Where did all these fake Libertarians come from?
The Libertarian Party, founded in 1972, has seen a rise in membership over the last decade thanks to high profile candidates attaching their name to the “libertarian cause.” But recently, the term and ideology have become attached to various citizen groups and social movements which have caused some to wonder if the third largest political party in America will benefit from the exposure, or completely vanish from the political landscape as it is co-opted by the fringe right of the Republican Party.
History of Libertarianism
Dating back to the late 1700’s, Libertarianism was an ideology attributed to those whose primary concern was the free will of the individuals that made up a society. Its roots and belief system can be traced to many European social and political philosophies which have developed over the last 200 years including Socialism, Marxism, Anarchism, Communism and Anarcho-Capitalism.
In America, the Libertarian Party was founded by citizens and local politicians concerned about mounting legislation that threatened the social and economic freedoms in America, including conscription into the army to boost military numbers in Vietnam as well as the abolition of the gold standard. Since then, the party has seen marginal success in local and state political races, but has yet to find a way to break through the Republican and Democratic block of big money corporate donors to establish a presence in the House or Senate.
Perhaps the most famous Libertarian in the history of American Politics is Ron Paul…the living conundrum from Texas. Elected to Congress in 1976 as a Republican candidate, Paul espoused the core beliefs of the Libertarian party by serving on the House Banking Committee to create some semblance of fiscal responsibility. Once in office, he immediately attacked the Federal Reserve for their horrible mismanagement of US monetary policies which led to the savings and loans crisis…all while arguing for a return to the gold standard. He later clashed with the RNC and the Republican Party by proposing term-limit legislation (even though he served four terms in office.)
In 1984 he left Congress, stating “It’s difficult for one who loves true liberty and utterly detests the power of the state to come to Washington for a period of time and not leave a true cynic.” After a failed run for Senate, he became the chairman of the Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), a political group founded by David Koch, a billionaire industrialist who previously ran on the Libertarian presidential ticket.
CSE later went on to form the Tea Party Movement and Americans for Prosperity, which borrowed and built on some of the basic economic ideology of Libertarianism including lower taxes and reduced federal regulation of the financial sector.
While Ron Paul would later return to Congress, and run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, it is his work with David Koch and the CSE that brought about the rise of a new American faux-libertarianism which mirrored Paul’s beliefs of libertarian economic policy while kowtowing to conservative Republican social values.
Gone was the basic Libertarianism premise of free will. In its place was a platform that preached “liberty” as it related to corporate interests…including the dismantling of labor unions, public health care, drilling restrictions, and increased Corporate Welfare.
This new faux-libertarianism runs in direct opposition of the platform of the actual Libertarian party as it relates to most socio-political issues (i.e. abortion, LGBT rights, immigration) and yet, is believed by many to be the definition of Libertarianism.
So how did far right-wing Republican extremism become associated with Libertarians?
Directly at the intersection of Libertarian Avenue and Republican Drive is Rand Paul, the junior Senator from Kentucky who rode the wave of his father’s legacy and the support of the Tea Party to claim a seat at the table. Having both claimed and rejected the classification of Libertarian, his conflicting message is the hallmark of the modern American faux-libertarian movement.
His campaign for the open Senate seat in Kentucky was founded on a platform of rejecting corporate campaign financing while slamming his opponent for being too conservative. He then promptly took in more than $8 million dollars in corporate contributions while questioning the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act.
Once taking office, he followed the basic outline of his father’s path in office and immediately attacked the budget deficit and proposed eliminating federal oversight departments to balance the federal budget, while increasing military spending.
And while this conflicting set of actions was to become his calling card, it was his 12-hour filibuster during the nomination of John Brennan as CIA Director that made him the poster child for the Tea Party backed Faux-libertarian movement.
Since then he has flown in the face of Libertarian philosophies at the drop of a dime, as long as that dime was derived from federal tax dollars and fell into the pocket of his state or his corporate constituents.
What Happened to Libertarians?
Contrary to the popular belief proliferated by the Tea Party and conservative Republicans, the Libertarian Party still exists and has continued on following the core beliefs passed down through hundreds of years of Libertarian philosophy. But as the name and basic ideology of Libertarianism continues to be hijacked by the Koch’s and Paul’s of the world, the Libertarian party continues to grow and remind anyone who will listen that faux-libertarianism should not be confused with the principals of actual Libertarians.
During the 2012 presidential race, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson stated that Rand Paul had betrayed the principals of the Libertarian Party and was nothing more than a sell out who was too intolerant to be an actual Libertarian.
Unfortunately for Gary Johnson and the rest of the Libertarian Party, Rand Paul is backed by the RNC. If he chooses to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, he will do it with more than $1 billion dollars in corporate campaign contributions and continue the proliferation of faux-libertarianism while using the word “libertarian” as a convenient marketing tool to convince unsuspecting, uneducated Republicans that he is the next step in the evolution of a Republican Party that will create “freedom for all.”
Welcome to faux-libertarianism. It is the Tea Party on steroids and it has convinced millions of Americans that their best interests are served by voting against their best interests.