Paul Clinton

Robert Draper asks, Has the ‘Libertarian Moment’ Finally Arrived? in The New York Times Magazine. [icopyright one button toolbar]

Libertarians, who long have relished their role as acerbic sideline critics of American political theater, now find themselves and their movement thrust into the middle of it. For decades their ideas have had serious backing financially (most prominently by the Koch brothers, one of whom, David H., ran as vice president on the 1980 Libertarian Party ticket), intellectually (by way of policy shops like the Cato Institute and C.E.I.) and in the media (through platforms like Reason and, as of last year, “The Independents”). But today, for perhaps the first time, the libertarian movement appears to have genuine political momentum on its side. An estimated 54 percent of Americans now favor extending marriage rights to gay couples. Decriminalizing marijuana has become a mainstream position, while the drive to reduce sentences for minor drug offenders has led to the wondrous spectacle of Rick Perry — the governor of Texas, where more inmates are executed than in any other state — telling a Washington audience: “You want to talk about real conservative governance? Shut prisons down. Save that money.” The appetite for foreign intervention is at low ebb, with calls by Republicans to rein in federal profligacy now increasingly extending to the once-sacrosanct military budget. And deep concern over government surveillance looms as one of the few bipartisan sentiments in Washington, which is somewhat unanticipated given that the surveiller in chief, the former constitutional-law professor Barack Obama, had been described in a 2008 Times Op-Ed by the legal commentator Jeffrey Rosen as potentially “our first president who is a civil libertarian.”

Meanwhile, the age group most responsible for delivering Obama his two terms may well become a political wild card over time, in large part because of its libertarian leanings. Raised on the ad hoc communalism of the Internet, disenchanted by the Iraq War, reflexively tolerant of other lifestyles, appalled by government intrusion into their private affairs and increasingly convinced that the Obama economy is rigged against them, the millennials can no longer be regarded as faithful Democrats — and a recent poll confirmed that fully half of voters between ages 18 and 29 are unwedded to either party. Obama has profoundly disappointed many of these voters by shying away from marijuana decriminalization, by leading from behind on same-sex marriage, by trumping the Bush administration on illegal-immigrant deportations and by expanding Bush’s N.S.A. surveillance program. As one 30-year-old libertarian senior staff member on the Hill told me: “I think we expected this sort of thing from Bush. But Obama seemed to be hip and in touch with my generation, and then he goes and reads our emails.”

To say that the libertarian moment has arrived based upon the views of millennials is to look at only part of the picture. Polling has showed millennials to typically be liberal on social issues, non-interventionist on foreign, policy, but far from conservative or libertarian on issues such as preserving the safety-net and providing universal health care. They are hardly likely to be attracted by either the Republican or Libertarian Party. Unfortunately the Democrats also are risking turning off such voters with the choice of Hillary Clinton:

Early polls show young voters favoring Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2016, but their support could erode as they refamiliarize themselves with her, just as it did in 2008. Clinton has been even slower than Obama to embrace progressive social causes, while in foreign policy, she associates herself more with her former Senate colleague John McCain than with noninterventionists. Nor is Clinton likely to quell millennial fears about government surveillance. Welch says: “Hillary isn’t going to be any good on these issues. She has an authoritative mind-set and has no interest in Edward Snowden, who’s a hero to a lot of these people.”

Comparing Clinton to John McCain, who seems to have never seen a possibility for going to war which didn’t excite him, might be a little extreme, but she has firmly placed herself in the Joe Lieberman camp. She is a rare Democrat who rooted for going to war with Iraq based upon false claims tying Saddam to al Qaeda. She now repudiates her past support for the war however the story of Hillary Clinton’s career has been to get the big issues wrong at the time and possibly later realize that she was wrong. As I’ve also pointed out before, in the remote chance that the Republicans do nominate Rand Paul, or anyone else with similar non-interventionist views, this could really shake up the race, putting Democrats in the position of running from the right on foreign policy. Clinton’s weakness and cowardice on social issues wouldn’t help matters.

So, no, the Libertarian Moment has not arrived. The future looks more friendly towards politicians who are socially liberal, anti-interventionism, but far from libertarian across the board. Most likely the Republicans will run a candidate who is even further to the right of Hillary Clinton on foreign policy and social issues, and as Andrew Sullivan recently argued, Clinton will try to run on vacuous statements (along with inevitability), and avoid taking controversial positions on the issues.  She will continue to try to stick with what she sees as safe answers, such as saying that the Bible is the book which she found most influential. Maybe she will get away with it, but if the Republicans shake things up and question her on more libertarian grounds on social issues and foreign policy, there is the real danger of the Democrats losing the millennials.

