Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Wednesday | April 23, 2003

Bringing libertarians into the Dem fold

Arthur Silber of "The Light of Reason" tackles Santorum from the libertarian perspective, and does a great job. However, this passage struck me the most:

Some have suggested that Santorum's comments are "unconservative" -- that they do not truly reflect the "conservative" view of government. I think such an idea is simply mistaken: when David Horowitz supports a draft; when the Heritage Institute supports "compulsory universal service"; when Jonah Goldberg supports censorship; and when Santorum, the third most powerful individual in the Republican Congressional leadership, supports criminalization of a wide range of consensual adult activities -- exactly how are the "conservatives" defending individual rights? As I have said a number of times before, these are the reasons that I consider such conservatives among the worst enemies of freedom: they pose as defenders of individual rights, while striving to destroy freedom supposedly in the name of defending it.
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. At their core, libertarians distrust government and exult individual freedoms above all. Small government in both the social and economic realms.

Democrats believe government has a strong role to play in improving the lives of people. Hence, Democrats have been strong proponents of social programs and the use of the tax code to help redistribute income from the haves to the have nots. This position has traditionally been anathema to libertarians.

On the other hand, Democrats are social libertarians -- distrusting the heavy hand of the government in our private lives. Libertarians nod in approval.

Republicans promote markets free of government interference, a small government and a low or non-existent tax burden. Libertarians love this.

Then again, Santorum Republicans and their Christian Right allies push for government regulation of our private lives. Libertarians recoil in horror.

Traditionally, libertarians have sided with the Republican Party because of economic issues, notions of "small government", and the ever-important 2nd Amendment (gun control). It seems libertarians always assumed the courts would continue to protect their private lives from government intrusion, regardless what the wingnuts tried to do.

But things have changed. The Clinton Democratic Party balanced budgets and restrained spending -- both policies abandoned by the Borrow and Spend Bush Administration. Bush and his cronies have embarked on a coordinated and wide-spread assault on individual freedoms, keynoted by the overbearing PATRIOT Act. And Bush's judges have shown consistent hostility to notions of individual liberty -- a trend likely to worsen as Bush nominates more judges to the bench.

It is obvious that on balance, personal freedoms are better protected by Democrats than Republicans. It's also obvious to me that Republicans have surrendered their claim to the monicker "Party of fiscal responsibility" or to notions of "smaller government".

That leaves guns, and it's a deal-breaker with many libertarians. Which is why I say, fine. You win. The NRA wins. We'll work hard to enforce existing gun laws (which in all honesty would go a long way toward reducing the effect of guns on our society). The feds will stay out of the debate, and leave it up to the states (and cities) to set their own gun laws.

That's why I like Dean and Clark -- both are avowed supporters of the 2nd Amendment, and both can go far in helping capture the significant libertarian bloc from the grasp of the GOP.

We all talk about the Democratic Party standing for something. Well, there it is.

The party of personal liberty.
It's a winner, both tactically (helping us win elections), and philosophically. Government can and should lend a helping hand. But it should also protect our individual freedoms from those (like Santorum) who would tear them away.

Posted April 23, 2003 12:11 PM | Comments (199)


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