On April 23rd, the Daily Kos had an article called Bringing libertarians into the Dem fold. In it, the author proposes:
I have argued for the past year that libertarians (with a small “L”) have a more natural home in the modern Democratic Party than with the GOP.
He goes on to describe how the Democratic party can leverage Republican abridgements of civil liberties to show libertarians that the Democratic party is their natural home, and that it is in fact ‘The party of personal liberty’.
Demonstrating at least a partial grasp of the difficulties of selling this notion to libertarians, he concedes that for this to have any chance whatsoever to work, the party of Charles Schumer and Joseph Lieberman is going to have to abandon its position of progressively abridging the right to keep and bear arms.
Although I left a long comment about the article on the Daily Kos, and mentioned that the idea of trying to appeal to ‘the other side’ was something I also had views on, there are a few interesting things about this that make it clear to me why Daily Kos does not understand the nature of the pool they are fishing in. Whilst the author understands the right to bear arms issue as being directly related to the issue of personal liberty, he also clearly sees the great majority of other things the Democratic Party does as being either neutral or unrelated to maters of personal liberty and thus not being ‘deal breakers’ in his proposed hand of friendship to libertarians.
For example, when he wrote about how the Republicans have consistently opposed business regulation, admiringly quoting an article elsewhere decrying GOP attempts to deregulate economic matters, presumably Daily Kos thinks that having the state regulating the control of several means of production is unrelated to issues of personal liberty. Perhaps in his eyes anyone who runs a business is not a person-who-has-liberty but rather some sort of collective entity and creature of the polis to whom issues of liberty are simply not germane. Perhaps this is a product of the ‘them and us’ class warrior view of the world found amongst the statist mainstream on both left and right.
And when he writes about how backs Wesley Clark as a Democratic candidate for President to run against Bush:
As everyone here already knows, he’s my favorite in this race. He’s solid on national security, well-spoken, presidential, pro-choice, pro-gun, pro-affirmative action, anti-PATRIOT Act, and believes strongly that the government should provide for the less fortunate amongst us.
I read that and when I hit the bit about ‘pro-affirmative action’ I hear the sound of screeching brakes. Now whilst I may think ‘affirmative action’ (I prefer to use the term ‘anti-white and anti-asian male state mandated discrimination’) is not materially different morally to apartheid, the fascinating thing here is that Daily Kos obviously does not even see this as an individual liberty issue! So when a specific individual white or asian man does not get a job because of a force backed state law that requires a quota of women and certain favoured ethnic groups to be hired, presumably his personal liberty, and the liberty of the owner of the company offering the job, is simply not an issue of ‘personal liberty’ at all.
Then of course we have the ‘government should provide for the less fortunate amongst us’ remark, which to most libertarians is tantamount to an apologia for proxy mugging at gunpoint. Also implicit in this is the hilarious notion (to a libertarian) that the Republicans do not take money at gunpoint from various ‘fortunate’ sections of society to give to the ‘less fortunate’… and that would be, bad, presumably. Would anyone care to list the number of violence backed redistributive ‘welfare’ acts signed into law by Republican law makers in, say, the last 30 years? Please use no more than 100,000 words.
What we have here is a fundamental failure to understand that what separates Republicans and Democrats is mostly a matter of policies within a largely shared meta-context (the framework within which one sees the world)… that is to say the Elephants and Donkeys both pretty much agree on the fact the state exist to ‘do stuff’ beyond keeping the barbarians from the gate and discouraging riots. The language and emphasis may be slightly different (forms of educational conscription with the tagline “No child left behind”… media control legislation described as “Fairness”… etc.), but the congress exist to do much the same sort of thing for both parties, just that whoever is their favoured group should have their snouts deeper in the trough.
Yet almost everything the Dems or Republicans do, beyond a narrow range of legitimate functions that can be counted on the fingers of one hand, are regarded as grievous abridgements of ‘personal liberty issues’ by almost all libertarians. That Democrats like Daily Kos cannot see that it is at the level of axioms and meta-context that libertarians disagree with them, not mere policies is astonishing. Sure, the absurdly named ‘Patriot Act’ is a monstrous abridgement of civil liberty, but the idea that this Republican law should make the Democrats more attractive to libertarians indicates just how little understanding there is of what makes libertarians think the way they do.
Of course, ‘libertarian’ is a broad term, as divisions on the war against the Ba’athist regime in Iraq have demonstrated, and many libertarians in the USA do indeed vote GOP on the grounds they would rather be ruled by the lesser evil (which is to say they vote against the Democrats rather than for the Republicans). But the fact so many people do not vote at all suggests to me that a large proportion say “a plague on both your houses”, and will continue to do so. If folks like Daily Kos realised the sort of disdain libertarians have for matters most in the statist ‘main stream’ would consider beyond debate, I suspect the hand of friendship from the Daily Kos would be withdrawn very quickly indeed for fear it might get cut off with an axe.
Democratic Party talent scout looking for libertarians