Having been raised in Vermont, there was little hope I would not hold at least some liberal leanings. We are, after all, products of our environment. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school that a teacher assigned Atlas Shrugged as the book for the whole class to read. I didn’t become a libertarian that day (and in fact, I found the aforementioned book to be boring) but I began to see that maybe I wasn’t as much of a Blue Dog liberal as I had previously thought. By the time I graduated in 2000, being faced with the choices of censorship-oriented Al Gore and neoconservative George W. Bush, I made the first of many protest votes in presidential elections. I don’t even remember who I voted for (and I am pretty sure I was intoxicated when I voted, actually). What I can tell you is that I knew then that politics was not as cut and dry as I had been led to believe by those tasked with teaching me about the world so I would be prepared for it.
But I continued to support Democrats; I was still fooled into believing that the GOP in its entirety was homophobic, racist, and greedy. Then, whilst speaking with a constitutional conservative friend about the 2nd Amendment in 2007, I was introduced to Dr. Ron Paul and my life changed forever. I continued being a supporter of ending the drug war, marriage equality, and an end to crony capitalism (before I realized both parties are guilty of it), but now knew I was not a liberal or conservative. I changed my identity to “independent“ and described my beliefs as “fiscally conservative and socially liberal.” But I wasn’t there yet. I believe in climate change and I want to fight for green energy. I reconciled that I would be without a political home for the remainder of my life. And then I was introduced to laissez-faire economics and how change is best implemented through the almighty dollar.
Upon doing more research I discovered there are a host of materials and resources that our government makes more expensive through trade embargos and double taxing ourselves on what we export to other countries. These materials (mainly out of African countries and the Mediterranean) could be used to make more UV-absorbent solar panels and lighter wind turbines. I was amazed; I had been calling on the government to make changes that I had to power to help change all on my own. I was astonished, so I decided to delve deeper.
The next position I wanted to tackle was animal cruelty.
I love animals, so much so that I stopped eating them in 2014. But I acknowledge that most libertarians view them as property and that there was no way I could use the market to combat what I viewed as the “boil on the ass of greed.” What I quickly figured out was that since most people probably don’t want to give money to a sadist, the market could affect this. Activists have long been applying to these jobs in an effort to catch abusive farmers in the act of being cruel towards livestock. Since this has been going on for some time one could say “clearly, it’s not working,“ but there are factors to be considered. Many states have enacted “ag-gag” laws that literally can put someone in jail for whistleblowing (which is as anti-1st Amendment as one can be). Agriculture subsidies (a reward for a failed business model) continue to pump money into these mega farms (as opposed to the 6 million family farms that existed in this country which the subsidy was originally meant for). Finally, when someone does go to the police instead of whistleblowing, it’s all for nothing as the farm is generally informed 24 hours prior to the inspection (giving said farm more than enough time to make a good presentation).
I could continue giving examples but that is not the point of this article. The point, as a former left of center liberal, is that I am still passionate about defending marriage equality, ending the drug war, and bringing our troops home. I do not want members of our citizenry to be marginalized by our government. But I was lied to and not just by the liberals and Democrats.
Since becoming a “small L libertarian” in December 2013 (when I officially became one) and a member of the Libertarian Party in November 2016, I have heard the fallacious paleolibertarian position that we owe allegiance to the GOP and that the overlap we have with the left is “not important stuff.” The line “you’re helping the left/Democrats“ said in a tone indicative of betrayal has been a soundbite I’ve heard for years now, and it shouldn’t be any wonder why.
Conservatives have much more diversity in their ranks then liberals by far. This is why the left can more easily unite. The difference in beliefs is so small that compromise is generally very easy for liberals and Democrats. Libertarian Republicans are already the least likely to show party loyalty and registered Democrats outnumber the GOP. It’s no wonder then that come election time Republicans do everything in their power to make you believe you will get more from them then from the Democrats. They do this because they know deep down they are sinking in the eyes of the average American voter. They know they need the libertarian vote.
To illustrate my point, I won’t even cite Gary Johnson (mostly because I know how much so many libertarians hate him) but instead the 2014 gubernatorial race in my home state.
Establishment Democrat shill Peter Shumlin was up against Scott Milne of the Republicans and Dan Feliciano representing Libertarians. We decided to run a candidate when Milne gained the title of “Milqtoast Milne“ for his shaky and not very thorough views on Vermont Health Connect (the Vermont branch of the ACA). The number of votes gained by Feliciano was around the same as what Milne lost by.
Of course we can never know how many would have voted for Milne but the point remains, we do influence elections.
Which brings me to this morning and what inspired me to write this article.
I have never hidden that I am a huge supporter of Justin Amash, seeing him as the rightful successor to Ron Paul. His principled voting inspired me to consider pushing for him to primary Trump in 2019.
And then he voted “yes” on Trumpcare (or whatever you wish to call it). It was at this moment I remembered the words of Amash’s idol (as well as my inspiration) Friedrich Hayek …
“Conservatism is only as good as what it conserves.” I would obviously add that liberalism is only as good as what it liberates. And I do not feel liberated by government involvement in healthcare. I feel raped, just less raped then I was by the Affordable Care Act.
This is how the GOP continues to lose my support even in the face of a Democrat victory (which is just as bad but in the other direction).
I may never be a part of a winning presidential campaign but I will go to bed every night until I am dead knowing I didn’t sacrifice my principles. But I fear the possibility that we will never win over enough people to become relevant.
This is why we must continue to win over left of center people like I was. We need to stop attacking the left and start discussing why we think they are wrong and then present real world examples of how free market capitalism is how we can achieve societal change and progress.
And if you don’t think this is possible, all I can say is “that’s how I was won over.”
* Bryce Jackson is a cook and writer from Chelsea, Vermont, who lives in Woodstock where he takes care of his two rescue dogs and his 71-year-old Vietnam veteran father.