Originally posted at Liberal Values

Ron Chusid
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Copyright 2014 The Moderate Voice
  • dduck

    HC had her chance and blew it. And, I’m sorry she did. Although a Rep and very against her, I still preferred her to BO.

  • sheknows

    ” reflexively tolerant of other lifestyles, appalled by government intrusion into their private affairs and increasingly convinced that the Obama economy is rigged against them, “. I just feel I have to question that.
    Paul is not tolerant of “other” lifestyles, and if he is running on the Republican ticket( not a true Libertarian ticket)…he will show that first chance he gets. He will disappoint all those young voters within minutes of taking office ( God forbid)
    The other thing is, young people don’t think “the Obama economy” is rigged against them. They think the Republicans have destroyed this economy and Obama’s worst crime is he isn’t putting it back together fast enough. Not surprising for a generation weaned on instant gratification.
    Paul is against increasing min. wage. Paul is against everything that raises the economic bar for the middle class if the federal government has to get involved , like passing any legislation. 🙂

    Basically, Paul is a Republican who has the luxury now of speaking out because the other Republicans know he is no threat, but once nominated…will conform faster than melted wax in a mold.

    Hillary will do a much more consistent job of taking care of those in this country who need it!

    Assuming we don’t have another Tea Party congress.

  • JSpencer

    HC had her chance and blew it.

    Touche’ 😉 . . . (I suspect we’ll be seeing her in the White House (again) nonetheless..

    It seems to me that any rise in the popularity of libertarianism necessarily hinges on more of that image over reality thing. Imo, libertarianism has an inordinate appeal to people who have a confused grasp of how and why the USA came into being in the first place. It also allies itself too often with reactionaries – and (last but not least) is almost absurdly unrealistic in it’s philosophy.

    Anyway, my (very unsolicited) advice to millennials when it comes to politics is this:
    Place your trust grudgingly, and do your homework!

  • dduck

    So I’m the only one that wished HC had won.

  • JSpencer

    I gave Obama my vote, but would have been fine with HC winning. I think she was done in by some of her campaign tactics – also her vote to authorize force in Iraq. In addition many progressives thought Obama would be more liberal than he turned out to be.

    Btw, I voted for John Kerry 2004 and believe he would have made a good president. Of COURSE he would have made a better president than the one we got stuck with (courtesy of our dumb-as-a-fence-post electorate).

  • dduck


  • cjjack

    HC had her chance and blew it. And, I’m sorry she did. Although a Rep and very against her, I still preferred her to BO.

    And why is that, Duck?

    My guess is that Hillary was, for the decade and a half leading up to the 2008 election, the GOP’s dream candidate. Not to vote for, but to run against. They knew she was coming, and had spent a lot of time and money figuring out just how to kneecap her in an election fight.

    When she lost to that guy with the Muslim sounding name, they were caught a bit flat-footed. They rebounded well enough, but like a team that’s been watching the game films of their expected opponent, they weren’t able to seal the deal when the game changed.

  • ShannonLeee

    You dont have “your chance” until you win the nomination… then you are one and done. Even Reps nominated Romney after numerous attempts.

    HC will be the next President, by default.

    that is the state of US politics.

  • JSpencer

    It’s always possible that Jeb could inspire a resurgence (read masquerade) of “moderate” energy from the right but ultimately I think he’d be a flash in the pan. Besides, if Jeb is truly the smarter brother he’ll choose to stay clear of the fray. 😉

  • dduck

    Why would I have preferred HC, back then?
    Because she had more experience.
    Why now? Open your paper today, and tell me you don’t think HC would have done a better job. IMHO, she would have.

  • sheknows

    Whether or not she would have done a better job depends solely on whether or not congress blocked everything she did or tried to do at every turn.
    I guess I don’t understand that people don’t realize how much more could have been done to improve our economy had not the Tea party and far right controlled the house. Wake up people.
    HC or any president is only as effective as the congress allows them to be. When they circumnavigate with EO, they apparently get sued.

  • dduck

    No, HC would have worked more with Congress. Having an obstructionist House certainly gives more than a fig leaf for a leader who is not assertive or used to working with people in his own or the other party. Of course, blaming it all on the House is an excellent argument and Dems take it right to the bank, as they should.

