I call myself a libertarian with a small L. This distinction is pretty simple. It means I believe in the idea of libertarianism, whereas a large L would signify I’m a member of the Libertarian party. Since I believe in the idea of a constitution; technically, I’m a republican with a small R as well.
So why do I draw these distinctions?
Libertarianism and constitutionalism are principles I hold quite dear. Politicians from the Democratic Party occasionally champion libertarianism; usually on social issues such as marriage rights for the LGBT community. Republicans champion libertarianism on fiscal issues such as lower taxes and deregulation. Libertarians of course, champion libertarianism on both counts.
As such, since libertarianism can be found in all three parties at times, I don’t feel it is justified to stand silent when a member of a party other than the Libertarian Party does something good just because I don’t want to “promote the enemy.” When a politician is on the right side of liberty, no matter what party they’re affiliated with, they deserve to be recognized for it. Such respect when common ground is found helps to unite us all and gets things done. Partisans who can’t bring themselves to stand with their opponents when they agree are putting party-loyalty before the greater good.
When someone claims to be part of a party, they often feel it necessary to toe that party’s line as well. As such, on an issue where they might be prone to take a counter-opinion, they somehow lose their moral compass in favor of loyalty to their party.
For instance, when I was a member of the Republican party prior to understanding what libertarianism really was, I was against big government, yet was OK with The Patriot Act.
Am I ashamed of that? Ultimately, I have to say yes, I made a mistake.
I feel that George W. Bush believed he was doing what was best for the safety of our nation. I also saw that he expressed reservations about such power and was hesitant to use them unless he felt it absolutely necessary to save ‘Murican lives. So I trusted him with this power because I trusted him as a person, and therefore expected he would not abuse it.
But seeing the NSA abuses (among others) that have ensued since he left office tells me that the current ruling party are not encumbered by such reservations.
As such, I realize that even if I think a sitting president will serve the greater good with powers that are proposed to be bestowed upon them, such powers are bestowed upon successive presidents as well, and I must take that into account.
So now I’m committed to the notion that I will not support a legislative power given to someone I trust that I wouldn’t support with someone I didn’t trust—lesson learned.
But let’s look at my polar opposite; political pundits on TV who were furious about the Patriot Act during the Bush administration who seem to have few qualms with Obama’s abuse of those powers now. It’s clear they’re exhibiting a cult mentality where their leader can do no wrong—or they’re just plain hypocrites.
I was a person who simply failed to see the slippery slope, which admittedly was my ignorance, but they saw it as problematic from the word go, yet somehow decided it was good now that their guy is using it.
Libertarians aren’t immune to this nonsense either. Like any other political-party zealots, they can be very cultish and don’t deserve any less ridicule for doing so. They’re no better than a Debbie Wasserman Shultz for instance; a woman who takes lying and double-speak to an exquisite art form to defend her beloved Democratic Party.
Or Republicans like Rep. Pete King who trash Obama one minute, but then fail to stand beside Senators Ted Cruz or Rand Paul when they fought with every breath they had (literally) to stop the Affordable Care Act or potential drone strikes on Americans without due process Obama has put into practice.
If I tweet one role of government I agree with, I often get anarchist-libertarians attacking me with vitriol, name calling, and the “you so-called libertarian” nonsense.
A fundamental part of libertarianism is the idea that people should be free to think independently, yet espouse a different belief from some libertarian zealots, and you’ll find they often seem to forget that principle. Zealots from all parties are often incapable of separating opinion from fact, and understanding that only factual information has a right and wrong answer. Agreeing to disagree is the adult-like way to handle differences of opinion.
So instead of pledging allegiance to a party made up of people who will inevitably disagree with me at some point, I champion ideals and the people who share those ideals with me when we agree. When they don’t, I attempt to respectfully critique them by explaining my grievance with logic and reason. Whether their part of the Democratic, Republican, or Libertarian party is irrelevant to me.
For instance, I make no bones about believing Rand Paul is the best hope to shift our country towards libertarianism despite him being a Republican, yet I don’t agree with him on his stance against gay marriage and abortion. Once I discovered he differed from me on these issues, I didn’t start insulting him as if somehow he had unforgivably betrayed the cause, or become the Antichrist. I accept that we simply don’t agree on these particular issues, but that we still agree on most of the others.
If you endeavor to find a candidate who is entirely in line with your beliefs, you’re on the most foolish of missions. Getting enraged because the candidate you like suddenly espouses a belief you’re vehemently against only serves to needlessly increase your blood pressure, and frankly, if you’re the type to do this, you deserve it. It’s time to put on your adult-shoes and accept that no one is your ideological identical twin—get over it.
It is inevitable that at some point, those you place complete trust in will disappoint you. From your sweet & innocent little baby that destroys your prize lava lamp to see what’s inside, your spouse who accidentally forgot your birthday, or your favorite politician who is pro-life when you’re pro-choice. If you’re not going to put your kid up for adoption, or divorce the forgetful spouse, why crucify your favorite politician?
So while people and parties will occasionally disappoint, ideals never will, and frankly, no one outside your party respects a party zealot anyway. If you want to get things done, put aside parties, and stand with those who champion your ideals. The rise of independent voters is well noted. So I’d like to think I’m not the only one thinking this way.
If I were to run for office, I’d proudly run as a Libertarian or a Republican just as Ron Paul and Gary Johnson did, there’s nothing wrong with identifying with both if you care more about ideals than parties.