Why Can’t We Overcome Pop-Culture Politics? – The Lowdown on Liberty


It appears libertarians from all ends of the spectrum have gotten caught up this week in the latest ‘pop-culture’ issue relating to politics: transgenders in the military. Like so many others, most of them have completely missed the bigger picture and helped to prove, yet again, why they cannot overcome the fringe party status. I can’t blame them, however, because it seems that lately the pop-culture issues are all anyone ever cares about, regardless of party.

The cycle goes like this: we hear about a tragedy in the news, immediately hop on a bandwagon of meaningless action in order to be edgy and say we ‘helped,’ and then we move along as soon as the next news event is put on a continuous loop and plastered across every social media platform to repeat the cycle.

Trump’s election has only exacerbated this trend, further shrinking our political attention span with the drama surrounding his unstable administration and flamboyant Twitter outbursts. This week claiming to change a major US military policy through two tweets, which has thrown people from all political ends into a frenzy, either attacking this action or berating those who oppose it. There’s only one problem, this isn’t a major military policy, though. Transgenders make up a marginal cost and percentage of any military branch, yet, so many are treating it like the end of the world.

Which points to the real problem: while Republicans control all three branches of government, Democrats control nearly all college campuses and Hollywood, and with it, the direction of the political atmosphere. They’ve dominated it for quite some time now, and libertarians haven’t helped. In reality, we’ve all done quite a bit to aid Democrats in maintaining control of this process.

We’ve done this by allowing ourselves to be distracted into discussing what ‘they’ want to talk about. Rather than maintain our points, we’re skirting the edge, discussing what pop-culture dictates in order to not be perceived as ‘irrelevant.’ Instead of being caught up in the argument of whether transgenders should be able to enlist, we should be asking why we think it’s okay that anyone be able to partake in a system that commits mass murder in third-world countries.

We’re so worried about political relevance that we end up silencing ourselves by abandoning the principles we claim to fight for. Besides a very small group, such as Dave Smith, I’ve heard almost no one break out of the binary discussion on the transgender ban and realize they’re arguing for more foreign intervention, no matter which side they take. Have libertarians dropped the non-aggression principle, or have we just gotten caught in arguing political pop-culture?

This isn’t even the first ‘trans’ issue we’ve been sucked into either. When the transgender bathroom decision was ‘in,’ we got caught up playing that game too, instead of asking why on Earth anyone felt it was necessary for the government to intervene in how a private business’s bathroom ought to be set up. We’ve even gone so far as to continue this trend within our own group, which occurred over the infamous border debate between libertarians. Which I expanded on here.

Republicans are just as guilty of it too. For seven years they talked about how they’d repeal Obamacare and replace it with something they wanted, insinuating that it would look nothing like the Democrat’s plan. But when they took over and what happened? The bill that failed a few weeks ago kept in place over 300 Obamacare regulations, it wasn’t even close to a repeal. Republicans chose to play the game and instead of doing what they want, they followed the popular narrative as it moved away from repeal, because they think that’s where the votes lie. All they had to do was observe Libertarians to find out that isn’t true in the slightest. Just ask the original Libertarian, Bill Weld, if toeing the line in accordance with the pop-culture narrative worked out. As it turns out, downplaying your principles because you think more people might hop on board doesn’t win you an election, it doesn’t even get you 5%.

Even if this was a good strategy for gaining supporters, which it’s not – Republicans are learning this currently – why would anyone think they’d stick around after you unveiled your actual principles? You’d either lose their support, or you’d lose your principles trying to keep them around. Unfortunately, it looks like every party is doing the latter. Thanks in large part to an education system heavily dominated by a progressive narrative, Libertarians have shifted left, Republicans have shifted left, and Democrats continue to drag us along as they move even further left.

It is imperative that we recognize this is happening and refuse to play along. Change the narrative up, stop talking to your friends about whether a trans ban is okay and discuss why anyone should be trying to get involved in the longest, most unjust war in American history. Call your politicians out when they play along, and let them know they don’t need to partake in this political ruse in order to garner support. You may end up seeing as I have, that by opening people’s eyes to the bigger pictures, even at the risk of appearing ‘too radical’ for the current pop-culture narrative, is where you’ll sway the biggest groups towards the truth. And you won’t lose them when the next issue is waved in our faces either.

If we (l)ibertarians haven’t given up our principles of limiting the size and scope of government, then we need to stop watering down our ideas to fit on – as Tom Woods says – ‘the index card of allowable opinion’ because our philosophy wasn’t meant to continue the status quo of government, it was meant to grind it into the pages of history, where it belongs.

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Thomas J. Eckert

Thomas J. Eckert is the Managing Editor of Think Liberty and Copy Editor for Being Libertarian. With a passion for politics, he studies economics and history and writes in his spare time on political and economic current events. He is a self-described voluntarist.


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