Via Reason, I found this article which digs into the spate of vehemently anti-Libertarians screeds which have been recently popping up on liberal websites and publications. Salon became a hard-core anti-libertarian site so gradually I hardly even noticed. Slate has been shifting against libertarians. The New Republic published a rancid little article trying to dig into the supposed libertarian ideals of Glenn Greenwald, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. LGF and Balloon Juice have been screaming about us for years with a horde of liberals in their wake blaming libertarians for the financial crisis, the government shutdown, income inequality, global warming and the failure of the Cubs to win the World Series.
It’s odd that so much ire is now focused on libertarians. The Libertarian Party has precisely zero elected officials at the national level. The most libertarian member of Congress is probably Rand Paul, who is pro-Life and somewhat culturally conservative. And these “libertarians are destroying the country” articles alternate with “libertarians are a fringe movement and have no real power” articles. Apparently, we’re invisible but powerful. We’re silent guardians, watchful protecters.
Libertarians are Batman.
I don’t agree with everything that is in Borders’ article but I think he finds the real reason for the anti-Libertarian screeching:
Progressivism’s cracks have finally been exposed. Progressives will urge that Obama is not the change they hoped for. But the Affordable Care Act should have been progressivism’s shining moment. Of course, it was anything but. First the president lies to the population, then joins his party in forcing Americans to swallow the bitter pill of Obamacare. He then unleashes the technocrats and gives contracts to his crony buddies to create a $500 million non-functioning Web site (and that’s just the start of the crony bonanza). The president then assures everyone that the wasted resources, high premiums, and diminished options are for the greater good. People start to get wise to it. Progressivism’s cracks are exposed. Add the failure of Cash for Clunkers, the failure of Solyndra, all the bailouts of banking cartels, and the “rescue” of the auto manufacturers and unions. The list goes on and on. The more progressive technocrats try to do, the more they botch it. Of course, something similar can be said about all the faith-based initiatives of the Republican years: you know, like the creation of the TSA, the War in Iraq, “stimulus” packages, and all manner of pork barrel projects. Progressive purists will try to argue that all of this has been a series of pragmatic patches to a failing system. For America to truly be great, they say, Republicans must not be so “obstructionist.” But President Obama, with his pen and his phone, has seized dictatorial power. Apparently, the ends justify the means. This is the foundation of progressive ideology. And it’s failing.
For all the lip service progressives pay to the “problem” of income inequality, they consistently back the most illiberal and inegalitarian policies. Is there anything fair about showering taxpayer resources upon this energy company or that—and making their CEOs’ wealth more secure in the process? Is there anything equitable about shoring up the U.S. banking cartel with permanent legislation like Dodd-Frank? And what chosen “one-percenters” are benefitting from the crony-infested Obamacare legislation, which rains goodies down on drug-makers, healthcare providers, and insurance companies in equal measure? On the other hand, while libertarians don’t mind the sort of inequality that comes from people successfully creating happy customers, wealth, and jobs, we really—no really—don’t like collusion between business interests and government power.
Exactly. Barack Obama’s election was supposed to herald the final triumph of progressivism. We were supposed to get New Deal II (remember Time’s cover with Obama as FDR?). We would see single payer healthcare, the end of global warming, the end of income inequality, abortions for everyone, impoverishment of the wealthy. And it would be so awesome and amazing that the American people would never again turn aside from the One Truth Path. This was when the rise of the oceans would begin to slow and the planet would begin to heal. We were the ones we had been waiting for.
Now, we’re five years in. Obamacare is a mess, at best. The economy is stagnant, at best. Income inequality is rising, cronyism is greater than ever, big money is more powerful than ever. The Democratic Congress got tossed out on their ear. Obama narrowly won re-election but his poll numbers are approaching Bush levels.
And so the progressives, faced with the failure of their last great push toward paradise, need to blame someone. Because it certainly can’t be their calcified ideas or their bumbling messiah.
The progressives would like to blame Republicans for their failure to create a progressive utopia but … that doesn’t really go very far. The Republicans are basically Democrat Lite these days with a little religion thrown in. And the Democrats’ biggest failures — Obamacare, the stimulus and Dodd-Frank — took place when the Republicans were still in their “clown car on fire” stage. They can complain about Fox News all they want, but in the end … it’s just Fox News.
Moreover, while the American people are turning away from the Democrats, they aren’t exactly turning toward the Republicans. More than ever, Americans are getting sick of both parties. Congressional control has been more volatile in the last 20 years than it was in the previous 80. The electorate has taken turns thwacking each party at the polls. And millions are abandoning both parties for independence.
So in the absence of the usual villains, they are turning toward libertarians. For a long time, I’ve been tweeting a response to the anti-libertarian idiocy: to many people, libertarianism is whatever it is they don’t like. The progressives really don’t like the way the political winds are blowing. It’s a rude shock in the Age of Obama. So whatever the nature of the opposition — the Tea Party, religious conservatives, moderates, Occupiers, Koch Brothers, constitutionalists, Green Party, rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists — at the bottom, it’s really got to be those evil libertarians and especially their Koch Brothers fifth column.
And maybe they’re a little bit right. I won’t say that Americans are becoming libertarian, per se. Medicare and Social Security enjoy massive support and our country is very socially conservative, in morals if not in law. But the country is moving in a liberty-ish direction: against the war on drugs, live-and-let-live on culture issues, deeply cynical of big grand government programs. Libertarians are still on the fringe, but the fringe has been growing very large in the last few elections.
And that’s the real problem for progressives. Progressives think of themselves of the future, but they are really the past. The future of politics is not some illusory progressive center. The American people have seen where that leads — crony capitalism, rising inequality and corruption. No, the future is the fringe. The two main parties will always dominate, but a growing chunk of America wants nothing to do with them. They would rather build broad coalitions around specific issues: NSA surveillance, taxation, government spending, school choice, SOPA/PIPA. On all of these issues, we see growing trans-partisan coalitions that are not terribly interested in the politics qua politics but interested in the right thing being done no matter who is in charge. If the party currently in power won’t do the right thing, then *thwack*. Out you go. Let’s give the other guys a chance to not be stupid.
So, yeah, libertarians deserve some blame. And we’re easy to kick since we’ve been around a while. But in the end, libertarians are just the leading edge of a growing political movement — a movement that ranges from hard-core conservative to hippy-dippy liberal – that is saying, “To hell with both of yous.”