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The Time for Progressive Libertarians


Preston Foster

June 29, 2022

America's political problem is that we have a party of conservatives (the Democrats -- who like "regular order" – doing business by traditional means) and a party of radicals (the Republicans, who will do ANYTHING, including supporting insurrection, to get and retain power and control). Under Democratic administrations, voting rights protections (in 2013) and a woman's right to choose (in 2022) were lost. These rights were lost primarily because Democrats were not willing to take risks and fight to confirm progressives to the Supreme Court or to keep radicals out of it. Democrats did not pass a law to mitigate the loss of voting rights protections because of their political inability or unwillingness to the end of the filibuster. Now, somehow, Democratic leaders are "shocked, shocked" that the Republican radicals have used their power to advance their agenda: turning the clock backward.

Les Francis, former Deputy Chief of Staff to President Carter analyzes the Democratic decades-long governance failures succinctly:

“Since at least 1980, Republican candidates, campaigns, donors, and allied organizations have been singularly focused on reshaping the Federal courts to their liking. Meanwhile, Democrats have played to every one of their base constituencies with a smorgasbord of issues and appeals—no overall aligned strategy, no discipline, no focus, just a shopping list of issues as if voting were the civic equivalent of shopping at Costco. In the past couple of days, we have seen the consequences of a disciplined effort on one side and lack of focus on the other. And the irony? All of those base constituencies that Democrats have played to for 40 years are about to see their rights erased. Shame on all of us who let it happen.”

Mitch McConnell made it clear to everyone that regular order meant nothing to him when it was time to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of a moderate, Merrick Garland. McConnell had no fear of Democratic retaliation when the Democrats took the Senate. McConnell knew the Democrats preferred order over results. He was right. The Democrats are scared off by rhetoric (i.e., “the nuclear option”) that would blow up regular order, while the Republicans drop tactical nuclear bombs on regular order whenever it meets their needs.

When we hear Democrats use the word "unprecedented," it is a sign that the progressive cause just lost more ground. Even more, it is an indication of the Democrats’ denial of the permanent radicalization of their opponents (note that the notion of "settled law" meant nothing to the 5 justices voted to overturn Roe, who earlier swore, under oath, that it did). Since the Dobbs decision, these same “appalled” Democrats have flooded my email inbox with requests for donations to fight the Republican radicals. It’s insulting. It doesn’t occur to these Democrats that it makes no sense to fund those who lost the war. Tone deafness is a side effect of complacency.

It is past time to be surprised by the radicals – again. It's not just Trump. McConnell plays hardball, Schumer does not. Barr played hardball, Garland does not. Trump played hardball. Presidents Obama and Biden sought and seek normalcy. That’s not a crime (and noble in intent), but neither is it a compelling reason for continuing to vote Democratic.

It is time for new leadership in the Democratic Party. We are losing our freedoms and our country because we have indulged our nostalgia for institutional norms that the Republican radicals threw out the moment President Obama took his hand off the Bible in 2009 (remember a radical screaming, "You lie!" during President Obama’s State of the Union address?). Regular order is not coming back. We are in a new century and operate in a desperate political environment. We need leaders that understand that and are not wedded to the nostalgia of the mid-20th century good-ole boys club’s traditions and folkways.

The New Democratic Party should become the party of progressive libertarians. The Democrats should be the champions of equality, civil liberties, and the guardians of democracy. They should focus on issues that help common citizens and resonate with a broad base of Americans: creating competition (fighting monopolies and oligopolies, increasing access to capital), protecting individual rights (amending the first amendment to specify that those rights apply to individuals, not to corporations, and, also, codifying a woman’s right to choose), and protecting democratic freedom (protecting voting rights and election integrity via federal oversight, fighting authoritarianism and repression at home and abroad, and ensuring the separation of church and state. And Democrats should be aggressive in pursuing those goals. Nobody votes for a party that doesn’t fight for the things that are important to them.

The New Democratic Party must be an authentic grass-roots party – not dependent on corporate donations. It must be the voice -- and the arm of the common woman and man. The old Democratic Party produced some gains, followed by losses. When rights are lost, without a fight, the rational reasons for party allegiance evaporate. Americans are ready to embrace personal liberty and group responsibility. Status quo is no longer a viable option. It is time for progress. One of the reasons Democrats should give the public for vote for them in the 2022 mid-terms should be change. Generational and strategic change is required to make that change credible.

It is time for progressive libertarians to lead.

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