Senate Democrats more libertarian than their GOP counterparts…

…according to the lastest work by FreedomDemocrats.

To obtain his data, Logan Ferree took 15 Senate votes on social and defense issues and 15 Senate votes on fiscal and trade issues and placed them on this Nolan Chart. Ferree recently provided similar data about House votes. The spreadsheet is here. Ferree’s commentary mirrors mine, so I’ll blockquote him:

The major trend is the same as last time. A major divide between the parties on the social issues and a general parity in terms of just how bad they are economically. Russ Feingold is again classified as ‘libertarian’ and Ron Wyden of Oregon narrowly makes the cut as well. Interestingly Jim Jeffords of Vermont, the only Independent, receives the same exact score in both social and economic issues as Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the only Independent of the House. Go figure.

As I’ve said before, I’m not too surprised at the outcome. The Democrats are out of power right now, and in order to regain political control, they have to appeal to libertarian and moderate minded people.

Stephen Gordon

I like tasteful cigars, private property, American whiskey, fast cars, hot women, pre-bailout Jeeps, fine dining, worthwhile literature, low taxes, original music, personal privacy and self-defense rights -- but not necessarily in this order.

  1. Rolf,

    That may be true, but according to poll numbers you sent me, Kohl and Feingold have virtually identical approval numbers:

    17. Do you approve or disapprove of United States Senator Russ Feingold’s job performance?
    Approve 55%
    Disapprove 30%
    Undecided 15%

    18. Do you approve or disapprove of Senator Herb Kohl’s job performance?
    Approve 54%
    Disapprove 30%
    Undecided 16%

  2. I’m not sure how much it has to with any Democratic attempt to appeal to libertarians/moderates. I’m sure some, but I just think it’s time to realize there is not much “libertarian” about the modern GOP. And time for Libertarians to stop justifying the statism of Republicans as morally superior to the statism of Democrats. There is not much libertarian about either.

  3. I’d argue, at this moment, that D votes are more libertarian than R votes. Again, I believe it is because they are not the ones in power. I expect when the Ds are in charge again, they will fill the authoritarian quadrant and the GOP will move more economically conservative (and perhaps some more socially liberal).

  4. Feingold the most libertarian?

    Another victory for the people of Wisconsin!

    Yeah… it’s weird, but it seems like outside of the healthcare issue, the modern Democratic Party isn’t anywhere near as hostile to the free market as they used to be. Jeffersonian Democracy is back in vogue.

  5. The Democrats are out of power right now, and in order to regain political control, they have to appeal to libertarian and moderate minded people.

    Bad data aside, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with “in order to regain political control”. Think about what that means and then think about whether those Democrats are as “libertarian” as you keep insisting.

  6. Tom,

    I’ve never insisted that they are all that libertarian. I’ve merely observed that they are currently acting more libertarian.

    When control of the Congress and White House shifts, I expect things to change and for the Repubs to be the more libertarian of the two parties.

  7. I worked for a democratic Senator last summer during an internship, trust me most of those who support this “moderate” are in fact very socialist and if they come to power they will become authoritarian because those in power believe that the way to fix things is to use the government. Plus I was the only strict constructionist in the office although I doubt that that would have been different in a Republican office.
    We will never change the two dominant parties unless we do so the way that the Progessives changed both. We should model the Libertarian movement after the Progressive movement in my opinion. The Progressives originally focused on state and local issues and campaigns and once they had effective support at the ground level then they moved to national prominence. The Progressive Party never obtained more than 6% of the vote but changed America anyway. Also there is money to be made from libertarian ideas and we must find wealthy benefactors to assist us.

  8. Also there is money to be made from libertarian ideas and we must find wealthy benefactors to assist us.

    Ahh, but there is MUCH more money to be made via regulation and fear mongering. Take Rumsfeld for example. He is making millions off the bird flu farce. Then there is Cheney, making tens of millions off the Iraq War and Katrina via Halliburton. And now we have many other members of the Bush admin about to make fortune off ports security – thus the reason for the Dubai fiasco.

  9. I don’t expect the Republican Party or the Democratic Party to ever produce a libertarian society. Of course, were the LP suddenly catapulted to control of Congress and the White House, I wouldn’t expect us too, either, although some would mightily try.

    Barring anarchist revolution (which I don’t expect in my lifetime), the state will continue to exist, and built into that existence are imperatives toward not only maintenance, but increased scope, of its power. Or, to put it a different way, if a tool is left lying around, it will be picked up and used by those who think they can use it to get things they want.

    The libertarian impulse, in the context of the existing system, is to try to swat that tool out of as many hands as possible. When out of power, it’s not surprising that the “major” parties will go with that impulse to a degree. Some major party politicians will, too, even when their party is in power. But never enough to swat it out of everyone’s reach.

  10. Jason, I don’t doubt that many Democratic Senators would have a different record if the Democrats ran the Senate, the House, the White House, and the Supreme Court. But I’m focusing on reality right now. In the real world I would never claim that the Democrats are a libertarian party. But the Republicans have become so bad the Democrats win by default in a match up between the two.

    When you talk about the Progressive movement it’s important to remember that not only did they start at the state and local level, but they did so within the two major parties. The only time it was an independent party was when a major figure ran for President. I think you’re wrong about the levels of support. The Progressive Party had 27% of the vote in 1912 and 17% in 1924. The final Progressive Party campaign in 1948 had less than 3%.

  11. Also, something the Nolan chart doesn’t take into account is the importance of each axis to the individual being tested: liberals care more about their economic control agenda than about their social freedom agenda; conservatives care more about their social control agenda than their economic freedom agenda. Put this all together and what do you get?

