I want to love the Libertarian Party. I really do. It’s the only political party out there that is anywhere close to my beliefs. I cannot stand the Democrats’ Keynesian social welfare malarkey, which ruins our economy, keeps folks from getting jobs, basically makes people dependent on the government, and is run on absolutely no logic whatsoever. Conversely, I cannot stand the Republicans’ social conservatism BS, which oppresses gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, Muslims, pagans, atheists (and agnostics), Hispanics, immigrants, marijuana users and, to an extent, women. I can’t stand either party’s foreign policy, or their joint support of such idiotic civil liberty destroying things such as our current national security state or the war on drugs. Only the Libertarian Party has a platform that I fully (or near as fully as anyone can) support.
But regrettably, the Libertarian Party hasn’t had a lot of success. This is understandable; we are unfortunately stuck on a rather ridiculous plurality vote system that became obsolete in the middle of the 20th century, an archaic throwback to a far more simpler time when the entire electorate was comprised of a bunch of old white landowners (all men, natch.) In our current system, it is nearly impossible for a third party to get success anywhere, though there are examples where they do (notably at the governor level, including, this last time around, Rhode Island.)
There have been lots of blogs and articles about how to bring women into the libertarian movement. Rachel Burger took her stab at it this past Friday. Most of her piece is about social oppression and a response to another piece, but she concluded with this:
It’s very easy to point to state authoritarianism and say “no,” but we cannot ignore for societal oppression either. As a predominantly white male political group, the crushing effects of social oppression often go unrecognized within our circle, simply because it doesn’t affect the majority of libertarians. This cannot continue. If we want to see change in this country, we have to actively be aware of the states of different members of the population and work on more inclusive messaging. This includes women and minorities; once we start doing that, we might see more of them within our movement.
I’m not going to address minorities because Rachel’s piece wasn’t about that. The biggest problem with Rachel’s piece is it focuses way too much on the philosophical and not enough on practical things like messaging.
Most people don’t live their lives through an ideological prism. They care about just living their lives and taking care of their families. Libertarians have a tendency to try and reach people on a largely philosophical and theoretical plain and Rachel’s piece is no different in that regard. The problem is when you talk about feminist ideas on societal oppression or even abstract ideas on liberty; they don’t register with someone whose only concerns are about how they will provide for their families. As a movement, we need to be become more relevant to everyone’s lives. As we become a more practical movement, we can speak to everyone, regardless of gender.
In what is becoming its very own genre of blog post, another conservative voice has come out with a plea for libertarians to support Mitt Romney. To those of us who were not born last week, this all seems quite humorous as most of the time libertarians are treated as irrelevant. In this election, though, things have gotten tight and our votes count as much as those of the most hardcore Republicans.
As I wrote here two weeks ago, Republicans have a long way to go before they can make a truly credible case to libertarians. For one thing, they need to understand that most libertarians do not see themselves in the same way as conservatives and liberals. For the most part, both of these groups line up pretty well with a major party. Sure, conservatives will say they want the GOP to be more right-leaning, and liberals will say they want the Democrat Party to veer more progressive, but they are both going to vote for their respective parties in the end. Libertarians, though, mesh with elements of both parties - and find plenty to dislike about both as well.
It’s clear to me that the writer of the post, Mr. Brady Cremeens, didn’t read that post, and doesn’t understand the first thing about libertarians. His entire piece is premised upon the idea that libertarians are just another element of the Right that simply needs to be brought back into the fold. In Cremeens’ world, we really are just “conservatives who smoke pot” as the saying goes. With his initial premise being flawed, then, it does not bode well for the rest of what he says. If he does not understand where libertarians are coming from, how can he possibly make a convincing case?
Written by David Kirby, associate policy analyst at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Last week, I posted data from the latest Reason-Rupe poll showing 77 percent of libertarians supporting Romney—the highest percentage share of the libertarian vote of any Republican presidential candidate since 1980.
