The Libertarian-Democratic Alliance Will Survive


By Joe Campbell
July 29th, 2009

[digg-reddit-me]Jon Henke over at The Next Right scoffs now at Markos Moulitsas’s prediction – a few years back – of “an emerging brand of ‘libertarian Democrats.'” Henke makes two mistakes in his scoff: first, he equates the tea bagging movement with libertarianism; and second, he is extrapolating from the immediate post-election dynamics to more general party dynamics in the future.

In the first, he is certainly right that the Tea Bagging movement has adopted libertarian themes and rhetoric – and there are certainly libertarians among this group. But there are also many right-wingers of other sorts. And if the Tea Baggers truly were outraged by government spending, they had eight years to get excited before Obama took office. The Tea Bagging movement is an odd combination of right-wingers angry with Obama using libertarian rhetoric and libertarians who are fed up with everyone in American politics except Ron Paul. But I’d be pretty certain that the majority of people at these rallies decrying socialism and government interference also join in the right-wing’s attempts to demonize Obama for his modest steps in reining in the national security state.  Henke – in equating the Tea Bagging movement and libertarianism does libertarians a rather severe disservice.

Second, it was inevitable that the libertarians that were part of the anti-Bush coalition would not fit so well into the pro-Obama coalition, despite their support for Obama over McCain in 2008. It was always clear that Obama would not move fast enough on national security matters – and would not even attempt to go far enough for libertarians – and that Obama’s domestic agenda, especially health care, goes against libertarian principles. That said, there are significant areas of agreement between libertarians, progressives, and liberals – and these are considerably stronger than those between right-wingers, Republicans and libertarians. On economic matters, the Republican Party has done very little to embrace free market reforms – instead, embracing a form of crony capitalism; on national security issues, the party has embraced every accoutrement of a police state; on spending, Republicans have been far more fiscally irresponsible; on social issues, the Republican Party has abandoned libertarian principles and embraced a christianist platform. The Democratic Party – on the other hand – is for reigning in the police state (though not enough); and on social issues, it often sides with libertarians; on economics and spending, this gets more complicated. Obama’s positions do seem at first glance to be exactly what libertarianism stands against – but if I’m right about what Obama is doing – that he is adapting the Democratic Party and liberalism to a market-state in which the state seeks to provide the maximum opportunity to its citizens rather than providing for them (as socialist, Communist, and post-New Deal American capitalist states did), then the Democratic Party’s economic platform will be less of a threat to libertarian values and the party will be more or less aligned with the libertarians on every issue.

These first years of Obama’s presidency were always going to strain the libertarian-Democratic alliance. But it seems the long term trends favor this alliance.

[Image by Brian Buchanan licensed under Creative Commons.]

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9 Responses to “The Libertarian-Democratic Alliance Will Survive”

  1. Eric Dondero Says:

    You seem to have a mistaken impression that we Libertarians were “on board” with Obama’s foreign policy views in 2007/08. If anything we hold foreign policy views completely opposite of his. We are strong on defense, and vehemently anti-Islamo-Fascist. Islamists are the most anti libertarians of all, wanting to force women to wear burqas, outlawing free speech, throwing marijuana users in jail, hanging gay men in public squares, ect…

    Obama is pro-Islamo-Fascist, which is completely anti-libertarian.

    Get your facts straight next time.

  2. Eric Dondero Says:

    What about civil liberties?

    These days it’s the Democrats who are outlawing all of our personal freedoms: from smoking bans, to mandatory seat belt laws, to trans fats bans, to censorship of politically incorrect speech. Now, even the tables have turned on marijuana legalization. Republicans like Arnold are now coming out in favor of legalizing pot, while Democrat Governors like Lynch in New Hampshire are vetoing legalization bills.

    Libertarians and Democrats agree on nothing:

    We are 100% polar opposites on free market economics

    We are 100% opposites on foreign policy – Democrats supporting Islamo-Fascism, Libertarians opposing it

    We are 90% opposites on civil liberties issues, disagreeing on virtually everyting, except perhaps pro-choice on abortion.

  3. Eric Dondero Says:

    Incidentally, you have your historical facts completely wrong.

    Libertarians were part of the Pro-Bush coalition. In fact, an organization called Libertarians for Bush helped to reelect the President in 2004.