  • sheknows

    “No, HC would have worked more with Congress.” Providing they would have worked with her! Obama was never even given the chance. Remember ” we vow to make Obama a one term president” ? Remember the pact to block him at every turn that was recorded for posterity??!

    HC MIGHT have faired better only because she was a white person, but being a woman and a Democrat well…
    They are still burned they lost the election and their attitude and thinking has deteriorated to mob violence . Fortunately., not their actions.

    HC will have her own cross to bear, being a woman and a Democrat. If they elect another right wing congress, I truly believe the country will be in grave danger and true democracy will be but a remembrance.
    The right wing SCOTUS will be kept very busy undermining our liberty and justice for all.

  • dduck

    HC would have fared better because she has more gumption than two BOs.
    Playing the race and gender card sounds great, but reality sometimes beckons through the haze.

  • It’s not just the House’s fault. Don’t forget the Senate Republicans who made virtually everything of substance require 60 votes to pass.

    I think Clinton would have been less successful than Obama, and we would have been hearing about the long list of Clinton conspiracy theories for the past six years. The biggest difference would have been on health care. After the previous experience with her, organized medicine would have been entrenched against health care reform if Clinton was president, while Obama was able to get the support of multiple medical organizations. Obama knew what he was doing in moving Clinton to state, getting her out of the Senate and keeping her completely away from health care. With all the talk about Obama not getting things thru Congress, it is Obama who succeeded at this where others failed.

    Of course the passage of the ACA under Obama might only reinforce dduck’s preference for Clinton over Obama.

  • dduck

    We are in total disagreement, but it is all hypothetical and Monday night quarterbacking.
    IMHO, she would have accomplished more by drawing on her experience, and, for a cleaned up TMV, gumption.
    Plus, I think, she would have had a shot, if she wanted it, to have gotten a single payer system

  • There is no way Clinton, or anyone else, could have passed single payer. There weren’t even enough Democratic votes for things such as a Medicare buy in at an earlier age or the public option. There would be far more opposition for single payer.

    Plus outside of Congress, not only would Clinton have lost the support from physicians which Obama gained, the insurance industry’s campaign against health care reform would have been multiple times what occurred for the ACA.

    We also say the value of Clinton’s “experience” and “gumption” when she lost to a politician as inexperienced as Barack Obama in a primary campaign where she started out with all the advantages. We saw there how little value her “experience” is compared to her poor judgment and terrible political instincts.

  • dduck

    No, poor judgement on the part of the party/electorate with their terrible political instincts did her in.
    And “gumption” is used after you get elected, not during the beauty contest of the primaries and the general election, which is all about being the better bull artist.

  • JSpencer

    Wake up and smell the racism. It isn’t playing a card, it’s real (they just don’t use fire hoses anymore). Hillary wouldn’t be contending with that, but there would still have been the misogyny and a House full of narrow minded, obstructionist fools. The rest is speculation.

  • dduck

    Speculation of the past agreed, reality of the present obscured, agreed.

  • sheknows

    “HC would have fared better because she has more gumption than two BOs”.

    Well, we know of one person who bought completely into the “weak leader” “mom’s jeans” persona 🙂 the Republicans have been selling, when in truth, they tied his hands in everything and then criticized him for not doing enough. Brother!!! When he just went around their road blocks and used executive order, they sue him. C’mon.

    The Republican rally cry to blame/hate Obama has penetrated the entire party..even the ones who thought they weren’t buying their nonsense.

    HC will be faced with many of the same problems sans racism. The Republicans like who they are now, and like the image they have created in American politics. That of a self-centered, heartless, disagreeable lot that can hold the country hostage at will if given the votes.

  • dduck

    Who would you have wanted to answer that 3am call about Ukraine, Israel, Iraq? Well, HC was right, it was HC.
    Enjoy your well earned vacation BO, you deserve it, campaigning takes a lot out of you.
    OK, I’m ready for the racist charge. shoot.

  • Clinton is certainly not the one I would want answering that call, as has been seen in her ideas from Iraq to Syria. Her past statements in support of the Iraq war based upon tying Saddam to al Qaeda already make her someone who should be disqualified from making any foreign policy decisions. Fortunately her hawkish views were held in check when Secretary of State. We would probably have a far worse situation in Iraq and Syria if we went ahead with her idea about arming the Syrian rebels and getting in the middle of that.

  • dduck

    My opinion is different, although it is all conjecture.
    What we got is what we got. And, I wish us good luck.