Clowns to the left of me. Jokers to the right. Here I am, not really stuck in the middle per se, but with other libertarians. So who is the best political group to partner with in these chaotic political times?
Libertarians, as a political bloc, are not prominent. If we were an animal, we would be on the endangered species list due to our limited quantity in nature and our substandard breeding habits. Of course, we would reject being placed on any such government list, because — well — that’s kind of our thing. As for our breeding habits, this is inevitable when you are movement of basement-dwelling dude-bros.
To make up for this scarcity, libertarians adopt the mentality of an oxpecker. These are the small birds who spend their days munching bugs on the backs of larger mammals. By itself, the oxpecker is small and susceptible to predators, but riding on the backs of rhinos and wildebeests provides protection. As a tradeoff, the oxpecker maintains this symbiotic relationship by tidying up the place. Little peckers and libertarians go hand-in-hand.
Libertarians long for a similar state of ecological mutualism, so they seek out bigger entities in the political wilderness to latch on to. As a result, there is an ongoing debate within the libertarian community about who is the natural political ally of the liberty movement: is it those on the political right or those on the political left?
In the hunt for the strange bedfellows that politics is known to make, libertarians need to think carefully before choosing with whom they mate for life.
A Step to the Right…
Many believe that the right wing of the political spectrum, which includes the Republican Party, is a better philosophical fit. Like libertarians, many on the right support free markets, disapprove of taxation, and enjoy online trolling as a hobby.
There are already libertarians (or at least libertarian-leaning individuals) scattered on this side.
The lasting legacy of Ron Paul can’t be ignored — mostly because libertarians will always remind you of their beloved messiah. If not for Paul’s two bids to become the Republican presidential nominee, most people would have never been introduced to libertarianism in the modern era. In fact, most libertarians would just be loners aimlessly badgering people on the internet all day. Paul gave those loners a real reason to badger people online. (Typing “Taxation is theft” over a hundred times a day in various comment threads is a tough job, but somebody has got to do it.)
Paul also inspired the growth of the “liberty caucus” within the Republican Party — Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, etc. — which still leads many to believe that libertarianism could infect the GOP like a venereal disease. (And we would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for that meddling, over-funded Planned Parenthood.)
If seen, please call 1–800-MUH-ROAD
I would include Rand Paul in this list of libertarian-leaning Republicans, but he’s gone missing since the confirmation hearings for Jeff Sessions. Fear not though — the libertarian community has put his face on every box of raw, unpasteurized milk. We’re certain that he’ll turn up once the FDA approves.
Trade routes have long existed between the Libertarian and Republican Parties, where candidates have swapped teams with ease. Ron Paul ran as both as a presidential candidate for the LP and GOP. Bobb Barr, Wayne Allyn Root, Gary Johnson, and Bill Weld were all former Republicans who moved over to the LP.
This trade route is also open in the other direction. Austin Petersen, who came in second to Gary Johnson in the 2016 primaries, is ready to campaign for a Senate seat in his hometown of Missouri as a Republican.
Oh… wait… he hasn’t officially announced that he’s a Republican yet? Sorry. Spoiler alert! Try to act surprised when he does make it official. He’s been in denial about this for some time, so I don’t want to take away his spotlight.
…Or a Jump to the Left?
Others believe that the brand of conservatism championed by the GOP — whether George W. Bush’s warmongering neo-conservatism or Donald Trump’s alt-right populism — is contrary to many libertarian values. Such values include the free flow of people, capital, hallucinogenics, and cheaper dental work across borders.
Also, since Republicans are currently in power (practically holding majority rule in all three branches of government), many libertarians feel reticent buddying up to authority. Being a cheerleader for those in power gives libertarians a nervous twitch and a bad rash.
As an alternative, many libertarians openly advocate for alliances with the left. And there is some common ground already: opposition to the drug war, support for consenting adults to marry regardless of sexual orientation, condemnation of mass incarceration, and one helluva inferiority complex.
And, believe it or not, the left used to be against needless wars and excessive foreign intervention. Unfortunately, left-leaning partisans are required by law to go into hibernation whenever one of their own is in charge. Besides, who wants to attend anti-war protests anyway? It looks chilly outside.
Though it tends to be a pejorative term, the word “liberalism” actually binds the philosophical foundations of the modern left and libertarians. The liberal tradition traces its roots to Scottish Enlightenment which championed individual liberties, free markets, and shouting “freedom” like William Wallace at every opportune moment.
Adam Smith. The original liberal. Hipster.
