Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Big "L" for small "l" libertarians?

The election is looking disasterous for the libertarian cause. No, not because of any particular policy George W. may put into place. Yeah, I know the Patriot Act ain't exactly pro-civil rights, and yeah, i know the FCC is gonna be expanding it's reach. No, I'm not too pleased about the government subsidized churches we're gonna end up with under the banner of "faith-based" initiatives.

No, it's no those individual encroachments on our personal and economic freedoms that have really got me worked up. It's the idea that the Democrats might be reading this election loss as the sole result of the power of social conservatism. Now, I grant you that the possibility exists that they know better - that this is simply a way to delude themselves into thinking the GOP is merely drawing the support of ignorant religious fanatics - but that, when the time comes to analyze this back at the HQ back in Berkeley, they'll see there was other stuff on the table. I'd like to think that would be the case - and perhaps that they would look beyond gay marriage, and see the sovereignty issues and the wealth redistribution issues and the defense issues that contributed equally, or (in my mind) in greater part to their narrow defeat.

But the sheer volume of the "religious right did it" cry is too big to ignore. Over at Slate, they are running a series of commentaries, with the nearly unanimous refrain that social conservatism is what lifted the GOP to victory.

Rove's gamble that he could find more Bush supporters from among nonvoting social conservatives than from the small number of undecideds in the usual voting public worked exactly as designed.

- Chris Sullentrop

Some of you are dismayed by the emergence of a huge voting bloc of churchgoers. Stop viewing this as a threat, and start viewing it as an opportunity. Socially conservative blue-collar workers don't believe in the free market. They believe in the work ethic. Bush wins their votes by equating the free market with the work ethic. Show them where the free market betrays the work ethic, and they'll vote for the party of the work ethic—you—against the party of the free market.

- William Saletan

The legacy of that Democratic defeat is the nearly impregnable Republican coalition of Southern Protestants and Northern—especially Midwestern—Catholics. Voting as a result has been a fairly constant dynamic of region and religion. White men over 40 have been leading the charge with voting levers in hand as scimitars to slay nearly every Democratic messenger. They'll sacrifice better economics to protect icons and their sense of faith.

- Hank Sheinkopf

etc. etc. etc. Just go over to Slate and check it out. It's all morals, morals, morals, and that means social conservatism.

So why does this threaten us as libertarians? Because, although there is occasional lip service to "never caving" on the social issues - it appears to me that the Dems are at a crossroads. They are deciding what's more important to them - redistributionist economics and the defeat of markets or the protection of civil liberties and the separation of church and state. And to a man it appears they are more attached to socialism and protectionism. They are convinced they have it right on hindering the markets, and appear ready to move towards the Republicans on the social issues. It looks to me like we may have a socially conservative, economically liberal Democratic party which would be the antithesis of libertarian values. And what scares me beyond the mere existence of such a party? The idea that the strategy just may pay off. If the Dems evolve in this manner - and it works - the GOP will be abandoning their tax-cutting, Social Security reforming ways faster than you can say "Arlen Specter for President". The result of this policy duel could be a nanny state the likes of which we've never seen. And there's nothing for a libertarian to like about that.


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