Libertarian Democrat

Libertarian Democrat

In American politics, a libertarian Democrat is a member of the Democratic Party with libertarian leaning political viewpoints or views that are relatively libertarian compared to the views of the national party.[1][2] While libertarian Democrats can be found throughout the United States, most elected officials viewed as such are more commonly from New England or the western United States.[citation needed]

While other factions of the Democratic Party are organized in the Congress, like with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Blue Dog Coalition and the New Democrat Coalition, the libertarian faction is not organized in such a way. That being said, groups made up of the party membership, like the Democratic Freedom Caucus do exist. The Democratic Freedom Caucus[3] was established in 1996 by Hanno Beck, Mike O'Mara and Andrew Spark.[4] The caucus maintains a platform,[5] a list of principles,[6] and a guide for activists.[7] The group's leadership currently includes includes 40 state chairs and regional representatives.[8]



Libertarian Democrats support the majority of positions of the Democratic Party. However, Americans who self-identify as libertarian Democrats do not necessarily share identical viewpoints across the political spectrum, though there appear to be several political positions that unify them like their belief in personal freedoms.

They are more likely than most Democrats to support tax cuts, Second Amendment rights, same-sex marriage, the decriminalization of marijuana and a non-interventionist foreign policy. They are more likely to oppose deficit spending, protectionism, subsidies (especially to corporations) race-based affirmative action and many regulations on small businesses.

Libertarian Democrats are staunchly civil libertarians agreeing with the national party's stances on civil rights, separation of church and state, habeas corpus for unlawful combatants and oppose indefinite detention without trial or charge, the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, the USA PATRIOT Act and warrantless wiretapping.

While maintaining a relatively libertarian ideology they differ with the Libertarian Party on issues such as consumer protection, health care reform, worker and union's rights, anti-trust laws and the overall amount of government involvement in the economy.


Jefferson and Jackson

The Democratic Party was ideologically preceded by the Democratic-Republican Party. The Democratic-Republican Party was led by Thomas Jefferson and largely shaped by his classical liberal beliefs. After the end of the First Party System the party faded away.

In 1828, the modern Democratic Party was established from old factions of the defunct Democratic-Republican Party as Martin van Buren unified political figures around Andrew Jackson and his ideas of Jacksonian Democracy. Libertarian ideas within the party stood for low tariffs, opposed anti-immigrant nativism and expansion of voting rights. Factions such as New York City's Locofocos were radically democratic advocates of free trade and hard money who stood against monopolies.

By 1861, these issues had faded to the backdrop as the American Civil War broke out.

Bourbon Democrats

After the Civil War, the Bourbon Democrats came to power within the party. They represented business interests, supported banking and railroad goals, promoted laissez-faire capitalism, opposed imperialism and U.S. overseas expansion, prohibition of alcohol and fought for the gold standard. After decades of Republican dominance, Bourbon Democrat Grover Cleveland became President of the United States and opposed increasing the tariff and the annexation of Hawaii.

The Bourbons were in power when the Panic of 1893 hit, and they took the blame. Party infighting began leading to the showdown in 1896 between the Bourbon Democrats and William Jennings Bryan.

The old classical liberal ideals had lost their distinctiveness and appeal and by the time of the New Deal Coalition had all but faded away in favor of modern liberalism

Modern era

After the loss in 2004, the party reexamined its position on gun control which became a matter of discussion, brought up by Howard Dean, Bill Richardson, Brian Schweitzer and other Democrats who had won in states where Second Amendment rights are important to many voters. The resulting umbrella stance on gun control brought in libertarian minded voters, influencing other beliefs.

Public figures

U.S. representatives

U.S. senators

U.S. state governors

Authors and scholars


See also


  1. ^ "Reclaiming our Jeffersonian liberal heritage, with a back to the future re-branding of the Democratic Party". (Washington: Terry Michael). 2006-07-04. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  2. ^ "Now playing at Interview with a libertarian Democrat!". (Mountain View, Calif.: YouTube LLC). 2008-08-28. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  3. ^ " Freedom Democrats". Democratic Freedom Caucus. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  4. ^ "Another approach: The Democratic Freedom Caucus". (Woodbridge, Va.: The Free Liberal). 2005-04-14. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  5. ^ "DFC platform". (Somerville, Mass.: Democratic Freedom Caucus). Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  6. ^ "Principles of the DFC". (Somerville, Mass.: Democratic Freedom Caucus). Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  7. ^ "Guide for activists". (Somerville, Mass.: Democratic Freedom Caucus). Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  8. ^ "DFC state chairs and regional representatives". (Somerville, Mass.: Democratic Freedom Caucus). Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  9. ^ "G.K. Butterfield on the issues". (Cambridge, Mass.: & the SpeakOut Foundation). 2010-06. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  10. ^ "Mike Thompson on the issues". (Cambridge, Mass.: & the SpeakOut Foundation). 2011-03. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  11. ^ "Paul Hodes on the issues". (Cambridge, Mass.: & the SpeakOut Foundation). 2010-10. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  12. ^ "Profile: Tim Penny". Campaign 2002 (St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Public Radio). 2002-09-12. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  13. ^ a b "The libertarian Dem". (Berkeley, Calif.: Kos Media LLC). 2006-06-07. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  14. ^ "The libertarian Democrat: this year's jackalope". (Los Angeles: Reason Magazine). 2006-06-16. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  15. ^ "Russ Feingold doesn't disappoint". (Freedom Democrats). 2009-10-21. Retrieved 2010-11-02. [dead link]
  16. ^ "Mike Gravel on the issues". (Cambridge, Mass.: & the SpeakOut Foundation). 2008-05. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  17. ^ "William Proxmire, maverick Democratic senator from Wisconsin, is dead at 90". The New York Times (New York: The New York Times Co.). 2005-12-16. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  18. ^ "John Lynch on the issues". (Cambridge, Mass.: & the SpeakOut Foundation). 2010-11. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  19. ^ "John Kitzhaber on the issues". (Cambridge, Mass.: & the SpeakOut Foundation). 2010-11. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  20. ^ "Whatever happened to the libertarian Democrat?". (Los Angeles: Reason Magazine). 2008-08-27. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  21. ^ "John Baldacci on the issues". (Cambridge, Mass.: & the SpeakOut Foundation). 2008-01. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  22. ^ "Markos Moulitsas: the case for the libertarian Democrat". Cato Unbound (Washington: Cato Institute). 2006-10-02. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  23. ^ "Democratic Freedom Caucus endorsements: Bill Richardson". (Democratic Freedom Caucus). 2008. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  24. ^ "Idea flying, a maverick breaks the feminist mold". The Milwaukee Journal (Milwaukee, Wisc.: Journal Communications Inc.). 1992-12-06. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  25. ^ "Hark, a libertarian looks to her right". The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, Australia: John Fairfax Holdings). 2005-04-19. Retrieved 2005-04-19. 
  26. ^ "I have re-registered as a Democrat". KGO-AM Radio (San Francisco: KGO-AM Radio). 2008. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  27. ^ "Why won't the Dems show some leadership on Iraq?". (Los Angeles: Reason Magazine). 2007-01-11. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 

External links

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