Monday, June 30, 2008

A Liberal for Barr?

Ron Beasley at Newshoggers hints that Obama's recent capitulations on civil liberties and foreign policy will likely lead him to either sit the election out or vote for Bob Barr for substantially the reasons I suggested liberals should vote for Barr the other day. Beasley writes:

I disagree with the Libertarians on many issues but on what I consider the two most important issues they and Bob Barr are the only ones who get it right. The first of the issues is the occupation of Iraq but even more important is the erosion of civil liberties and the slide into a totalitarian state.

Ron is even more glum about the future of civil liberties and foreign policy under a President Obama than I am, but this is precisely the reason I think a liberal vote for Barr would have a substantial effect. Were Obama to lose or only win narrowly due to a substantial number of liberals (perhaps 2 or 3 percent is all it would take), the Dems in Congress would be forced to finally start resisting the temptation to vote like Republicans on these issues. In order for Dems to grow a backbone on these issues, they need to first know that they face a greater risk of defeat without the backbone than they do with the backbone.

The fact of the matter is that in any left-libertarian coalition, as in any political coalition of any sort, each group will have to make its share of sacrifices on secondary and tertiary issue sets in order to advance its primary issue set. In the short run, however, the primary issue set of many liberals and libertarians is precisely the same: civil liberties and foreign policy.

In the short run, Obama's capitulations may foreclose a meaningful coalition of libertarians and liberals within the context of the Dem Party. But that coalition can still exist, at least in the very short term, in the context of this election if liberals are willing to make short-term sacrifices of secondary and tertiary issues in order to send a message on their primary issues of civil liberties and foreign policy. In the long-run, the Libertarian Party probably could not sustain such a coalition; however, in that long-run, it is still my argument that the Dem Party will become more hospitable to libertarians, provided that the Dems first grow a backbone on civil liberties and foreign policy. In so doing, it is likely that (small-"l") libertarians, broadly defined, will sacrifice a large number of their secondary and tertiary issue sets as long as the Dems are willing to push the issues of civil liberties and foreign policy, and maybe throw libertarians a bone on a few other issues that may be of significance to libertarians but are of relative unimportance to most liberals.

My liberal case for Barr is, at its core, an argument that a vote for Barr will result in minor potential short-term losses for liberals, but will also ensure far more important long-term gains by forcing Dem politicians into stronger positions on civil liberties and foreign policy.