    Democrats compromise their social agenda and Republicans compromise their economic agenda, the trend is towards more authoritarianism regardless of where an individual falls on the Nolan chart!

    When not supporting consistenly libertarian polititins, we have to support those republicans who put economic freedom above all else, and democrats who put social freedom above all else. Only then will we reverse the trend.

  12. I think it’s clear that Democrats are currently closer to libertarian than Republicans, but I don’t yet see any real move on their part to make that so, because they are out of power or for any other reason — just looking at the map, it seems clear that the Democrats are largely just beeing “good liberals”. The reason this puts them closer to libertarian than the GOP is because Republicans aren’t very good at being “good conservatives”.

    I say this as someone who leans left and supports Logan’s work. I just don’t think we should be too excited about any perceived movement even closer to libertarianism — among the elected. I do however think there are some rumblings of hope among the democratic grassroots. I think that map is going to continue to rotate clockwise. Of course this means the GOP will keep getting worse at the same time.

  13. Roberto, I disagree with your claim that Democrats care more about economic control than social freedom. I would argue that partisan Democrats care far more about gay rights, abortion, and opposing the Religious Right than supporting economic control. I wish some of the polling firms actually did polling on this. Call up Republicans and ask them how they’d vote in a Republican Primary between someone who was pro-choice and wanted to cut taxes and cut social programs vs. someone who was pro-life and wanted to raise taxes for more social programs. Pro-life wins. Call up Democrats and ask them the same think and I think the pro-choice guy wins. I could be wrong, however. I just don’t think there’s data out there to support either claim right now.

  14. “Fight for your right to third party”

    Chief Wana Dubie… LOL! That’s pretty funny, until I’m reminded of how people like this only reinforce the stereotype that Libertarians are just a bunch of fringe nutballs.

  15. I’ll admit to not knowing much about Feingold, despite having heard his name on occasion. But I really like how close to the top of the Nolan Chart his votes place him (measuring only by the chart, he is more pro-freedom than Ron Paul!). I just read a New York Times article about his attempt to censure the President over domestic eavesdropping, which is a good—but mostly useless—measure. The article also mentioned his consideration of a presidential campaign, which raises some questions for me.

    Such as: How principled is he? If he does run for president, would you consider voting for him? And most importantly, would you consider voting for him over a Libertarian, if he was on the Democratic candidate and thus had a good chance of winning? Personally, I know I will at least pay closer attention to him from now on.

  16. I plan on voting for Feingold in the Democratic Primary. Right now I would say that the scorecard inflates his economic score a bit because he is in the opposition right now. He is known to have some big government views in areas like health care. I would encourage other people to vote for Feingold in the Democratic Primary as well, even if you plan on voting Libertarian in the general election.

  17. Logan/Richard,

    I’ve followed Feingold’s votes a bit, and they do seem to be opposition votes. My key problem with him is McCain-Feingold (BCRA). If he was to reverse his position on that one…

  18. P.S. I find it very interesting that John McCain, frequently regarded as a moderate, stands alone as the only solid right-wing conservative in the Senate; and also that only John Sununu of New Hampshire approaches him on economic issues.

  19. looking at that i have to say – what strikes me most is not that the democrats show up as more libertarian than the republicans, but rather that so many of the republicans are squarely within the “authoritarian” world view.

  20. Richard — it is on the spreadsheet.

    stranger — I agree (and remember when Democrats occupied that sector).

  21. Here in Oregon the average suburban homeowner in the Portland Metro area is a fiscally conservative, socially liberal individual. The issue really is one of education – they do not know what a libertarian is, but once you explain it, they say, well maybe I am one.

    I run a libertarian newspaper out here, , and it does extremely well in the suburbs. Some people know right away its libertarian by reading it, others don’t.

    If libertarians want to win offices, they need to spend their time educating people about what it means, first, otherwise the non-libertarian press is going to find every nutjob to interview – you know how the rest goes.

    Just talk about it, to your neighbors. If Jehova’s Witnesses can go door to door, why can’t we?

  22. I’ve got another take on this. Comparing this to a Nolan-based chart for the 2005 senate from the Republican Liberty Caucus can be quite enlightenint. I’ve done so, myself. I’d say that these Freedom Democrats are still very much partisan Democrats first and care about freedom last. The same is true of the Republican Liberty Caucus, of course. In a nutshell, the political group that publishes determines who gets classified as “Libertarian” vs. “Authoritarian”.

  23. Bryan, I can assure you that if I was a partisan Democrat that cared about freedom last I am smart enough to have manipulated the scorecard to ensure that all the Democrats (or at least a vast majority) ended up in the Libertarian quadrant. That was not my goal. I think anyone that follows the news would be able to agree with the major conclusion of the scorecard: The Democrats are largely a liberal party and the Republicans have gone totally drunk with power and are on a spending orgy.

  24. Plus I was the only strict constructionist in the office although I doubt that that would have been different in a Republican office.

    Hmm a strict contructionist you say? Care to tell me your view of the establishment clause, and also your view of the constitutionality of “In God We Trust” and “Under God” in their respective places…

    The modern GOP is a stones throw away from being a bunch of fucking fascist bastards. As shitty as the Democrats are, I will be very relieved if they pick up at least one aspect of the legislature this year so then can al least slow the speed at which Bush and the Republicans shit on our Constitution.

  25. I take your point and take up your challenge, in that case, Logan. Shall we see what can be done working together rather than butting heads?