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Hullabaloo


Thursday, October 31, 2013

 
Libertarians and the hippies

by digby

The other day, Conor Friedersdorf wondered on twitter why so many liberals are hostile to civil libertarians who aren't partisan Democrats. I, unfortunately, read too fast and engaged in a long discussion under the impression that he'd said "libertarians" rather than "civil libertarians" which isn't quite the same thing. (It can be, but it isn't always.)

Anyway, there is a reason why lefty civil libertarians are hostile to Libertarians, capital L. It's because of this:
Twenty-two percent of Americans identify as libertarian or lean libertarian, according to a new poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute.

Seven percent are "consistent" libertarians, while 15 percent lean libertarian, according to the survey.

The poll found that libertarians tend to be non-Hispanic white, young and male. Ninety-four percent are non-Hispanic whites, 62 percent are below age 50 and 68 percent are men.

Libertarians also typically identify with the GOP -- 45 percent are Republicans while five percent are Democrats.
The 5 percent who call themselves Democrats are probably women in the group who think their personal freedom and liberty shouldn't be considered silly "nitpicking over states' rights". But be that as it may, when you break down the issues, one would naturally assume that libertarians would split between the two parties, depending on how they prioritize their issues. But as you can see, that's not how it lines out. Far more Libertarians identify as Republicans.

And that's puzzling because one would certainly not suppose that Libertarians would find themselves in alliance with the Religious Right which seeks to impose its religious values on others and has traditionally seen any extension of liberty to minority populations as an affront to their prerogatives. But they are:
Only 12% of self-identified Republicans are libertarians, compared to 20% of Republicans who identify with the Tea Party, 33% who identify with the religious right or conservative Christian movement, and 37% who identify as white evangelical Protestant.
Libertarians also constitute a smaller proportion of the Tea Party movement than other core conservative groups. About one-quarter (26%) of Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement are libertarians, compared to a majority (52%) who say they are a part of the religious right or conservative Christian movement, and 35% who identify as white evangelical Protestant.
And despite the fact that the Republican Party is explicitly organized around the proverbial three legged stool of National Security-Low Taxes-Traditional Values, only one of which is a libertarian ideal, Libertarians not only refuse to align with progressives, many of whom agree with them on reducing the National Security state and ensuring personal privacy and civil liberties, they actively loathe them (us):
Notably, libertarians hold more negative views of Democrats than they hold positive views of Republicans. Nearly 9-in-10 (89%) libertarians have an unfavorable view of the Democratic Party including nearly two-thirds (64%) who have a very unfavorable opinion of the party.
Now, I'm not going to comment on the fact that nearly all of these people are young, white males because some of my best friends are young, white males. But it is a data point that you can't help noticing when you look at the make-up of the two political parties. One is majority white and majority male. The other is composed of a majority of people of color and women.

Setting aside any implications in that, one can assume that for all their alleged commitment to liberty and freedom, what they apparently care most about is low taxes and low regulation since that is the only policy area they have in common with the GOP. They obviously believe that government telling women what to do with their bodies on behalf of a bunch of theocrats is something they can live with but taxing millionaires to pay for public services is a betrayal of their principles.

It's too easy to conclude from all this is that many of these fine young fellows are really just conservatives who like to smoke pot (a pastime they also share far more with the left than the right.) But it's quite obvious that most Libertarians just don't like lefties. And that's their prerogative. But considering where their priorities obviously lie and who they consider to be good allies, I think you can forgive the civil libertarian left for being a little bit skeptical of their commitment.

The fact is that members of both parties suck when it comes to civil liberties.  They tend to follow the usual partisan line.  But there is just no denying that the members of one party suck a little bit harder.

This poll was taken before the Snowden revelations:



In 2007, when we were debating the fact that the Bush administration had blatantly disregarded the law and was spying on Americans without a warrant, less than 40% of Republicans gave a damn. Fast forward:


Three years later, partisan Democrats were more complacent about civil liberties. In fact, fewer members of both parties thought the government was going too far in restricting civil liberties. But a fat majority of 58% of Republicans believed the Obama administration wasn't going far enough.

Then in 2013, when the Snowden revelations were published, you see a switch. Suddenly both parties think the government has gone too far in restricting civil liberties.

As I said earlier, both parties (and Indies too) are fickle on these  issues. But this polling shows that there is a much more substantial core of civil libertarians in  the Democratic Party who not only maintain the principle regardless of whether their party is in power, but whose numbers grew in response to the Snowden revelations which reflected badly on "their" president. Is the Democratic majority a profile in courage? No.  But it's just a fact that there are a lot more stalwart, consistent civil libertarians on the left than there are on the right.

Having said all that, I welcome our Libertarian Republicans to the fold. (There are a number jumping on the bandwagon for a variety of motivations.) Maybe we can get something done on these issues with some bipartisan pressure.  But I also suggest that beyond valorizing Rand Paul and Justin Amash as the only Representatives who care about such things, they turn their attention to the much larger group of Democrats in the congress who've been slogging away on these issues for years: people like Udall, Merkeley,Wyden, Sanders, Holt, Lee, Grayson, Conyers  and others.

In fact, they might want to watch this Youtube which breaks down members of the two parties in the House by their records on civil liberties.
Here's the spreadsheet that lays it all out.

It's not like both parties aren't mostly working for the military/surveillance industrial complex.  We know that. But if civil liberties and anti-imperialism is what they care about, there's very little reason to think libertarians' influence will be better felt in the GOP. There are a lot fewer of them there.

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