That debate featured
For those who don't have the time or inclination to read the entire article, I offer this debate summary:
- Shorter Brink Lindsey: Libertarians should forget the right and aim for the center. BTW the Tea Party also sucks.
- Shorter Jonah Goldberg: Libertarians should forget the left, and stick with the right.
- Shorter Matt Kibbe: Libertarians should forget the right and left, and work with the Tea Party to find a new path. BTW - Fuck you Lindsey and the horse you rode in on.
More interesting than yet another futile attempt to answer this unresolvable question, are the questions that the debate spawned around the blogosphere -
Clive Crook thinks the question should be phrased "What Use Is a Libertarian?" Nick Gillespie answers his question with another question - "Are Libertarians Really as Useless as a Bucket of Armpits? Or Do They Just Smell That Way?" Black Jesus worries "Is Libertarianism Dead?" Ilya Somin wonders if Brink is moving "From 'Liberaltarianism' to Libertarian Centrism?" Noah Millman asks "Whither Libertarians?" Mollie Hemingway invokes the "The death of liberaltarianism?" Stackiii wants to know "Can These Groups Win Without Each Other? Heather Horn finds even more posts with even more questions and finally asks one herself "Should Libertarians Ditch the Republican Party?
So many questions. And yet, no one is asking the right question:
How can libertarians become politically relevant?
Back to Clive Crook:
"I cannot see what purpose is served by worrying about which of these unappeasable opponents would make the better partner."Exactly. Aiming for the middle does not cut it. Nor aiming to shoot the right as Lindsey advocates, nor aiming to shoot the left as Goldberg advocates, nor aiming at both as Kibbe advocates.
From a practical perspective, asking rhetorically whether libertarians have a "use" or "where they belong" is less important than understanding how they can be politically relevant. One key to political relevance is simple - a predictable centrist libertarian swing vote. The rub - for a swing vote to be predictable it has to be organized. And nobody yet has figured out how to herd these cats. This is sometimes referred to as the "Hot Tub Libertarian" problem.
There is an answer. There is a way to herd these cats. There is a path to imbuing libertarians with policy shifting power and political relevance. Paraphrasing from an earlier post "Curing Libertarian Electile Dysfunction":
It could happen.
A libertarian swing vote organization is going to have to look different than traditional political organization. After all, it is something we will have to accomplish while sitting in the hot-tub. What is needed, is an organizing principle. Ideally, a principle that is so obvious, so logical, and so clear-cut, that no leadership is needed, no parties are needed, no candidates are needed, and no infrastructure is needed. Ideally it is this easy: You think about the principle, and you know how to vote.
That organizing principle exists. It is voting for Divided Government. It is absolutely clear-cut and easy to understand. Divided Government is documented by Niskanen et.al. to work in a practical real-world manner to restrain spending and the growth of the state. As a voting strategy it can be implemented immediately. More importantly, it can collectively be implemented individually as we sit in our hot tubs and ponder the sorry state of the world. Whatever the percentage of the electorate that a libertarian/Tea Party represents, whether it is 6% or 20%, if they vote as a block for divided government, they immediately become the brokers of an evenly split partisan electorate. They arguably become the single most most potent voting block in the country, specifically because they are willing to vote either Democratic or Republican as a block. Specifically because they are not fused to one party or the other. Specifically because they are not trying to figure out "where they belong".
If a libertarian/Tea Party divided government vote is shown to swing elections for two or three cycles, then libertarians will no longer be inchoate, their message no longer diffused, and their political clout no longer flaccid. As long as the bulk of the electorate remain polarized and balanced, even a small percentage libertarian (or Tea Party) swing vote organized around divided government will be enough for those Tea Party libertarians to proudly display the biggest swinging political "hammer" in town.
The Reason cover has an image of some of our favorite pols on a Nolan Chart. This quick quiz plots your political proclivity on such a two dimensional political chart, with the four corners defined as liberal (L), conservative (R), libertarian (U), statist (D). I hadn't taken the test in a while, and the result is unsurprising - this is where The Dividist belongs...
As a libertarian dividist, I'll be voting straight Republican for federal office this year. Should the GOP take the majority in either house of Congress, I'll be voting for the re-election of Barack Obama in 2012.
Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.
Now that is fair.