Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Freedom Democrats

For ages I've had it in my head to write a post explaining why I am a Democrat. Lately, however, I've read some other pieces that reflect key trends of my political growth and philosophy. Today, Kos offered up one with his description of "Libertarian Democrats":
"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...

"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."

Proponents of smaller government too often make that an end in an of itself, forgetting that it is supposed to be one thing leader to greater individual freedom. However, every step toward a laissez-faire society is also a step toward a society in which the strong dominate, and unlike the government, they are not answerable to the broader public. You'll note I chose the term "Freedom Democrats" as opposed to "Libertarian Democrats" just because I think it sounds better politically. However, the post above highlights some of the things I liked about Howard Dean in 2004, such as his focus on supporting the working class by making it easier to organize unions and fight for themselves rather than new layers of regulation regarding working conditions and the like mandated from Washington.

Something else that struck me was on American Footprints:
"For Americans under 30 years old, 9/11 was a formative experience. But they do not easily fit into conventional liberal-conservative, hawk-dove dichotomies, argue Rachel Kleinfeld and Matthew Spence. They are generally more patriotic, confident in the military, and supportive of free trade than any other age group. Yet they also distrust large corporations and media spin. Many of them are making a home in the Democratic Party as Truman Democrats. Leaders can appeal to them if they espouse a worldview that is rooted in the principles of progressive internationalism."

This is about a chapter in a book called With All Our Might: A Progressive Strategy for Defeating Jihadism and Defending Liberty, one which I want to find a copy of and take a look at. The only thing I might add is that the genocides of the 1990's were also formative experiences and give me, and I believe many others, a sense that there is a cost to breakdowns of international order and failures to lead on the international stage. Aside from the free trade element, the ideas above describe candidates such as Wesley Clark and Howard Dean who appealed to the under-30 crowd in 2004. There's also a strong connection to the War on Terror, for as regular readers know I believe global terrorism thrives more on failed states that rogue ones, a point highlighted by Josh Marshall as differentiating Democratic and Republican approaches to the problem. One can read some of the leading Democratic foreign policy minds contemplating global order building at America Abroad.

You will not find these attitudes among long-time Democratic insiders, but they seem to be defining characteristics of a new rising leadership class within the party. Domestically I'm already sure Kos nailed it, and I suspect we'll manage to avoid the isolationist trap, as well. As the Republicans move further toward becoming the party that seeks to impose a theological agenda and freeze us into a cultural golden age that never existed, that believes that an economy is strong if the corporations are making more money and that believes peace comes only through the blind use of strength and that love of country equates to love of that strength, the Democrats will become home to those who seek real freedom, real security, and real patriotism.

(Crossposted to American Footprints.)


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