The Libertarian Second

Earlier this month, the New York Times Magazine ran a piece by Robert Draper positing that the Libertarian moment may have arrived. I was skeptical when I heard of the article, more skeptical when I read it, and my skepticism was confirmed when I read about this Pew poll: 

“Libertarian” conjures anti-interventionism in foreign policy and absolutism in civil liberties. Think of Paul’s now-famous filibuster of the nomination of CIA director John Brennan over the possibility of military drones being used on U.S. soil.

But Pew’s research showed striking departures from the expected party line. Libertarians were more likely than the general U.S. population to say that it is better for the United States to have an active role in world affairs, according to the Center.

They even favored stop-and-frisk — the controversial policing tactic — a touch more than the average American, despite civil rights supposedly being one of the cornerstones of the libertarian movement.

Pew dug further into the numbers by looking back at its political typology report from June. Tellingly, out of the seven typologies that Pew identified within U.S. politics, “none closely resembled libertarians, and, in fact, self-described libertarians can be found in all seven,” Kiley wrote. In some of the early versions of the report, there was a group that looked like libertarians. They made up about 5 percent of the U.S. population.

I think the press has confused the Paulites (Paultards in impolite company) with the common garden variety person that calls themselves libertarian. My experience is that most self-described libertarians are really conservatives who are uncomfortable with the religious right and the batshit crazy  teanut wing of the GOP. They may be socially moderate and fiscally conservative but they tend to be as the headline on  Jim Newell’s post on the Pew poll at Salon pointed out:

Libertarians’ true identity revealed: rich conservatives OK with gay people, basically.

That’s a far cry from swallowing Senator Aqua Buddha’s brogressive agenda. That’s a word Charlie Pierce has pasted on the Junior Senator from Kentucky, and I like it because it’s as nebulous as Paul’s own beliefs. He hates big guvmint except when it involves abortion rights and then he likes it. He has already crawfished on some of the statements he made when the streets of Ferguson, MO were hazy with tear gas. Aqua Buddha is just another conventional politician pretending to be a conviction politician. He’s not going to lure minority voters to the GOP just by speaking at Howard and hanging out with Corey Booker.

I have long experience dealing with educated people who are embarrassed to be associated with the GOP’s knuckledraggers and biblethumpers.  They call themselves libertarians when, in fact, they’re conservatives who live in the 21st Century. As a veteran of the 1980’s political scene, I’m getting a kick out of conservativism becoming a toxic label. The same thing happened to the word liberal in the Reagan era, which is why the term progressive was revived. I’m still not crazy about it since some early 20th Century progressives were xenophobic racists who thought eugenics was swell. That’s why I’ve always called myself a liberal, which reminds me of  this speech that Laurence O’Donnell never tires of reminding us that he wrote for Jimmy Smits:

As you can tell, I don’t believe for a second that the Libertarian moment has arrived. I think the folks who insist on calling themselves that need a new term. How about Sane Conservatives?

3 thoughts on “The Libertarian Second

  1. The simplest answer is that the meaning of Libertarian is deeply corrupted by association with a wide swath of people whose only point of connection is earnestly feeling that that the only thing that is holding them back from reaching their obvious potential is the system.

    This is a viewpoint that is in no way inconsistent with believing that others (broadly defined) are unfairly taking advantage of the system to leapfrog ahead of your innate awesome, and that the only way to redress the balance and keep it square is to tilt the system entirely in your favor.

    If this butthurt sounds familiar, take a good look at the demographics of this Libertarian moment. It’s the usual crowd of over-opinionated, under brain-powered, and hyper-entitled whiny white boys. How do they get so much press attention is beyond me.

  2. I self-identified as a Libertarian and even voted Libertarian in a few elections, although I never once voted for one that won anything.

    When I first became a Libertarian it was widely identified with the pro-pot movement. One thing that concerned me a lot, especially after moving to the south, the compatibility that Libertarianism has with racism. “Keep the government out of my business” works well with “we know how to keep our negroes under control here.”

    The “Free Market” problems (especially in 2008) beat the libertarianism out of me.

    I understand the government has grown to huge proportions, but not nearly as much as large corporations have. Something has to exist to keep those corporations from becoming completely evil (they will always be somewhat evil, as that is their nature) and the smaller the government the less these titanic corporations have to fear. No, it’s not ideal, but completely necessary.

  3. I flirted with libertarianism in college in the 90s, but became swiftly disuaded by it rather quickly after graduating. “I’ve got mine, fuck you,” is fine for developing pre-frontal cortices, but a real-world adult with a smidgen of empathy quickly notices that libertarianism–whoever is preaching it and in whatever form–is soft platitudes for selfish hoarders.

    If I am to be polite, a better monikers for Republican conservatives who are Sane(tm)* might be “heartlanders”. Sort of like patriot, but without the guns, and with a sense of being grounded in tradition and reality.

    *An earlier draft of this post had me trying to define a sane conservative, and I concluded that there are none, but I’ll admit that it’s possible to be pro-USA, pro-military, and pro-business without being guano stupid, but I have yet to encounter such an entity outside of a controlled thought experiment.

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