncheon, right along with Jim Gray, his 2012 running mate. Both will be “shucking shells and sucking down Rockefellers with anyone and everyone who wants to live free,” according to organizers.

Yes, well. It is not a free event, but a thrifty one. Tickets range from $15-$300 for fare that include raw, fried or sauced Maine and Texas Gulf oysters; steamed clams and mussels plus shrimp, of course. Mssrs. Johnson and Gray later will host a private event for a select few fans at $350 each. The Republican Libertarian Caucus, incidentally, includes more than 500 local volunteer organizations intent on advancing “principles of individual rights, limited government and free markets” in the Grand Old Party.

It’s complicated, though. Mr. Johnson is also chairman of the Our America Initiative, a fiscally conservative grass-roots organization that supports Second and Fourth Amendment rights, low taxes, the legalization of marijuana and marriage equality. Advisors include Barry Goldwater Jr. and Buddy Roemer — another former independent presidential hopeful. Mr. Johnson appears to be in full political plumage, in the meantime.

“We have a historic opportunity in 2014 to put the brakes on out-of-control government and remind the American people — and the politicians — that the strength of our nation lies not in government, but in the freedom to pursue dreams, live our lives without unnecessary interference, and seize the opportunities that only a free market can provide,” he says.

DE BLASIO’S UNEXPECTED BOOST TO CONSERVATISM

An exhilarated press has already cast New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in the role of noble progressive standard-bearer, poised to raise taxes on the rich, even out income inequality and offer universal preschool care to the Big Apple’s toddlers, among many things. Democrats are giddy over the phenomenon. Should Republicans fret that they are without such a pointman, and that liberalism has a surge of new energy? Not necessarily.

“I hope there’s a resurgence. There’s nothing better for American conservatism than periodic examples of untrammeled liberalism,” George Will told Fox News Sunday.

Lyndon Johnson, after 1964, had huge majorities in Congress, he had his way. Republicans won five of the next six and seven of the next nine presidential elections,” Mr. Will recalled and offered a prediction about Mr. de Blasio.

“Let him have his way in New York City and let people see what happens. There are more than 130 contracts with public employees unions that have been held in abeyance until Mayor Bloomberg got out of there, because they assumed that de Blasio and his compliant, supine city council would go along with anything they asked for,” Mr. Will continued. “I give him three years and people will be begging for a return to something else.”

A DEMOCRATIC TEA PARTY BREWS

Happy talk followed the inauguration of the aforementioned Mr. de Blasio, who was sworn in by none other than former President Bill Clinton. The event highlighted the new mayor’s call to create a progressive utopia in his city. But a little wrinkle also emerged.

“When Bill Clinton endorsed de Blasio’s agenda, he framed it in very different terms, as one of ‘shared opportunities, shared prosperity, shared responsibilities.’” points out John Avlon, a political columnist for The Daily Beast.

“Clinton’s characteristic emphasis on unity and a growing economy was missing from the de Blasio articulation — and that reflects differences deeper than rhetoric,” Mr. Avlon says. “Philosophical differences and policy debates can be healthy — even and especially within parties — but the gravitational pull is for progressive populism to become the mirror image of conservative populism that they decry in the tea party. The play-to-the-base impulse is girded by a righteous certainty that can lead to at best impracticality and at worst absolutism.”

HERE COMES THE FAIRNESS BLITZ

“Income inequality” is now the political issue of 2014, says Amy Payne, editor of The Foundry, a public policy blog at the Heritage Foundation. And it’s no accident. “The Left has been gearing up for months,” she says, pointing out that that the Center for American Progress launched the Washington Center for Equitable Growth in November while President Obama has already focused several speeches with talk of inequality and fairness.

“The income inequality outrage is based on the idea that the people at the bottom of the economic ladder are stuck there indefinitely,” Ms. Payne continues, citing Heritage research revealing that income disparities have not caused a decline in upward mobility and that increases in minimum wage could actually stifle job creation.

“The New York Times notes, however, that the issue of the minimum wage could help liberal politicians looking for voter turnout in the upcoming midterm election,” Ms. Payne says. “And that’s all it is: a political ploy that manipulates Americans in the name of power.”

‘NOVEMBER CAN’T COME FAST ENOUGH’

The new year gets only a brief grace period before the dramatic woes of Obamacare return.

“The stage is set for even bigger sucker punches as the law’s various rules, restrictions, skyrocketing costs and tax hikes explode into full effect,” says Jim Martin, chairman of the 60 Plus Association, a conservative seniors organization. Citing polling data and figures from the Congressional Budget Office, Mr. Martin says that the majority of Americans want to repeal the health care law while some 6 million have seen their coverage canceled. The average family of four, Mr. Martin says, could face an annual premium increase of nearly $3,700.

“The disaster and devastation it has caused in our lives is real. But just as real is the revolt against Obamacare,” he continues. “Americans are going broke, losing their coverage, being denied care and watching helplessly as their longtime physicians are closing the door in their faces. We now have a true health care crisis worse than anything the nation has ever seen, courtesy of President Obama and his friends on Capitol Hill and at the AARP. November can’t come fast enough,” Mr. Martin concludes.

POLL DU JOUR

47 percent of Americans disapprove of Edward Snowden’s decision to leak classified NSA information; 49 percent of Republican and 52 percent of Democrats agree.

45 percent overall have an unfavorable impression of Mr. Snowden; 45 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of Democrats agree.

35 percent overall would support prosecution of Mr. Snowden for leaking the information; 42 percent of Republicans and 40 percent of Democrats agree.

30 percent overall support Russia’s decision to offer Mr. Snowden temporary amnesty; 30 percent of Republicans and 24 percent of Democrats agree.

25 percent overall would support eventual amnesty for Mr. Snowden in the U.S.; 27 percent of Republicans and 21 percent of Democrats agree.

24 percent overall approve of the way President Obama has handled the Snowden situation; 8 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A YouGov poll of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 16-17 and released Thursday.

Murmurs and asides to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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