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Libertarians and Neo-Progressives Aren’t That Different

How Libertarians and Neo-Progressives Can Trace Their Similar Traits to Common Ancestors

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Francis Folz | United States

For the first time in the last three election cycles, Ron Paul was not the old, white man who had the arcane ability to attract the diverse youth vote. In 2016, the role of Ron Paul was played by Bernie Sanders, and boy did Bernie play Ron Paul’s role well. However, once Mr. Sanders was defeated by Ms. Clinton, former Governor Gary Johnson doubled down on his support from millennial voters, stating that he and Mr. Sanders share similar positions close to 70 percent of the time.

I found it quite intriguing that two competing ideologies that, on the surface, couldn’t seem farther apart from each other actually share a plethora of dogmas in common. History is repeating itself, yet very few identify how civil libertarians and these modern-day progressive socialists have been on the same side of history as one another in the past.

In the 1960 presidential election, Americans elected John F. Kennedy by a narrow margin to be the next commander-in-chief. Kennedy, who had many libertarian inklings such as fiscal conservatism, the desire to abolish the Federal Reserve and the CIA, and his opposition to military conflicts. Unfortunately, JFK served only three years as president before he was assassinated and war hawk Lyndon B. Johnson took his place.

Barry Goldwater is often recognized as a man ahead of his time. In 1964, Mr. Goldwater, or should I say Mr. Conservative, defeated the Rockefeller establishment wing of the Republican Party and was nominated to be the next president of the United States. It’s important to note Mr. Goldwater wasn’t a conservative by present day standards, as his positions would be considered libertarian today.

The former senator from Arizona favored personal responsibility, proposed the idea that one must only be able to shoot straight to be in our armed forces, believed foreign entanglements are unnecessary and detrimental to our nation, and that American prosperity starts with laissez-faire approaches to economics. Regrettably, the War Party successfully convinced Americans that a Goldwater presidency would result in nuclear warfare, and as consequence, the Ron Paul of the ’60’s received only 52 electoral votes.

As Lyndon Johnson kicked the Vietnam War into high gear, the youth of the 1960’s became increasingly wary of America’s hunger for military conflict. Countless students defied their military conscription or celebrated Uncle Lyndon’s call to arms by burning their draft cards. Lamentably, the young minds involved in the anti-war movement were led by American communists like Students for a Democratic Society.

What many fail to consider is that libertarians found themselves on the same sides as the hippies, advocating for the end of the disastrous and unconstitutional Vietnam War. In 1969, libertarians were expelled from the conservative Young Americans for Freedom convention after a libertarian member burned his draft card. Although libertarians were not involved with organizations like SDS, their sentiment towards peace was just as strong.

Libertarians and the New Left most likely found themselves sympathizing or supporting the Free Speech movement of the early 1960’s. According to UC Berkeley campus rules at the time, certain political activity was prohibited or restricted to the Democratic and Republican campus clubs.

Students who desired to solicit money for Civil Rights campaigns or to speak out against the Vietnam War were either disbanded or arrested for violating campus laws. Although the Left is predominately considered the champions of the Free Speech movement, 60’s libertarians assumably supported the precepts of free speech, civil rights, and non-aggression.

In addition, the counterculture movement and libertarians shared a relaxed approach to social issues. Both libertarians and the left-leaning youth of the 60’s favored personal responsibility and decriminalization of non-violent offenses. Lastly, hippies and libertarians shared anti-authoritarian attitudes, which is ironic considering communism requires a large, centralized political authority.

Despite the hippies of the anti-war movement and the libertarians of the 60’s belonging to immensely different ideologies and organizations, both espoused similar positions regarding the most critical issues of their time. The similar views both sides formerly held have once again manifested itself in today’s politics, underscored by akin perspectives and, at times, differing solutions from the Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders coalitions.


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