Stateside,  The Right

Andrew Ian Dodge, libertarian Tea Partier

Andrew Ian Dodge– who blogs at Dodgeblogium, who until two or three years ago lived in the UK, who has since relocated to Maine and who sometimes comments at Harry’s Place– has emerged as a leading figure on the libertarian wing of the Tea Party movement, Newsweek reports.

[T]the fight is on for the soul of the Tea Party. On one side: libertarian-minded grassroots activists. On the other: the leaders of the wealthy, powerful, and better-established Christian right, who’ve dominated conservative populism in the United States for decades. Roughly half the people who say they support the Tea Party also say they are part of the religious right. Christian conservative leaders have long espoused limiting government intrusion in the economy—Jerry Falwell regularly condemned social programs and praised Milton Friedman—making the Tea Party attractive to their followers. But many of them also want government to enforce moral standards—banning abortion and gay marriage, for instance—a notion that’s anathema to libertarians who want government off their backs. “Principled libertarians aren’t going to like Big Religion telling them how to act and are going to have to draw the line,” says Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

At issue: whether the amorphous grassroots movement can wield the sort of influence on congressional leaders that it did on congressional candidates, or if it will be drowned out by old alliances. “In a battle royale between the religious right Tea Party and the libertarian Tea Party, I would have to bet with the Christian conservatives,” says Lynn.

The libertarian insurgents are currently gathered around Andrew Ian Dodge, a science-fiction writer and amateur rocker (with a penchant for writing lyrics about reducing the size of government), who serves as the unpaid coordinator for Maine’s Tea Party Patriots. Unlike folks on the Christian right, he and his allies aren’t tied in to a network of endowed think tanks, private universities, and broadcasting outlets that help to amplify their message. And Dodge is skeptical of groups like the Tea Party Express, which, he says, is “a Republican front run by Republican apparatchiks.” As an outsider, he’s enjoying having a chance at being on the inside, and he’s not going to give up his seat so easily. “Look at me: I’m a hairy guy with an earring. It’s a new environment on the American right where someone like me fits in, one driven not by an individual but by a core belief system.” A belief system that is made up of the nonreligious tenets of fiscal responsibility, free-market economics, and limited government, according to Dodge.

As much as I disagree with Dodge’s attitude toward government, and as much as I suspect the odds are stacked against him and his colleagues in any fight with the social and religious conservatives for the soul of the Tea Party movement, I certainly wish them well. I’ve long been a fan of the contradictions on the Right between ultra-free-market capitalism and permissive attitudes toward abortion, drugs, pornography and homosexuality on the one hand, and social conservatism on the other. I’m always pleased to see the two sides battling it out. I wish them a long, metaphorically-bloody struggle.