Ed Kilgore delivers the news that liberals and libertarians have broken up. This reminds one of an ill-fated romance in which none of the friends of either half of the couple could figure out what the pair was doing together. Kilgore seems reluctant to admit that libertarians, who fancy self-reliance, limited government, and free markets, are coming to their senses now that they see that the Obami and the Democratic Congress believe in none of these things. He seems to imagine it is all the tea party protesters’ fault. (“This phenomenon has pulled libertarianism rightward: Despite some expressed concerns about the crudeness and cultural conservatism of many Tea Party activists, it has become clear that most self-conscious libertarians are willing to participate in, and cheerlead for, the Tea Party movement as though their political futures depend on it.”) He then loses it entirely in a blast of venom at the tea partiers (“After all, it is only a few steps from the Tea Party movement’s founding ‘rant’ — in which self-described Randian business commentator Rick Santelli blasted ‘losers’ who couldn’t pay their mortgages — to populist backlash against all transfer payments of any type, complaints about people ‘voting for a living’ instead of ‘working for a living,’ and paranoid conspiracy theories about groups like ACORN.”) Enough said.
Kilgore imagines that libertarians are defined by secularism or urban coolness. But perhaps libertarians actually believe in all that stuff about freedom. Maybe they, like many other voters (e.g., pro-Israel hawks, fiscal moderates), were taken in by Obama’s rhetoric and failed to perceive that he and his ilk were simply a slickly-packaged version of statist liberals, devoted to growing the public sector, contemptuous of average Americans and ignorant of the workings of market capitalism.
So maybe it was not the rise of nefarious tea party protests that undid the libertarian-liberal relationship, but rather a realization by libertarians that the Democratic Left really offers very little to them. True, libertarians do not embrace social conservatism nor do many favor a robust national-security policy. But libertarians above all are devoted to freedom and faith in the individuals’ ability to control their own lives. And that is simply not going to mesh with the dogma of liberals, who aren’t interested in either. Love may be blind, but libertarians are not.