Markos Moulitsas* has a really interesting piece on why ‘libertarian Democrat’ is not a contradiction in terms. Definitely recommended reading for anyone interested in politics. He makes one interesting point, one obvious point, and one totally broken assumption:
- Interesting: the argument that in our modern economy, even doctrinal libertarians should be as afraid, or perhaps even more afraid, of corporate power than of government power; government being relatively much more constrained than corporations at this point, and in many meaningful ways, directly controlled by said corporations.
- Obvious: the observation that the modern Republican party, as led by Rove and Cheney, has been the biggest threat to the rights libertarians claim to cherish we’ve seen in generations. [Left mostly unsaid is that this is not a temporary problem- a GOP structurally indebted to the religious right will always choose meddling in private lives over libertarian principles; a GOP structurally indebted to our largest corporations will always choose corporate welfare over actual efficiency and rationality.]
- Broken: the assumption that corporate/religion-wary libertarians who want to flee the GOP (as they should) would necessarily want to (or need to) flee to the Democrats. While I tend to agree that the insane far right is at this point much more powerful and more dangerous to libertarian values than the insane far left, that doesn’t mean that the insane far left is not powerful enough to paralyze the Democratic party and prevent it from actually doing anything constructive and useful. Kos, as one of the more publicly partisan people on the planet, probably can’t see this, but I do think that there is a place for a strong third party in this country- one without unpayable debts to the religious right and gigantic corporations, or to those who are instinctively anti-capitalist and pro-government.
Anyway, a challenging and interesting read, no matter where on the spectrum- far left or far right- that you fall.
*yes, sadly, the often nearly unhinged Kos of Daily Kos.
15 thoughts on “for my friends in the marijuana-smoking, gay-marriage wing of the Republican Party”
What insane far left? The actual left has near-zero influence over the Democrats, who are overall a rather timid, middle of the road bunch. Do you mean Howard Dean, who was considered a maniac because he opposed the Iraq war earlier than most Americans and because a speech where he screamed to be heard over a deafening crowd, but that didn’t sound that way because of the noise-cancelling microphone, was played 500 times on television?
Do you mean Kos, who opposes gun control and, in his book, spends much of it attacking progressives for putting their pet causes ahead of doing what it takes to win? Hardly.
Most Democrats are too conservative and cautious even to call for something that is standard practice in every other developed nation: universal health coverage. By this measure, it would appear, most Democrats are libertarian.
Kos makes the same assumption as most people when talking about US politics — he assumes a two party system as a foundation for his argument. “If not GOP then Democrat” is the logical result of such thinking and he’s sadly far from alone. And it’s true that for the perspective of libertarians that their policy goals would be better served by not letting the GOP completely own the political scene as happens now.
Regardless, I agree with your implication that there is plenty of room in US poltics to support the emergence of a soft-libertarian party that would be able to draw in people who are dissatisfied with the existing parties. All that is needed is a charismatic leader… and hundreds of millions of dollars to spare.
Surely if something comes from someone whom you have an irrational dislike for it should be encouraging that you agree with it in part, no?
Kos isn’t far left unless one is an ignoramus. He’s a partisan Democrat, which means amongst other things that he still supports Brown and Ford for the Senate despite the fact that they just voted in the most abhorrent Bill in US history. His primary concern is getting a Democratic majority, with most all litmus tests thrown aside. In fact, given his famous antipathy towards that part of the affluent Democratic establishment which is cosiest with big corporations, which he has not only written a book about but which he specifically mentions in the first paragraph of the linked post, I have difficulty understanding how you could possibly tie your “broken” assumption to him.
Of course avowed big-L Libertarians do little else than repeat well-devised Republican talking points these days, so this isn’t entirely surprising. Le sigh.
I didn’t say Kos was far left; I said he was partisan. I tend to think his hatred of all things Republican blinds him to flaws in his own party.
The duality of our political system is not an assumption but historical and game-theory-based fact. Duverger’s law, which states that a single-member first past the post districting system will inevitably produce a two major coalitional parties who overwhelmingly dominate the system, describes Americans politics perfectly. So the assertion, if not GOP, then Democrat, isn’t faulty at all. Libertarians have no power in American politics except by alliance with one of the major parties. Kos is simply pointing out that Libertarians will reach more of their policy goals by coming into the Democratic tent.
