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As a former heavy user of pot, Obama is in a perfect position to push for an end to a drug war that he knows is awful in countless ways. Arguably, nothing would pull more libertarian voters from voting for Gov. Gary Johnson (the strong Libertarian Party candidate) or for Romney (on the theory that he is more friendly to free markets) than bold action to end America's longest war.
Obama and the Democrats are relentlessly attacked by Republicans as the party of doves, right?
Yet the president tripled troops in Afghanistan and things are not getting any better there (just a couple of weeks ago, in the very area U.S. troops "surged" into under Obama, the Taliban beheaded 17 people for dancing). For all the ballyhoo over the U.S. leaving Iraq (in keeping with a schedule worked out during the Bush administration), Obama's Defense Secretary Leon Panetta fought tooth and nail to keep troops around and somewhere around 17,000 contractors and other Americans are still there.
Obama unilaterally entered Libya and he’s put troops in Uganda, of all places. This guy won the Nobel Peace Prize? How about coming up with a serious reduction in defense spending, which is up over 70 percent in real terms in the 21st century and accounts for 45 percent of global military dollars? Obama's most recent budget plan (for fiscal year 2013) would see baseline defense spending rise from $700 billion next year to $788 billion in 2022 (see table S-4; figures in current dollars).
Perhaps more important, Obama might articulate a foreign policy that would provide a decision-making matrix that would guide American military interventions large and small. If it is non-interventionist—not isolationist, mind you, but not some warmed-over Wilsonian globo-cop nonsense—in a principled way, libertarians would listen.
If Obama and the Democrats want to win the libertarian vote—and November's election—they've got their work cut out for them. Obama's time in office has been marked by disastrous policies that have stalled economic recovery by introducing massive amounts of uncertainty into the equation (and we still have no clear sense of what basic taxes will be come January 2013). He has been weak-kneed when it comes to things such as marriage equality and terrible when it comes to issues such as immigration (he has deported almost as many people in three-plus years as George W. Bush did in eight).
Yet the libertarian bona fides of Mitt Romney and the Republicans are anything but convincing. And even though the LP has a remarkably attractive and accomplished presidential candidate in Gary Johnson, Obama could certainly win votes from libertarians if he ran on the three issues outlined above.