The 2012 presidential race is likely to be a real squeaker. According to most polls, it's in a tie situation and there's little reason to believe anything is going to change drastically between now and November.
If Barack Obama and the Democrats are going to win, they will need every vote they can muster. So maybe the party of stimulus spending, Dodd-Frank, and the broccoli mandate is willing to turn libertarian this time around.
To be sure, Obama’s economic and regulatory policies have rightly irradiated him with most libertarians, but there’s still little love lost among libertarians for the GOP. When they last controlled the White House and Congress, Republicans spent wildly, expanded government at every level, meddled in people's personal choices, and charted a disastrous foreign policy. If the GOP faithful is lukewarm about Mitt Romney, voters who favor less government spending and more social tolerance are even less enthusiastic.
So if Obama and the Democrats explicitly move libertarian on some issues, anything could happen. (Related: "3 Ways Romney, Ryan, and Republicans Can Woo Libertarian Voters.")
Here are three ways that Obama might win at least some of the 10 percent to 15 percent of libertarian-minded voters who believe in shrinking the size and scope of the federal government.
1. Get Transparent, Right Now!
Candidate Obama promised the most transparent administration in history but he’s delivered the exact opposite. One example: Between 2008 and 2011, the Drug Enforcement Administration has more than doubled the number of exemptions it has claimed from Freedom of Information Act requests.
He also promised to rein in abuses of executive power but he’s even got a top-secret kill list that apparently includes U.S. citizens on it and is free of any sort of judicial review or restraint.
Come clean, Obama, starting right now. Acknowledge the cavalier attitude you've taken both to the Constitution and your own promises and explain how you will change paths in a second term.
Libertarians take institutional checks on the restraint of power very seriously and nobody was expecting anyone to match George W. Bush's record on that score.
But Obama raised the bar for himself—and then just walked right under it.
2. Drug War Is Over, If You Want it
Back when he was a state senator, Obama used to say the war on drugs was a failed policy. When he was running for president, he joked about inhaling deeply while smoking dope ("that was the whole point") and since taking office, he continues to crack wise about marijuana policy even as hundreds of thousands of Americans are arrested each year for possession. That's not funny. It's sick.
Since becoming president, Obama has raided a record number of medical marijuana dispensaries that are legal under California law and he’s given no indications that he’ll change his policy in a second term. His own attorney general, Eric Holder, continues to either dissemble before Congress on the matter or evince incompetence in running his department.
The federal "asset forfeiture fund" (AFF) has been swollen with money and goods taken from dispensaries and other drug-related raids; seized property is being kicked back to the law enforcement agencies who do the seizing in record amounts.