There’s an old gag about and among libertarians – that our favorite pastime is denouncing each other over trivial differences in view or belief. Indeed, no matter how hard I stump for libertarian ideas or for policy movements in the direction of liberty, I’m not-infrequently denounced as insufficiently libertarian. Heck, one nudnik even told me that I was as libertarian as Pol Pot, based on a single comment regarding the not-total-illegitimacy of fee-for-service taxation. Even Reason, the leading libertarian news/opinion magazine/site, catches that sort of absolutist condemnation quite often. Not in the vein of “I disagree with this position or opinion,” but broad-brush “Reason has jumped the shark and gone full lib (or MAGA)” because of a single article.

This absolutist, ‘I’m purer than you’ virtue signaling serves no purpose in advancing libertarian ideas. It also ignores the hard part of political activism – actually moving the needle in the right direction. It’s far easier to say, “this is how things should be,” and defend a purist/utopian position that has zero chance of actually coming into existence than to address what I call the “A to B” problem, the matter of altering what exists in a fashion that both moves toward liberty and doesn’t create chaos or harm perception of the movement itself. For example, I’m in favor of full drug legalization, but I wouldn’t do it overnight, or in a month, or in a year. An evolutionary approach is necessary to get things to a better place, and that would start with a slow-but-steady expansion of treatment programs (among other things).

In our sound-bite/Twitter political arena, however, evolutionary proposals are easy targets for those more interested in preening, and for those who are deluded enough to think that government and society can be changed the way Alexander defeated the Gordian knot. These people, because they scream more loudly and are more dismissive of either dialogue or compromise, drown everyone else out, and fracture natural alliances in the process.

Such attitudes are one reason I consider myself a small-l libertarian, rather than the big-L version that speaks of being in and about the Libertarian Party (LP). That our system structurally favors a two-party outcome is another, and it’s why I advocate for policy changes rather than for the ascendance of one party or the other. Thus, I’ve concluded that, while the LP serves a purpose, and that I vote for its candidates in furtherance of that purpose, I don’t ever expect the Party to seat politicians except in rare and small cases.

This all came to mind as I read an article shared by a friend. The article, written by an author who self-identifies as centrist, but in my view leans left (albeit European left, where the entire left-right axis is statist), laments the self-destruction of the Left via an abandonment of solidarity and coalition in favor of absolutist internecine fractures. From the article:

The left gave up on the idea of solidarity. Let me use myself as an example — always a tricky thing to do, so have a little mercy. If I were to log onto Twitter right now, and express an opinion that deviated in any way whatsoever from the fringe — on anything, say what kind of healthcare system works best, gender, anything at all — I’d be beset by an angry mob. Of purists. Demanding that I toe the line.

The Left has come to be dominated by two factions: angry Greens, who see climate change as the primary and apocalyptic threat to the nation, and social justice warriors, who see everything in existence through identity/grievance filters and as a zero sum conflict between oppressors and oppressed. This has led the passel of Democratic candidates down the road of left-extremism, with many traditional Democratic factions either abandoned or taken for granted. Consider three of these factions: Unions, Jews, and Blacks. What in the progressive Left’s policies and priorities benefits any of them? A look at today’s Left mostly finds ideas that work contrary to the issues that are important to these three groups. I suspect that the Democratic Party simply assumes these constituencies will continue voting tribally, that there’s no way they’ll abandon “their” party after decades of loyalty and solidarity.

This is a mistake. One-way loyalty can only function for so long, and when the groups whose loyalty is taken for granted is either abandoned or sees its core values trashed by those who hold the microphone, things can change very quickly. I find it unfathomable that any Democratic candidate would advocate policies that would hit the blue collar folks that are foundational to the party, but lo and behold, Elizabeth Warren told us that she’d ban fracking on Day One of her presidency. Three swing states, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, have benefited greatly from fracking, and I cannot imagine that all those people who depend on the technology for their jobs will pull the lever for her should she be the Democrats’ standard bearer on election day.

So it goes with many other progressive foci. While I don’t expect many feminists to defect to the GOP as a result of the increasingly hostile rift between feminism and transgender activism, the no-limits demands by the latter’s big voices are destroying the unity and inclusiveness that has long been the aspiration of leftism. On the issue of Israel and Islam, many Jews I know who’ve been Democratic lifers are now speaking positively about Trump and his actions. As for the black community, there are more and more who wonder why it seems that the Democrats’ only ideas are about giving them money and stuff, rather than aligning with their values (including religious ones).

The Left has been taken over by shrill fusspots who are more interested in denouncing others than in advancing their ideas and goals. When bona-fide proggies like Mark Ruffalo have to go on an apology tour due to supposed insufficiency of wokeness, when the Left tears down its standard bearers, simply because a few coddled basement dwellers screeched like banshees, it’s a sign of an internal rot that will further isolate and marginalize the movement and its goals.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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