I think we can all learn a lesson from viewing Battlepanda's recent realization that there are really "Two Flavors of Libertarianism
." To many liberal Democrats, the definition of libertarian has not changed since the late 1980s and early 1990s. White men who are opposed to taxes, have read Ayn Rand one too many times (although once might be too many times) and like their guns and the Confederacy a lot. But accepting this characterchure is like believing the description of liberals at Free Republic. Intelligent, rational liberals like ourselves can do better than that.
There is another flavor of libertarianism out there. There is Free Market Anti-Capitalism and a Blogosphere of the Libertarian Left. There are libertarians that criticize big business and criticize the role that big government plays in creating big business. There are libertarian Democrats, not just at my own blog Freedom Democrats but candidates running for Congress (Frank Gonzalez in the Florida 21st and Kevin Anderson in the Texas 4th).
It's too bad that more people don't remember Libertarian presidential candidate Ed Clark in 1980. He described 'libertarianism' as "low-tax liberalism" and wrote a book, "A New Beginning", that had an introduction written by Eugene McCarthy. Another Democratic hero who recently passed away, William Proxmire, was well known for attacking wasteful government programs and wrote a book "Uncle Sam, The Last of the Big Time Spenders." Can you imagine any Democrat today attacking government for its big spending?
With George Bush increasing government spending faster than any president, including LBJ, is there any Democrat who's willing to criticize the big government agenda of the Republicans? For the most part we have Democrats like Senator Obama saying, "They [Republicans] basically don't believe in government. They have a different philosophy that says, 'We're going to dismantle government.'" In what way is the Bush administration dismantling government? If anything they are making it stronger and giving it more control over our lives. Republicans in Congress are having a hard time saying no to pork barrel projects. This isn't the same crowd that took over in 1994. Our rhetoric needs to change with the times.
Not all Democrats are ignoring the changing times. Former DNC press secretary Terry Michael has been critical of the new big government Republicans and has called for Democrats to return to their Jeffersonian roots. Even while avoiding the word libertarian, Democrats like Bill Richardson and Russ Feingold have illustrated that they can appeal to little-l libertarians without compromising Democratic values. In fact I would say that the two are the most popular potential 2008 candidates among libertarian Democrats that I know.
Here is my list of issues where libertarians and liberals agree and Democrats need to step up to the plate and highlight how they are better than the Republicans:
- Getting out of Iraq. I don't think there's a bigger issue where libertarians are angry with this administration.
- Opposition to the Patriot Act. There is a reason why Feingold is so popular among libertarians. Even if they do not support all of his actions, protection of civil liberties is key.
- Protecting the 4th Amendment. Yes, libertarians are outraged over the President's authorization of spying. Are Democrats going to do anything about it?
- Preserving reproductive rights. With Alito at the nominee for the Supreme Court, Democrats have to make a case throughout the election year that reproductive rights are under assault.
- Getting the government out of family decisions like the Terri Schiavo case. Dean promised that he'd bring this back in 2006 to haunt the Republicans. We look forward to this.
- Getting the deficit under control. I want Democrats to stop talking about how Republicans are dismantling government. Government is larger and stronger than ever. Spending is out of control. Talk about fiscal restraint and cutting wasteful spending.
- Medical marijuana. Many Western red states have approved medical marijuana, which has been stuck down by the Supreme Court. Democrats need to stand up on this issue.
- FDA reform and drug reimportation from Canada. The biggest problem with health care is rising costs, and it's not because of malpractice lawsuits. Drug companies are doing everything possible to jack up prescription drug prices. It needs to be easier to buy drugs without a prescription (such as the morning after pill), it should be easier to get generics to market (right now the period for patents are absurd), and we should be able to buy drugs from other First World countries like Canada. The last thing we need to do us subsidize the industry as Bush has done with his 'drug plan.'
Those are a few ideas for what Democrats should be doing right now. Most importantly, Democrats need to stop fueling the false impression that Republicans are for smaller government. Please!
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