Saturday, July 11, 2009

Libertarian may be the wrong name for a political party

This is not exactly news, but a comment in response to a Peter Orvetti post on moderate libertarians at Independent Political Report got me thinking about it again.

Erik Geib says

I still feel like most of this in-fighting wouldn’t be so severe if the party simply weren’t named after a philosophy.

There are reasons that the Democratic Party is not named the Liberal Party or the Progressive Party, which is the same reason that the Republicans don't call themselves the Conservative Party.

When I break it down I get two main reasons:

(1) Because not all Democrats are progressive/liberal, and not all Republicans are that conservative. Instead, the parties are (or at least were in the case of the severely wounded GOP) vehicles for groups of political fellow travelers to use to win elections at all levels of government. Because of the way they are named (see the item below), they can accommodate Democratic Senators that are as conservative as Bayh or Carper in the same party with Dodd or Kennedy. The Libertarian Party, however, gets tied up in endless what kind of Libertarian are you and who are the real Libertarians, you're not distractions to the point wherein it implodes and convinces the American voter that they are definitely not ready for prime time.

(2) The names themselves--Democrat and Republican-- are perfect for political parties, wherein Libertarian is fatally flawed. We are a Democracy and a Republic [at least in some non-purist sense], so both parties can lay legitimate claim in that sense to being about all Americans. Libertarian is the name of an ideology, not a party--by definition a sub-set [and a fairly damned exclusive one at that] of the total populace. For a third party to be effectively organized around generally Libertarian principles, as the Dems are oganized around generally liberal principles, it needs a different name.

The problem is that the remaining good names are problematic. Somebody in the thread I quoted suggested Liberty Party, and I have always thought that Constitution Party, Federalist Party, and even Reform Party had good points. Problem: you've got to be able to turn the party name into an adjective--Democrat or Republican--and the only way to do that with Liberty Party is ... Libertarian!? Not gonna work.

Constitution, Federalist, and Reform names have already been taken by people whose ideas--in many ways--are not quite what we'd be looking for.

Freedom Party? Oops--too much like the Freepers.

Free Market Party? Too much economics and not enough individual liberty.

Civil Liberties Party? Possible, because civil libertarian, strangely enough, does not have quite the baggage attached to it that plain Libertarian does.

Jeffersonian Party? I'd kind of like it because I am an unreconstructed fan of TJ, but in the current time the image of Sally Hemmings pretty much cuts away at everything.

Bull Moose Party? Don't tempt me.

Thomas Paine Alliance? You'd get called Pains

Common Sense Party? Too much Glenn Beck association for me.

Objectivist Party? Hello Ayn Rand. Goodby votes.

Civil Resistance Party? Stolen from Venezuela. Better give it back.

Constitutional Union Party? Too Statist for a lot of Libertarians--too Civil War-era for a lot of other folks.

Limited Government Party?

Indepedent Citizens Party?

Obviously I need some help here.

But you knew that already.


Anonymous said...

Why not the TR party?

Anonymous said...

Tea Party?

George Phillies said...

Liberty for America

We're "Americans".

Bowly said...

Your comment about civil libertarians made me chuckle, because as a Rothbardian type I always assume that a "civil libertarian" doesn't care about economic liberty or gun ownership.