Many commenters on Twitter and Facebook were horrified! Surely, many reasoned, this large vote share is a measure of antipathy for Obama rather than affinity for Romney. Others commented that any libertarian supporting Romney doesn’t deserve to be considered a “true” libertarian.
I wanted to reflect on this last comment. Who should count as a libertarian?
In our Cato research, David Boaz, Emily Ekins and I have taken to using a relatively broad definition of a libertarian. Why? Compared to other political words like “capitalism” or “socialism,” fewer know the word “libertarian.” Many who hold libertarian views call themselves “moderate” or “independent” or even “conservative.” Few polls even offer respondents an option to identify themselves as “libertarian.” Those that do reveal confusion about what the word means.
As the election approaches, backers of both major candidates are doing their best to round up any potential uncommitted voters. For the Republicans, one of these target blocs seems to be libertarians, many of whom are planning to not vote, or to support Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson (myself being the latter). However, as Jason expressed earlier this week, these attempts are often counterproductive because conservatives, by and large, do not understand how libertarians think, and thus conversion efforts fall flat.
Now, for my purposes I don’t particularly care who wins this year, because both candidates are frankly awful. As I expressed in my post last week the GOP has in many ways become a joke, dominated by people who add nothing to the intellectual marketplace, and in fact often dumb it down and polarize the country for their own gain. When Mitt Romney expressed his now infamous “47%” theory, he was regurgitating the sort of fact-free nonsense that is rampant on the right. However, there are also those who believe the party has some hope, and offers the best chance for libertarian voices to be heard. If that is the case, though, the party as a whole needs to understand some things about us crazy libertarians, and the current tactics used to convince us are in fact going to do the opposite.
Over the last few days, I’ve been reading some interesting conversations on Twitter and elsewhere about the role that libertarians will play in the presidential election. There has been a lot of talk about Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s nominee, spoiling the election for Mitt Romney. That has obviously caused some concern by and friction from conservatives, who are saying that a “vote for Johnson is a vote for Obama.”
Before I jump into some points, I’d like to remind my conservative friends that this is not one national race for president, but rather 51 separate races, including the District of Columbia. By my count, Romney has a long road to haul in many battleground states, including Colorado, Ohio, and Virginia. Right now, President Barack Obama holds a substantial advantage in the Electoral College, which is what ultimately matters on election day.
There is a disconnect between conservatives and libertarians. Our conservative friends tend to believe in the concept of “ordered liberty,” a principle perhaps best explained by Russell Kirk. To most libertarians, the concept of ordered liberty is really “soft statism.” As you might imagine, this view doesn’t really have much of an appeal to libertarians.
When it comes down to it, libertarians don’t fit anywhere on the political scale. While many will dumb down our beliefs as “socially liberal” and “fiscally conservative,” there is really much more to the equation. We believe in the sovereignty of the individual. Our view of morality can be best defined by what John Stuart Mill called the “harm principle.”
One of the biggest questions many libertarians are dealing with is who to support for president this year. The Libertarian Party has nominated a somewhat credible candidate, at least by his resume alone, in former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Some others are trying to mount a nationwide write in campaign to try and get Ron Paul elected, even though his campaign is over.
While our conservative friends are trying to persuade us to support Mitt Romney. Kurt Schlichter has written one of the more persuasive pieces over on Breitbart’s Big Government:
There is no more time for games, no room for hurt feelings. Ron Paul fans, you need to choose, because not voting for Romney is a vote for Obama. It’s that simple. And you could make the difference.
Making no choice in this election is a choice –it’s a choice for a collectivist who will get two or three Supreme Court picks over a man who picked a guy, Paul Ryan, who understands capitalism and its unbreakable link to human freedom. Now, this is a two-way street. Romney and Ryan need to reach out to libertarians over their common ground. Fortunately, there is lots of common ground.
No, the Republican Party is not a libertarian party, but it is the only party with any libertarian element. It’s the only place you have any chance of being heard. And with guys like Rand Paul and the libertarian-friendly Tea Party elements, you can be in the GOP.
