One more time down this rabbit hole
To follow up a bit more on the libertarian coalition argument, I have to say it really just depends. Glancing across the pond you see the Liberal Democrats – a left-libertarian group in many ways – throwing their lot in with the Tories. And the Tories are, in many senses, a reformed conservatism that is for the most part economically on the same page as the Liberals (or Libertarians) and also making great strides toward a less militaristic, less regulated, less intolerant society. The Tories, in other words, are becoming a lot more like libertarians, with a new gay-friendly stamp, a commitment to investigating abuses of power such as torture, etc. Things Labor would not do.
In American politics, obviously the right has not come as far as the Tories in terms of actual libertarian-ish reforms in the civil liberties and social equality realms. The American right is still much to invested in a hawkish foreign policy, and while significant changes have occurred on issues such as gay marriage, there is still a good deal of room for improvement. Nonetheless, it strikes me that on social issues such as gay rights, the inexorable tide is moving everyone toward greater acceptance. The left and the right are both becoming more open to gay rights issues. Certainly this does not apply across the spectrum, but it is the direction society is headed. Foreign policy is a much trickier question, but it does seem that whenever one side gets all soft on defense matters, the other will try to show them up. If the Republicans do adopt a realist, non-interventionist approach I’m sure plenty of hawks will get mugged by reality again and a more hawkish Democratic party will emerge. Democrats have certainly fought their wars and are fighting them now.
So social issues will slowly be adopted by both parties (and abortion will remain a wedge but won’t really move from where it’s at now); foreign policy will juggle back and forth between the right and left because hawks will take root on either side; and all that’s left are economics and civil liberties. The nationalistic tendencies that Simon K mentions here are very real on the right, and could certainly move the right back toward a more protectionist economic model. I’ve often wondered how hard it would be to turn the Tea Party movement into an anti-free-trade movement. Buy American has resonance in populist forums. Civil liberties have been abused by both right and left. The left hasn’t done enough to remedy the abuses of the right during the Bush years. Indeed, the right in Britain appears to be doing more to remedy the abuses brought about by that country’s left than the left is doing here. These issues are not exactly issues of ‘left’ and ‘right’. Libertarians should try to influence both sides to adopt greater freedom in both economics and individual liberties because any side that takes power will be sorely tempted to do just the opposite.
So it all just depends. I think the real obstacle to a libertarian-left alliance is the labor movement. In the UK that movement has its own party. Here, the Democrats are the nominal representatives of labor. I think for libertarians this will be a major hurdle. I see a Cameron-like Republican party emerging before I see a real reformation of public worker unions. Cameron’s government has made leaps and bounds on all these fronts – social, economic, and foreign policy alike. I think that’s possible here as well even if it isn’t likely to happen soon.