In discussions of Daily Kos it has often been noted that they often stress politics over ideas. For example they love Dean but hate Kerry even though the two are very close on the issues primarily for imaginary differences stemming from their primary battle. In a post yesterday Kos breaks from his typical type of comments to write about being a Libertarian Dem. Here’s a section from his description of the views of a Libertarian Dem:
Libertarian Dems are not hostile to government like traditional libertarians. But unlike the liberal Democrats of old times (now all but extinct), the Libertarian Dem doesn’t believe government is the solution for everything. But it sure as heck is effective in checking the power of corporations.
In other words, government can protect our liberties from those who would infringe upon them — corporations and other individuals.
So in practical terms, what does a Libertarian Dem look like? A Libertarian Dem rejects government efforts to intrude in our bedrooms and churches. A Libertarian Dem rejects government “Big Brother” efforts, such as the NSA spying of tens of millions of Americans. A Libertarian Dem rejects efforts to strip away rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights — from the First Amendment to the 10th. And yes, that includes the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms.
So far, this isn’t much different than what a traditional libertarian believes. Here is where it begins to differ (and it shouldn’t).
A Libertarian Dem believes that true liberty requires freedom of movement — we need roads and public transportation to give people freedom to travel wherever they might want. A Libertarian Dem believes that we should have the freedom to enjoy the outdoor without getting poisoned; that corporate polluters infringe on our rights and should be checked. A Libertarian Dem believes that people should have the freedom to make a living without being unduly exploited by employers. A Libertarian Dem understands that no one enjoys true liberty if they constantly fear for their lives, so strong crime and poverty prevention programs can create a safe environment for the pursuit of happiness. A Libertarian Dem gets that no one is truly free if they fear for their health, so social net programs are important to allow individuals to continue to live happily into their old age. Same with health care. And so on.
Kos even says this will be the topic of his next book, and I suspect I’ll enjoy his next book more than his previous one. Naturally this has raised a bit of controversy, both from liberals and libertarians. Much of the disagreement is over labels as opposed to ideology, especially as many libertarians have entered into an alliance I have never understood with conservatives. Kos’s description of libertarianism also disagrees with those libertarians who support no government activity. Personally I don’t find arguments over labels to be particularly meaningful. In this case I suspect that Kos’ choice of terminology remains based upon his political instincts as he sees framing himself as a Libertarian Dem as a way to pick up votes in some of the western states.
This is really just part of a trend among Democrats dating back to Bobby Kennedy, and subsequently seen with Democratic leaders from Jimmy Carter to Howard Dean and John Kerry. Similar views have also been expressed frequently at Daily Kos even if not labeled Libertarian, contrary to the right wingers who try to portray them as being on the far left. Economic liberalism has long been dead, with ideas such as support for individual liberty and opposition to unjust wars, from Vietnam to Iraq, increasingly being the factors which separate liberals from conservatives. We’re all capitalists now, but liberals see through the right wing’s rhetoric as being support for corporate welfare, not the free market.
Historically liberalism was identified with liberty, as well as capitalism. Rather than Libertarian Dem being the best term, perhaps what is really occurring is that liberalism is being freed from its identification with big government and is returning to its roots. We may be Liberal Democrats, but that sure doesn’t mean what the right wingers claim in their scare campaigns.