Over the past
weekend the third annual convening of dailykos.com activists took
place in Austin, Texas. The group is now calling itself "Netroots
Nation." Attendance was significant and those who came to fawn
before their blog masters included Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore and Bob
What was the Libertarian candidate for president doing at a meeting
such as this one? Why seeking support, of course, from the many
at dailykos.com (including the web site's founder) who describe
themselves as "libertarian progressives."
confusion is one of four reasons why Barack Obama is the perfect
candidate for the Netroots nation. A candidate who cannot define
himself is a perfect fit with a political movement that is totally
confused about its own identity.
to clarify this point, the other three reasons why Obama is the
perfect candidate for visitors to dailykos.com, huffingtonpost.com
and so forth should be outlined. First of all, Obama qualifies on
generational grounds. The vast majority of blog activists are younger
Obama is a male. If one were to have gone to the first two annual
kos meetings held in 2006 and 2007, one would have been overwhelmed
by the young males in attendance. Finally, the vast majority of
these young males are white — a dream come true for a candidate
who works so hard to get whites behind him in background crowds
as opposed to other demographic groups such as, say, blacks or Muslims.
But if the
three most important things about any real estate market are "location,
location, location" then the three most crucial aspects of
Obama's candidacy are "ideology, ideology, ideology."
We are finding
out that Obama's ideological leanings are — like oil in the world's
vast global markets — fungible. Just as different countries and
differing economies have various needs for oil, Obama supporters
need to be able to see in their candidate what they want to see.
And does he ever oblige them.
When the Netroots
nation was up in arms about the FISA reform bill working its way
through congress during the primary season, Obama vowed to filibuster
it if it contained immunity for telecommunications companies. We
saw the Libertarian Progressives go to their battle stations. But
when Obama completely reversed himself after "sewing up"
the Democratic nomination for president, the kos community went
back to their day jobs with very little being said, at least according
to the Great Kos himself on a television interview he did for MSNBC
these weak-kneed progressives worried any more about the public
financing of political campaigns. As long as their candidate can
raise more money privately than his evil opponent, who really cares,
to the Netroots Nation are the knee-jerk liberals of the Democratic
Party's sorry past. Bill Clinton saved the party from this wing
— and itself — in the 1990s with his "Third Way" approach
to politics. The Kennedys, Kerrys and their ilk never got over this
fact. They sought redemption this year through an unholy alliance
between themselves, the Netroots Nation and the Obama campaign.
But what do
unreconstructed Liberals have to do with Progressives, let alone
Libertarians? Almost nothing, really. The original progressive movement
was defined by Teddy Roosevelt and employed elements such as an
interventionist foreign policy and working with large financial
and industrial interests to reshape the U.S. economy — progressive
era "reforms" were almost all written by interests that
represented J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller and so forth. The Federal
Reserve was created, for example, to make the world safer for private
bankers — as we've seen in spades again recently.
stems from the Republican reaction against both progressivism and
the rise of a truly national Democratic Party. It has always promoted
individual liberty, free markets, little or no government interference
in the economy and a noninterventionist — if not isolationist —
foreign policy. The most consistent anti-war element in American
politics for decades has been the libertarian community. They believe,
correctly, that Ralph Bourne was right when he said that, "War
is the health of the state."
only thing liberalism shares in common with libertarianism is a
belief that people should be left alone to pursue whatever lifestyles
and associations that they chose. You cannot be a libertarian and
support national health insurance as well as huge increases in government
spending (whether it's on the military, infrastructure, schools,
income transfers or what have you). And if you are going to spend
the money, you ought to raise enough in tax revenues to pay for
it. Even "tax and spend" policies are better than "borrow
and spend" approaches. With the former, you pay the costs only
one time as opposed to over and over again through interest on public
debt before it has to be repaid — or, what's more likely, refinanced.
Barack Obama fit on the Liberal-Progressive-Libertarian continuum?
Here, there and everywhere, of course!
Like all true
libertarians, Obama opposed the war on Iraq but voted to fund it
every time he had an opportunity to do so. Like the vast majority
of liberals he was against the surge, but this week benefited from
the security it has brought to Iraq which allowed him to meet with
that country's leaders in safety. Obama will withdraw troops from
Iraq within sixteen months of his inauguration (or not, depending
— like Bush and McCain – upon the facts on the ground) but will
send many of those soldiers to Afghanistan, just as Teddy Roosevelt
might have done under similar circumstances.
national leaders of the recent past, Obama will try to borrow and
spend the country's way to prosperity if elected. He said a few
weeks ago that balancing the budget is no longer a priority for
him. But he will tax and spend, as well. It will be "guns,
butter and supply-side economics" all rolled up in one ungodly
ideological stew. Unfortunately, this unseemly concoction will not
be served up to just the participants at future gatherings of the
Networks Nation. We're all going to get severe indigestion from
it for years after an Obama inauguration, should there be one.
W. Tofte [send him mail] is
the manager of the BWIA Private Investment Fund and the author of
Principled and Grow Rich: Your Guide to Investing Successfully in
Both Bull and Bear Markets. He lives in Des Moines, Iowa.