While authoritarianism may be the most feared word in politics, fear is the most authoritarian. Consider as evidence of the extent to which fear drives political realities in America today that, according to polling data, most members of the Democratic Party and most members of the Republican Party believe:
- foreign trade, completely free speech and increased legal immigration are bad for us,
- what we want are stable Social Security benefits along with higher taxes, interventionist industrial policy to create jobs, socialization of the cost of higher education, and increased minimum wage.
In a democracy, authoritarianism comes from the assumption of power by politicians granted authority by a fearful electorate craving protection. When this fear becomes high enough, citizens are willing to compromise their own democratic autonomy to be protected. Increasingly, we are segregated politically by our news sources. The vast majority of Americans with an interest in politics gets its news from media with no commitment to airing both sides of any issue. Americans no longer share a common understanding of problems or even a common set of facts. Both parties claim the other side is wed to identity politics, including racism. Neither side can any longer comprehend the other side’s ambitions as fundamentally patriotic. Consequently, our ignorance has spread to our understanding of our fellow Americans. Americans now fear other Americans of the other party coming to power.
Each party’s objective is not the advancement of the policies that it favors, but keeping the other side out of power, per se. Fewer and fewer Americans are comfortable with the democratic notion that parties must take turns ruling and being ruled. As each party has lost respect for the political process, so too has each party become unmoored to the Constitution. Consider that each party has:
- supported steps to subvert the intention of the Constitution to control the composition of the Supreme Court,
- after its most recent presidential campaign loss, openly expressed frustration with the Constitutional and labeled the winner an illegitimate president, and
- laid the groundwork for claiming its future political losses to have been the result of illegitimate elections.
Consequently, the philosophy of the Libertarian Party has never been so important.
The forces causing the Republican and Democratic parties’ drift toward authoritarian populism – if not interrupted – will continue to drive them farther from the Constitution. We must interrupt those forces by offering the American people an alternative path to the future. We must provide an alternative to the political system that is in place today, one that fosters authoritarianism as a result of Americans’ mutual fear of each other. And show America that what we have to fear is loss of our autonomy – loss of our classically liberal, pluralistically democratic, decentralized republic.
Libertarian Call of Duty
The philosophy of the Libertarian Party has never been so important. It’s up to us to provide an alternative to the political system that is in place today, one that fosters authoritarianism.
We in the Libertarian Party must get into the political game. We are simply not participants in the American political process today. We are not in presidential debates. We are not acknowledged by the media. We are not recognized by the American public. We are irrelevant.
I am sick and tired of being irrelevant. Aren’t you? We say we’re angry but I’m not so sure we’re angry enough. Are we angry enough to do whatever it takes? Angry enough to change? Doing the same things over and over again is not going to give us different results. We have to be willing to do things that we have never done before.
Are we confident enough to stop defining ourselves in terms of the other parties? Are we disciplined enough to stop trafficking in conspiracy theories? Are we principled enough to be uncompromising with our self-interests? We cannot compromise and be co-opted by anti-vaxxers. If we all liked the vaccines, would we be ok with the mandates? Of course not. We cannot allow ourselves to be viewed as anti-prohibition because we like drugs. If you hated drugs, would you be ok with the prohibition? Of course not. Are we angry enough to do what it takes to engage the American political process? Or are we going to remain comfortable with the popular perception that we’re just nerds engaged only with our Play Stations in our mothers’ basements?
Looking back on our most recent presidential candidates, I can’t help noticing that they’ve been a mix of past politicians and past entertainers. People whose job it is to make us comfortable. If anything that I have said here has made you comfortable, we have a failure to communicate.
You know what makes me uncomfortable? I was a cop in Broward County for eleven years. Worked with a lot of families in a lot of bad situations. Bad in every way that a situation can be bad. Poverty, violence, crime, drug abuse, death. What makes me uncomfortable is looking back on those families and NOT wondering how they’re doing. Because I know how they’re doing because nothing is going to change for them. Nothing is going to change about the way government works because people who believe in libertarianism are not engaged in the political process. We’re not there. The Libertarian Party is not engaged.
You know what else worries me? When members of our party fifty years from now, celebrating the LP’s 100th anniversary, look back on this half-century point in our party’s history, I worry that what they will see is a party so narcissistically consumed with its own internal affairs that we missed this libertarian moment, our libertarian opportunity. We failed to answer our call of duty.