Look it up: the world’s first “liberal” was Mr. Capitalism himself, Adam Smith. Progressives should know that libertarians are the hipsters of the liberalism: we were all about it before it was cool. Now, our school of thought is considered “classical liberalism,” which is just a more hip way of saying “vintage.”
There Can Only Be One
So whose side are we on then? Who should libertarians openly court when advocating for the issues that are near and dear to our hearts, such as reforms in oversight of the Federal Reserve, cuts in federal spending, and keeping the government out of our porn collections?
We could try the Gary Johnson method, and attempt to appeal to both sides. Johnson’s “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” tagline certainly steered many people in the direction of the Libertarian Party in 2016. (Because it certainly wasn’t steering them toward Aleppo, amirite? Eh? *annoyingly nudges elbow into your side* Sorry. I’ll stop now.)
But apparently this level of pluralism — and Gary Johnson for that matter— doesn’t sit well with most libertarians. The natural dichotomous and contrarian nature of libertarians make it very clear that we must pick a side and never look back in regret. We have to pull a Robert Frost: choose one path where two roads diverged, likely be the one less traveled by — probably one that isn’t paved or maintained by the government. (Muh roads!)
So bite your bottom lip, because it’s time to weigh the pros and cons of this very important decision.
Pros and Cons of Teaming with the Right
Pro: Better chances at minimizing or eliminating taxes
Con: Reminding conservatives that tax breaks need to apply to more than their golfing buddies at Boeing, Goldman Sachs, and Exxon Mobil
Pro: Decrease of useless regulatory burden on businesses
Con: Increase of useless regulatory burden on uteruses
Pro: Safeguarding the Second Amendment
Con: Fighting like hell to safeguard all of the other amendments that conservatives tend to ignore
Pro: Avoiding ridiculous gun control legislation that won’t stop gun violence
Con: Sitting between Mitch McConnell and Ted Nugent at a NRA fundraiser banquet
Pro: Cutting federal spending
Con: “Yes, military and entitlements count as ‘federal spending’ also”
Pro: School choice and local control of education
Con: Potentially having to attend Betsy DeVos’ kid’s school theatrical renditions of “The Birth of Jesus”
Pro: Networking with the Liberty Caucus to develop groundbreaking legislation that may impact the cause of liberty
Con: On your way to the gym, having to duck Paul Ryan who keeps asking, “So how much you lift, bruh?”
Pro: Helping reorient American conservativism to become a more principled, philosophical appeal for free markets, individual liberties, and limited government…
Con: …but never really accomplishing that since Donald Trump pretty much stands for the opposite of free markets, individual liberties, and limited government
Pros and Cons of Teaming Up with the Left
Pro: Potentially ending the War on Drugs and decriminalizing controlled substances nationwide
Con: If you thought Bernie Bros were annoying when pot was illegal…
Pro: Reforming and liberalizing immigration policy
Con: The ocean of drool created by the salivary glands of progressives who are imagining all the new income tax they’ll get from 11 million new citizens
Pro: Finally addressing mass incarceration
Con: Potentially sacrificing future seasons of “Orange is the New Black”
Pro: Revitalizing the anti-war movement
Con: Getting stood up at the first anti-war protest that follows the inauguration of the next Democratic president
Pro: Bringing the topic of abolishing the death penalty back into the national dialogue
Con: Having to get rid of all of those great Death Row albums, like The Chronic and Doggystyle
Pro: Possibly restoring privacy rights and eliminating domestic surveillance programs
Con: Edward Snowden aimlessly wandering around his home in Russia with nothing to tweet about
Pro: Partnering with groups who have already created groundswell about reforms targeting police reform
Con: Having to cheer for Colin Kaepernick
Pro: Finally demonstrating to the left that libertarians are more than just wacky, pot-smoking Republicans
Con: “Who? Gary Johnson? Never heard of him.”
The Good, the Bad, and the Libertarian
As we learned from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, it’s not the jump to the left or the step to the right, but the pelvic thrusts that really drive you insane. How that applies to this conversation, I have no idea. But that same feeling of ambiguity does apply to this idiotic notion that libertarians must pick a side of the great political divide.
Rather than committing to one side of a political spectrum like we are going steady before our high school prom, libertarians might be better suited for the swinger lifestyle. As mentioned before, politics makes for strange bedfellows. If so, libertarians need to embrace their libertine reputation by taking on as many partners as possible. It may seem promiscuous, but libertarians don’t typically have a wide of array of partners to begin with.
So let’s partner and build coalitions with progressives and conservatives when they are on the correct side of an issue; call them statists and block them on Twitter when they are not.
Until then, maybe we just need some time alone to find ourselves.