Ralph Nader and left-libertarian convergence
Michael Tracy has an article up at The American Conservative on Ralph Nader’s quest to get progressives to align with libertarians like Ron Paul. For those with a longstanding interest in left-libertarian coalition-building, there’s not a ton of new information in the piece. As he’s argued in other venues, Nader sees felicitous convergence between libertarians and progressives on a range of important issues, including civil liberties, the war on drugs, and corporate welfare. One thing I do want to flag, though, is this passage:
Nader had caught me off guard when he identified an emergent left-libertarian alliance as “today’s most exciting new political dynamic.” It was easy to foresee objections that the left might raise: if progressives are in favor of expanding the welfare state, how well can they really get along with folks who go around quoting the likes of Hayek and Rothbard?
“That’s strategic sabotage,” Nader responds, sharply. “It’s an intellectual indulgence. … If they’re on your side, and you don’t compromise your positions, what do you care who they quote?
Nader is completely right. Libertarians can cite Hayek all they want (and they should—he had some vital insights), as long as they continue to share short-term common ground with lefties. As I’ve previously argued, an issued-based coalition—not a philosophical one—is the way to go. It’s a relief that Nader has ditched the Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us shtick.
It’s also worth noting that while I admire Ron Paul for his unwavering convictions, his libertarianism is grafted onto some pretty noxious paleoconservativism. He’s bad on immigration, for instance, and sometimes seems more interested in safeguarding state’s rights than individual rights. He’s no untrammeled libertarian like Gary Johnson. (I can’t stomach Paul’s anti-abortion rights record either.) For the purposes of left-libertarian electoral alliances, I get the electability argument: Paul’s polling numbers easily dwarf Johnson’s, he’s more well-known, and he has an exuberant following. He is, for better or worse, the avatar of libertarianism. So I can’t fault anti-war liberals for backing Paul.
But me? I’m still caucusing for Johnson come February.