I’ve long thought that Democrats have too easily ceded to Republicans and conservatives the political ground of Freedom with a capital F. In the mainstream, I think people think of Libertarians as almost synonymous with Conservatives. Or if you think of recent elected pols who staked out Libertarian ground, you might think of Ron Paul or Rand Paul, both members of the Republican Party. I think Democrats ought to grab a piece of that political ground. Here’s why.
When I look around for a definition of a Libertarian, I get variations on themes of individual liberty and limited government. Now, my friend Professor Mondo is more a true Libertarian than a conservative trying to wear the cloak of Libertarianism. He truly wants to see as little government as possible, but he also supports areas of personal liberty where a libertarian-ish conservative would stick with the Republican platform. So, feel free to chime in Mondo, but I’m not going to go too far down in the academic weeds in this post.
So, what I’m saying is that Democrats can seize back the idea of individual liberty from conservatives. Yeah, as Democrats we think government can be used for good and we’re not looking to drown it in the bathtub. Quite the opposite. But let’s discuss some policy disagreements between Democrats and Republicans. Abortion. Which side favors individual liberty and less government action? The War on Drugs. Dems generally favor decriminalizing marijuana. Criminal justice. Which party wants to see people’s rights under the 4th amendment maximized? Democrats. Which party sides with the defendant over strong law enforcement? Which party thinks the state locks people up for too long for too many offenses? An article I came across this morning talks about sex workers fight for decriminalization. I haven’t seen any polling on this, but I’d be willing to bet that Democrats generally would favor this and Republicans would be against. So that’s another example of the Left being against state action when the Right would be for it.
Another good example is how Democrats stand up for people’s right to vote. Political power is at the center of this issue, for sure, but there’s a reason that most of the pro-voting policies across the country are located in Blue states where Democrats control the legislature. And, on the other hand, Red states put in place restrictive voting policies that make it harder to get to the polls.
I was listening to the podcast, “The Weeds” on Vox and Ezra Klein made a good point that runs along this line. Democrats should be standing up as the defenders of Democracy. The Democratic Party is the natural political party to talk about Democracy, especially in the age of Trump where it’s heresy to defend our system just because it might make the guy at the top feel bad about himself. I think I’d go a step further than Ezra and say that Democrats should really run on the idea that we stand for Freedom with a capital F. We don’t think that government is a bad thing, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t also trying to support people’s individual liberties, too.