Sunday, July 28, 2013
where are the real civil libertarians?
The two party system has created a principle schism in the American political landscape. The limitations of this means that unless you are aiming to be marginalized, you must compromise on your principles to fit into one of these two groups. One of the casualties of this structure is the authoritarian/libertarian axis of politics, which is orthogonal to the current alignment of political parties. It can be seen explicitly on sites like the political compass.
One of the appeals of the Tea Party during its formative years, was an alternative that crossed political boundaries to embrace libertarian ideas. Their core focus was making government smaller and less intrusive in our lives. But the movement got co-opted by the far right.
I genuinely seek a government that doesn't intrude in our lives... so I thought a good test would be the recent vote against restricting the NSA from sweeping powers to spy on Americans who have done nothing. Counting the votes from the Tea Party, this can help me decide what kind of organization it is.
Tea Party member's votes on a bill limiting the powers of the NSA:
For (27) Against (20) Abstain (1)
No Vote: (1)
One the one hand, these results surprised me... I had taken a more cynical view of the Tea Party in recent years, and am actually quite pleased to see that a majority of them voted for the new restrictions on the NSA's secret powers. Compared to the 40% of republicans on whole who voted for the amendment, 56% of tea party members voted for it. On the other hand, 55% of democrats voted for this measure, which really doesn't distinguish the Tea Party's libertarian credentials.
As a side note, Chris Christie came out strongly against the libertarian position, calling it dangerous. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, he who trades liberty for security deserves neither. That is a deal breaker for my support in the 2016 presidential cycle.