The Libertarian Democrat: A Dream that Won't Die


Glenn Greenwald keeps the meme alive in Salon.

Bully to him for sticking to it, even after the election.  But the piece mostly promises that the Democrats won't do more damage than the GOP has already done.  That is, they won't take more swipes at gay marriage, pass flag burning bans, or—I guess—take extraordinary measures to bring Terry Schiavo back from the dead.  Not exactly revolutionary.

Thing is, given the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency and her tendency to lurch to the right on social issues, I'm not even sure Greenwald could hold his ground on that promise.  Welcome as their talk on libertarian Democrats may be, I doubt Greenwald or Kos is going to waste any political capital to raise objections if, for example, Hillary wins the nomination, and includes in her platform promises to expand the FCC's indecency jurisdiction to cable TV, imposing a federal ban on advertising sugary foods to children, or on alcohol advertising at college sporting events—to name just a few examples.

What I'd really like to see from the libertarian Democrat crowd is some offense.  Instead of promising not to do any more damage to personal liberty, why not try to win some back?  How about cutting off funding for the DEA's jack-booted marches into California's medical marijuana clinics?  While you're at it, snip the purse strings for the agency's persecution of pain specialists, too.  And remove the federal ban on scientific research into the possible health benefits of marijuana.  Revoke the Internet gambling ban, or—even better—legalize online wagering to eliminate any ambiguity.  Repeal federal asset forfeiture laws.  Repeal the federal minimum drinking age and the national .08 blood-alcohol standard.  De-fund the FCC's war on dirty words, and the DOJ's war on dirty pictures.  I could go on.

The point, of course, is that there's more to the personal freedom side of libertarianism than gay rights and abortion.  There's nothing inherently contradictory about liberalism and the suggestions listed above, other than perhaps a general knee-jerk defense of government power and influence (although one huge hurdle to any left-libertarian alliance will be the left's love for the public health crowd).  But the whole point of the "libertarian Democrat" meme is to move away from all of that.

My advice to Kos and Greenwald:  Stop telling us what you won't do.  Tell us what you'll do.  Bring the new leadership around on a few of these issues.  Then we'll know you're serious.