There is a hierachy of liberty interests. Arguably, political rights against state intrusions are superior to mere economic liberties, such as the right to pollute the commons, or defraud customers, or even to use one’s property in an unrestricted manner. You may feel differently, but history has demonstrated over and over that political rights, once lost, are much harder to restore than economic rights, and that economic rights are inevitably lost once political rights are destroyed. Kos therefore posits that Libertarians should be far more alarmed, and organize to oppose, those restrictions on political rights which the GOP is currently pursuing, even though they may disagree with some or all of the limitations on economic rights which are attendant to Democrats’ desire to regulate and police free markets.
In short, Kos is asking Libertarians to accept the lesser evil.
You seem to be conflating the two in point three in my mind.
Anyway, Kos openly admits to his support of those less than virtuous parts of the Democratic Party until such point as they have a majority with which to exert some leverage. I would hardly depict him as turning a blind eye towards them, insofar as he co-wrote a book which explicitly advocates bouncing them out of the party as soon as their services are no longer required to deliver said majority. And everyone knows Dailykos is only partisan until the results are announced anyway: I rather expect an editorial tearing Sherrod Brown’s heart out for his torture vote the second after Ohio is called.
Let me rephrase: Kos is assuming that a third party could not in short order become the second party. I think both parties are that deeply screwed that a sane centrist third party could quickly become a dominant force and kill/marginalize one of the other two parties.
I don’t believe there are very many people who would value financial liberty above civil liberty on an absolute scale. It’s a pity that this isn’t presented in such simple terms more often.
The “insane far left” has precisely zero power in this country. I know some of them.
As for third parties — yes we need them. But supporting one *now* is incompetent idealism. We have what’s called a “first past the post” system, and under such a system, you *always* end up with a two-party system: it’s impossible to maintain a three-party or more balance (except for regional parties). This has been studied for decades.
If you want to have viable national third parties, forget actually organizing third parties.
Instead, campaign for some form of *proportional representation* with *multi-member districts*, rather than single-member districts. The idea is that if NY has 40 members of Congress, and 1/4 of the voters vote for each of four parties, then 1/4 of the seats (10) go to each party. It has the added advantage of eliminating gerrymandering completely.
For the Presidency or other single-member districts, campaign for *approval voting* (I’ll let you look it up).
These are the systems which allow third parties to be viable and long-lasting.
And frankly, Democrats, with their interest in “fairness”, are way more likely to actually pass proportional representation or approval voting than Republicans are.
So if you want to have effective third parties, vote Democratic. That’s what I concluded.
“All that is needed is a charismatic leader… and hundreds of millions of dollars to spare.”
No, all that is needed is proportional representation. Without it, third parties are hopeless: the best you can do is to take over or displace one of the major parties. (There is a weird and unstable situtation in the UK right now, which is going to end with one of the three parties vanishing. Right now, the vanishing party could be Labor or the Tories; I am pretty sure the LibDems are on the rise.)
When the current Constitutional crisis is over — meaning when Democrats control Congress and have repealed the fascism enabling laws — start lobbying your state legislature to abolish districts, and switch to some form of proportional representation for Congressional seats.
I don’t think this is an accurate characterisation. Kos simply picked his “third party” as “the good Democrats” rather than a nonexistent third party. In the UK and the US almost any time a new political party has obtained dominance it has done so by devouring an existing party from within. It maybe isn’t the cleanest way of doing it, but it is historically the only practical way.
I very much doubt that anyone is vanishing any time soon. There has been no real erosion of either party base. A serious play to the left by either Labour (no chance) or the Lib Dems (never their base, even though they hand-waved during the general election) could possible cause a split down the centre which would concentrate the left’s vote, but it’s unlikely to happen. The Tories certainly can’t go anywhere on policy but they’re the only sane party on the right so their base is shored up; Cameron has stopped people from jumping due to leadership failures. There’s a possibility both Labour and the Lib Dems implode at some point in Scotland, but it’s not imminent.
s/party/movement in the second line of commend 11, by the way.
Coming from a European perspective, there is no “left” party in the US; there’s two right-wing parties, with one a more religiously conservative flavour than the other.
I agree that the idea of a two-party oligopoly is mostly to blame. They’ll inevitably gravitate to straddle the median on every question, which leaves most voters without any representation on most issues no matter which party they’d vote for.
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