    Bush returned the favor by appointing the very first Libertarian Party Chair ever to serve in a cabinet post: Gaylor Norton as Interior Sec. former Chair of the Colorado LP. He appointed scores of other Libertarians in his administration. Obama, so far, has not appointed a single Libertarian to anything.

    You are grossly ignorant of the libertarian political movement in the United States. I would strongly urge you to learn more before you start spouting off nonsense on your blog.

    Eric Dondero, 25-year Libertarian Party political activist
    2008 Bob Barr for President, top nationwide petitioner
    Former Libertarian National Committee member
    Former, Senior Aide, US Congressman Ron Paul (1997-2003)
    1988 Personal Travel Aide, Libertarian Presidential candidate Ron Paul
    Former Personal Assist. 1976 Libertarian Presidential candidate Roger MacBride

  4. Eric Dondero Says:

    Oh, forgot to mention, 1972 Libertarian Party Presidential candidate Dr. John Hospers, first ever LP Presidential standardbearer, was a strong backer of President Bush, and was Chairman of the Advisory Board for Libertarians for Bush in 2004.

  5. Joe Campbell Says:

    @Eric Dondenero:

    To call Obama “pro-Islamo-Fascist” is absurd. He’s not in favor of any of the anti-libertarian measures you attribute to Islamo-Fascists either.

    As to my understanding of the libertarian movement, you seem to be misinformed – or at least only partially informed. Reason magazine, probably the most popular libertarian magazine Reason polled prominent libertarians. Of those it polled, Obama and libertarian candidate Bob Barr were almost tied with Obama squeaking by for the victory. (http://www.reason.com/news/show/129640.html) Polls of libertarians at large also demonstrated that they backed Obama over McCain by a 53-48 margin. (http://www.thenextright.com/jon-henke/the-libertarian-vote-in-2008)

    Alex Tabbarock, whom I also understand to be a libertarian, made a libertarian case for voting for Obama on his popular blog. (http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2008/09/why-libertarian.html) The libertarian Cato Institute has had quite a few positive things to say about Obama – at least initially.

    And while Bob Barr supported Bush in 2004 (when he was a Republican) he called for Bush’s impeachment while running as the libertarian candidate for president. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xudP5cYlvhY)

    You clearly have strong opinions about what it means to be a libertarian – but many – if not most – of those who self-identify as libertarian disagree with you. And the main institutions of libertarianism do as well. Rather than accusing me of “spouting off nonsense” identify yourself as having a marginal point of view and try to support it with facts rather than untrue assertions.

  6. Eric Dondero Says:

    Once again, you have your facts wrong. Reason is hardly “libertarian.” It used to be, back in the 1980s. But it’s since turned into a leftwing rag that occasionally makes positive statements about free market economics. But mostly it’s a hate America site.

    Many of the people you describe as “libertarians,” are indeed leftists. They use our word libertarian cause they think it’s cool. But look at their libertarian resumes, and you’ll find they’re Newbies to our movement, refugees from Moveon.org and other scattered far Left Bush hating groups.

    And I say this, once again, as a 25 year activist with the Libertarian Party, perhaps the greatest of all libertarian political activists in the Nation (save Paul Jacob, Scott Kohlhaas, Leon Drolet and a couple others.)

  7. Joe Campbell Says:

    @Eric Dondero:

    As I said – you may have a fringe view that defines libertarianism in a narrow way – such a way that automatically excludes most of the top self-identified (and commonly identified) libertarian institutions. For example, you don’t mention that Bob Barr – who you cited as a libertarian in a previous comment – is also a newcomer – and that as he ran for president as a libertarian opposing what you apparently consider to be the essence of libertarianism – which is support for the national security state and opposition to Islamo-Fascism. This is a unique view of libertarianism – and it could be interesting – but it’s rather silly to criticize other people for not knowing and accepting your esoteric definition of libertarianism.

    I do wonder though how you are able to rationalize accepting the national security state which infringes on many civil liberties in the face of the libertarian suspicion of government and support of individual rights (which I understand to be the intellectual foundation of libertarianism) .

  8. Ayn R. Key Says:

    Eric Dondro is under the mistaken impression that he’s any sort of libertarian.

  9. Joe Campbell Says:

    @Ayn:

    I know, right?

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