For the past three years, an ardent faction of libertarian Democrats has wreaked havoc on the D.C. establishment.
By grounding their libertarianism in progressive principles, these “Wacko Birds” have successfully shifted the Democratic mainstream towards liberty.
Their rebellion even seems to have influenced Joe Biden, who recently lamented that “our government spied on every one of your phone calls” and decried the notion that we should be “taking on more new interventions” in places like Syria.
This is, needless to say, mind-bogglingly wrong. This story is not only false, but the mirror opposite of what is actually occurring.
Some elements of the liberty movement, however, continue to regard the reversal I’ve just presented as more attainable than the actual trend unfolding in front of our faces. This vision is the sort of surreal inversion that can only be produced in the comfort of an internet echo-chamber.
In reality, it takes minutes to convince most conservatives that we should not raise taxes to protect drug users from their private mistakes. Convincing most liberals to let you own an automatic weapon, on the other hand, is a fool’s errand. The disparity is so obvious that I suspect people who don’t recognize it are not really having these conversations in their daily lives.
If the thought of “Wacko Birds” taking flight in today’s Democratic party strikes you as less than ludicrous, it’s time to take a break from blogging and start having more face-to-face conversations about libertarianism.
George Bush spent less on the military and spied on fewer Americans than President Obama. Yet, during Bush’s second term, Republicans responded to his big government policies with mass disillusionment – leaving him with an approval rating of 22% and making him the most unpopular president on record. Conversely, amidst an almost cinematic barrage of ridiculous scandals, the left continues to cling feverishly to the pillars of power.
Glenn Greenwald recently called the fact that liberals have stuck with Obama “a testament to their intellectual dexterity.” At the heart of this dexterity is an ideological addiction to force. Leftism casts aggression as defense: that’s why it has been the predominant ideology of authoritarian despots for a hundred years.
Libertarians, nonetheless, have been making overtures to the left since the early 90s. Curiously, this approach often seems to involve stabbing other libertarians in the back. In 1994, the San Francisco Libertarian Party criticized Justin Raimondo for campaigning against welfare. During Ron Paul’s first GOP presidential run, the Cato Institute eagerly disparaged him on the grounds that he appealed to flyover state retrogrades. More recently, of course, Cato came out in favor of gun background checks – compromising the one liberty upon which all others are ultimately dependent.
Where, I ask, are the fruits of this strategy? It has not produced a Rand Paul or a Mike Lee in the Senate, nor a Thomas Massie or a Justin Amash in the House. Ron Wyden – the only Democrat to aid Rand Paul’s filibuster (albeit in a very brief and noncommittal way) – will never be called “the effective leader of the [Democratic] party.” The liberty movement’s recent victories have been won not because of the leftist strategy, but in spite of it.
There are, of course, potential libertarians to be found everywhere. But if the liberty movement wishes to become a viable political force, we must embrace a strategy that yields real results in the generality – even if it doesn’t necessarily mirror our own individual experiences as post-9/11 teenagers.
I’m proud to be a “flyover state retrograde”!
Great piece, as usual, Ian.
Likewise! And I very much appreciate the feedback.
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