Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Goldwater/Libertarian wing of the Democratic Party

Growing bureaucracy. Out of control spending. Meddling by the state in our personal lives. This is all a libertarian’s nightmare. It is also descriptive of the current Republican controlled federal government. Here are two writers on alternatives.

Andrew Sullivan on Goldwater Democrats:

Well, we've had Reagan Democrats. And we've had Goldwater Republicans. Why
not a new version: Goldwater Democrats? By Goldwater Democrats, I mean old-style
libertarian conservatives who actually believe in fiscal responsibility, small
government, prudent foreign policy and live-and-let-live social policy. After
being told we are completely unwelcome among Republicans, should we shift to the

I have never thought of myself as a Democrat or left-liberal in any way.
And there are plenty of people among Democrats I do not agree with at all. But
it's getting to the point that the illiberal, authoritarian big government
Christianism of the GOP makes me completely supportive of backing the Democrats
this time around. My one reservation is, of course, spending. But at this point,
could they be worse than the GOP? No Congress has been worse on spending than
the current crew since FDR! The war? Again, at this point, we desperately need
some check on an administration utterly without prudence or a capacity for

Markos Moulitsas, of Daily Kos, on libertarian Democrats:
… there’s a whole swath of Americans who are uncomfortable with
Republican/conservative efforts to erode our civil liberties while intruding
into our bedrooms and churches; they don’t like unaccountable corporations
invading their privacy, holding undue control over their economic fortunes, and
despoiling our natural surroundings; yet they also don’t appreciate the nanny
state, the over-regulation of small businesses, the knee-jerk distrust of the
free market, or the meddlesome intrusions into mundane personal matters.

Like me, these were people who didn’t instinctively reject the ability
of government to protect our personal liberties, who saw government as a good,
not an evil, but didn’t necessarily see the government as the source of first
resort when seeking solutions to problems facing our country. They also saw the
markets as a good, not an evil, but didn’t necessarily see an unregulated market
run amok as a positive thing. Some of these were reluctant Republicans, seeking
an excuse to abandon a party that has failed them. Others were reluctant
Democrats, looking for a reason to fully embrace their party. And still others
were stuck in the middle, despairing at their options—despondent at a two-party
system in which both parties were committed to Big Government principles.

The modern libertarian (and conservative) view has been that government
is an evil, perhaps necessary, but still a grave threat to personal liberties
requiring the utmost vigilance against its instincts for perpetual expansion.
The larger government grows, the more it infringes on our personal space,
inevitably placing limits on our freedoms. And given government’s police powers,
that threat is grave indeed. …

Hence, there was (and is) a natural tension between liberals who see
government as a benign force for good, and those who can point to plenty of
history showing otherwise. And as long as government remained the greatest
threat to our personal liberties, this tension was fated to remain. Republicans,
out-of-power for much of the 20th century, and livid at the Democrats’ expansion
of government, spoke of shrinking government and limiting its power.
Libertarians, while not exactly perfect allies of the GOP, where likely to get
more of what they sought by making common cause with conservatives than

The fundamental reason that "libertarian" has become "libertarian
democrat" is that corporations are becoming more powerful than governments. This fundamental fact has created a union between those with libertarian tendencies and those with those who believed all along that government can be a force for good.

On social issues, we are seeing a government aggressively seeking to
meddle in people’s bedrooms, doctor’s offices, and churches. They want to
dictate when life begins, when life ends, and which consenting adults can marry.
They want to pass a new Amendment eliminating the non-existent threat posed by flag burning—a serious effort to limit the freedoms protected by the First
Amendment. And the long-time Republican dodge on such issues—that it merely
wanted to let the states decide such issues—was exposed as hogwash by the
Schiavo fiasco. …

For too long, Republicans promised smaller government and less
intrusion in people’s lives. Yet with a government dominated top to bottom by
Republicans, we’ve seen the exact opposite. No one will ever mistake a Democrat
of just about any stripe for a doctrinaire libertarian. But we’ve seen that one
party is now committed to subverting individual freedoms, while the other is
growing increasingly comfortable with moving in a new direction, one in which
restrained government, fiscal responsibility and—most important of
all—individual freedoms are paramount.


MaxPower said...

Sweet quotes. Now just show me which candidate is running under that banner and I'll give him a vote!

Joel Monka said...

MaxPower has a point; you can't have Goldwater Democrat voters until you have a Goldwater Democrat candidate- and I don't see one. This quote alone, "The fundamental reason that "libertarian" has become "libertarian
democrat" is that corporations are becoming more powerful than governments." shows the huge gap between true Libertarian thinking and Democratic Party thinking. It simply isn't true; as long as the government has the guns, it will always be more powerful- and more capriciously dangerous- than corporations. All Bill Gates' billions don't mean a thing when a subpeona is delivered, because the person delivering it is willing and able to shove a gun in his face. Libertarians know that the power to do good is also the power to do bad, depending only on the person wielding the power. The Democratic party is no more devoted to individual liberty than the Republicans; they merely want to abuse a different set of liberties.

Vivian J. Paige said...

Very interesting discussion and one which I have been thinking about myself. In so many ways, it makes sense.