Watching TLR become a friend of the status quo with so much conservative reform still left to do is disappointing, if predictable.
Understanding what happened to TLR involves understanding the difference between a “life and liberty conservative” and a “business conservative”. A good analogy for the difference between life and liberty conservatives and business conservatives exists in considering an allied army (a foreign army fighting with the American military) on the one hand and a fellow soldier on the other.
The conservative movement in politics has always been populated by two basic kinds of actors. One kind are the true believers, the “life and liberty conservatives.” True believers are all soldiers in the same army. Legislators of this stripe can be counted on to be solidly conservative on every issue, and can also be counted on to side with the people on unpopular fiscally conservative votes that specially privilege crony conservatives. On a national level, Senator Jim DeMint comes to mind.
The other kind are “business conservatives” in the fight to improve business conditions for themselves and/or those who sponsor them. As fiscal conservatives, they are unreliable when a big government vote helps one of their sponsors. Socially, they are only as conservative as they have to be to get elected. Social issues generally aren’t “compass” issues for them.
In fact, it is for this reason that crony conservatives often pretend to be libertarians, though the tough fiscal votes smoke them out as libertarian pretenders.
When business conservatives fight for freedom, as they often do, they fight with life and liberty conservatives as an allied army, not fellow soldiers (To complicate matters, often “life and liberty conservative” individuals work in a “business conservative” capacity due to their employer).
Sometimes allies in a war aren’t even friends but have a common enemy (think: Russia in WW2). Other times, allies are good friends, like the British in the French and Indian War, or the French in the Revolutionary War.
Allies like England and France are our friends (on the world stage), and we’ve fought several wars alongside them. However, we’ve also fought wars against both. This is the difference between an allied army and a fellow soldier.
Alliances are important in war, even the political kind. Still, it is dangerous to think of an ally as a fellow soldier or vice versa.
Business conservative activity can be broken into two categories, one good and one bad.
The good kind is when they seek to limit and/or reduce government access to their money. After all, the left is always after their money. The more of their money the government gets, the fewer jobs are available for everyone, and the more control government has in our lives. This kind of activity is in the interest of freedom and is obviously good.
The bad kind of business conservative activity is when, having become politicized in order to protect themselves, they realize legislation that benefits them at the expense of others can also serve their bottom line. This kind of activity stifles competition, weakens the economy, and increases the size of government. This kind of activity is against the interests of freedom and is obviously bad.
To put it in a nutshell, TLR was always “business conservatives”.
To say TLR is the Texas insurance industry + the Texas builder industry is a simplification, but not by much.
As long as they were outsiders fighting to change things, they usually backed great candidates, including many life and liberty conservatives. In many cases they still do, and when that happens it serves the conservative movement.
After all, TLR, mostly a backer of the status quo now, has a strong tendency to back any incumbent who is good on tort reform. In some cases that means backing solid conservatives.
For many years TLR was a brave, brave, brave ally. A champion, even.
They took the gunfire from the trial lawyers when they were getting our tort climate under control.
However, it is at this stage in the life of a one-issue group that has grown powerful – after they have won their one issue – that onlookers should be very observant. Will they back the status quo only? Will they learn a new way to improve their bottom line that is not good for life and liberty? The jury is still out.