Tim Nerenz coined the term “conservatarian” — conservative on economic issues, libertarian (or as Nerenz put it, neutral) on social issues.
I like that term, even though there isn’t much difference between today’s conservatives and libertarians on economic issues. (Libertarians would claim that Republicans say one thing and do another on economic issues, and libertarians have a pretty convincing argument.)
By that logic, the opposite should be “libertarial” — liberal on economic issues, libertarian on social issues. The Washington Amazon.com Post wonders where left–libertarians fit within the Democratic Party:
For evidence of the widespread uneasiness on the left, one need look no further than the vote in the House last week to defund the NSA’s phone record collection program. While much was made of the fact that nearly half of Republicans voted for the measure, it’s just as notable that 111 of 194 Democrats did the same.
In other words, well more than half the House Democratic conference voted to defund a surveillance program overseen by a president of their own party. That’s a pretty stunning fact that has gotten lost in the current debate.
So why hasn’t this issue played out on the Democratic side like it has on the Republican side (i.e. in full view)?
Put plainly: It’s a movement in search of a leader. There isn’t one big nationally known player on the left that is pushing this issue in a way that Paul is on the right.
For now, the de facto leaders of the left’s effort to rein in the Obama Administration’s surveillance programs are Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and, arguably, the journalist who has been working with Edward Snowden to reveal the programs, Glenn Greenwald. While these two have been pushing the issue hard, they aren’t exactly political figures with huge built-in constituencies.
Aside from those two, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been talking about ways to make the programs better, working as a bridge between libertarian-leaning Democrats and the Obama Administration (she wrote a Washington Post op-ed to that effect earlier this week). But, as Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman, Feinstein is hardly a libertarian leader on the left. …
Privacy concerns in the Democratic Party have waned — predictably — since Obama took office, but there remains a sizeable constituency for a potential 2016 contender to take advantage of — particularly given two possible candidates closely tied to the administration’s national security programs (Hillary Clinton and Vice President Biden) currently lead the field of contenders. …
While Republicans were very hawkish during George W. Bush’s presidency, Democrats have long been conflicted on issues of privacy and national security.
“Now that [GOP concerns are] finally being voiced, it sounds louder in contrast with the previous silence, and may even be a bit louder for having been pent up all this time,” Sanchez said. “And so it’s natural to note that more than the somewhat hoarse-voiced and weary objections from civil libertarians on the left who’ve been shouting since 2002.”
Potential 2016 contenders who could take up this mantle include noted liberals like Howard Dean or even Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). But Dean hasn’t been a major figure in the Democratic Party for a while now, and Warren has close ties to the Obama Administration, which would seem to make her less likely to buck it on these issues.
My split between economic and social issues really requires a third category — foreign policy and war. On that issue, most Democrats have parroted whatever Barack Obama wants them to say. On foreign policy, for the most part the party parrots the president, the exception being during the Johnson administration on Vietnam. Democrats became quite dovish after Johnson, with disastrous consequences for this country, and, for that matter, their own political careers. Such peacenik Democratic U.S. senators as Frank Church, George McGovern and Wisconsin’s own Gaylord Nelson saw their political careers end like, well, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the 1980 elections.
The Democrats have always been libertarian on certain social issues — abortion rights and women’s rights, to name two. The Democrats were libertarian on other social issues until Bill Clinton, as usual interested only in his own political present and future, figured out that voters supported candidates who were tough on crime. Democrats now oppose freedom of expression for their opponents, similar to many Republicans.
The modern Democratic Party has never been libertarian on economic issues, except to the extent that Bill Clinton and, in name only, Obama support free trade. Unions opposed liberalizing immigration because of the possibility of cheaper labor to compete against their members. To the extent Democrats now favor more open immigration, it is based on their belief that that will gain them new voters.
The appeal to me of libertarianism is that it is consistent. (Putting aside the fact that human beings are never consistent.) If you do not want government butting into your bedroom, you should not want government in your wallet either. Smaller government and fiscal responsibility with tax dollars are utterly anathema to the Democratic Party today, and that is unlikely to change in my lifetime.
Since Hillary Clinton appears to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, it will be interesting to see how these so-called libertarian Democrats take on foreign and military policies for which a Republican president would have been shredded, but are A-OK by the Obama/Hillary-worshiping Democrats.