Most of that is true. The Republican Party of the two major parties is the one that has a genuine libertarian element. The Democratic Party as seen in its convention is generally hostile to individual liberty.
I’m going to say something that is highly controversial amongst libertarians. It may even lead me to be cast out (particularly among one “part” of the movement). If that is the case, then so be it. It is my suggestion to the United States government to deal with the rash of attacks on our diplomatic missions throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East: send in our forces. Find the people who have done these terrible deeds.
Bring them to justice. And then leave.
This flies in the face of generally accepted libertarian foreign policy, at least as construed by many “rank and file” libertarians. We’re not supposed to be in other countries. We’re not supposed to be out there getting ourselves involved. And if American personnel are hurt, we shouldn’t get ourselves involved more.
This, however, is dangerously short-sighted and naive. Yes, we shouldn’t be in foreign countries. On that I completely agree. But we should not, when we are attacked, simply throw our hands up in defeat and pull out. Or do what President Obama did, and “apologize” for one man using his right to free speech. That does not keep us safe, and that does not fix anything.
Giving in to bullies and madmen does not stop them, it emboldens them, as Britain learned so painfully after Munich. There is also no room for it in libertarian philosophy. If someone aggresses against you, if they attack you and destroy or take your property, and worse if they actually kill you and your comrades, they have violated your liberty. That is not something that libertarianism condones.
On Friday, Jennifer Knight published a piece entitled “A Libertarian Case for Romney.” The essence of the post is that the Romney/Ryan ticket are a move in a better direction than President Obama, and as such they should get our vote as a way to try and put the brakes on the path our nation is headed down.
Unfortunately, I can’t help but disagree.
Oh, sure, Romney and Ryan are talking a better game than Obama, but the bar isn’t really set that high. For me, at least, voting for Romney requires a few things that he frankly hasn’t provided.
First, I would have to trust him at his word to actually do what he says he would do. Honestly, I haven’t seen a lot from his record that really convinces me that he’s geniunely interested in “putting the brakes” on anything.
For months now, libertarians are being told that we simply must vote for the GOP nominee (now known to be Mitt Romney) or risk four more years of Obama. Honestly, I’ve been tickled by the arguments.
You see, if the GOP gave a damn about the libertarians out there, why didn’t they nominate someone who we might actually like? Ron Paul, for example, or even Gary Johnson when he was still in the GOP race?
The GOP and its supporters, and their relationship with libertarians, is amazingly similar to a relationship between a an abusive husband and his battered spouse. First, there are the refrains of how they’ve learned their lesson and it will never happen again (like electing someone who swole the national debt and expanded government like George W. Bush). For a while afterwards, things are fine. Then, suddenly, it starts back.
When firefighters are putting out a home blaze, do they carefully cover up all the furniture and belongings so they aren’t harmed by water damage? After a horrific car crash, do the EMT’s carefully disrobe a critically injured patient so as to protect their clothing? No. There is a crisis, a risk to life and property. After the crisis is dealt with - the fire’s put out, a pulse is restored - there is an opportunity to assess the damage and rebuild in a thoughtful, methodical way.
Our country faces crises in the financial and civil liberties sectors. I don’t need to outline the scope here, especially for libertarians. Though we are antsy to achieve the government and society that will ensure and promote civil liberties and free market economic policies, first, in 2012, we need to restore the pulse of the economy before rebuilding the society that’s been systematically taken apart since the New Deal days.
Obama’s plan for the economy involves over-regulation, effectively banning new domestic gas or oil production, and tax increases of unparalleled scope beginning January 1, 2013. Beyond that, there’s not much of a plan - Harry Reid has failed to get a budget passed in well over 1,000 days.
The Romney/Ryan plan leaves much to be desired both in its scope and timing, but it is a beginning. Negotiations can go from there. Even if passed in its current form, it puts water on the fire.