As discontent with the “Big Two” grows, Libertarian and Progressive parties are exploding in America, especially among Millennials. It’s a shift that could redefine politics in the future.
During the recent International Students for Liberty Conference, an annual global meeting of collegiate libertarian clubs, filmmaker and noted Socialist Oliver Stone spoke to the assembled crowd about his shifting political views.
Stone’s panel dealt with “imperial overreach” and “the national security state.” It also featured Peter Kuznick, co-author of Stone’s “The Untold History of the United States,” and “Dirty Wars” producer Jeremy Scahill.
The panel dwelled on the overlap between the Libertarians and the left, and criticisms of American military activities abroad, government surveillance and foreign policy all drew cheers from the audience
With an increasing number of Millennials finding dissatisfaction with the traditional two-party system, strength among both the Libertarian and Progressive coalitions has never been greater.
“As the views of Americans, and especially young voters, converge with the Libertarian platform, we are attracting more votes than the party has ever seen,” Carla Howell, political director of the National Libertarian Party, told MintPress News. “Over 15,000,000 votes were cast for Libertarians in 2012. The Robert Sarvis for governor campaign in Virginia last year garnered 6.5 percent of the vote, the highest vote total for a candidate who was neither a Democrat nor a Republican in a southern state in over 40 years. His vote among those aged 18-29 stood at 15 percent.
“Both Democrats and Republicans have expanded Big Government to the limit that they could get away with for years, especially in the last 14 years during both the Bush and Obama administrations. Bailouts, FEMA, needless wars, Obamacare, the Drug Prohibition and NSA spying — all of which have failed their stated mission. They failed to create jobs, failed to stop the escalation of health care costs, violate personal liberties and put people and our country more — not less — at risk. Young voters have witnessed these abysmal failures and see that government is not the place to turn to solve human problems,” Howell continued.
The changing demographic
With an historically high 42 percent of Americans identifying themselves as independents as of January, the United States is becoming a nation increasingly not served by either the Republican or Democrat label. According to a December 2013 Gallup poll, 72 percent of all Americans believed that Big Government is a bigger threat to the United States than Big Business (21 percent) or Big Labor (5 percent).
While this may be burn-out from years of government malpractice — an increase in unmanned drone usage, the largest government surveillance apparatus; several scandals involving the Executive Branch; a government shutdown in an attempt to repeal the patient Protection & Affordable Care Act followed by more than 40 repeal attempts — the general feeling is that the young vote has been moving away from the “Big Government” parties.
Arguably, discontentment with President Barack Obama’s policies is behind the progressive surge. When New York City elected its first progressive mayor, the president’s approval rating fell 11 points among Millennials. The Second Iraqi and Afghan Wars, as well as Bush-era deficits, are pushing the right toward the Libertarians.
As Millennials may represent the most Progressive or Libertarian generation ever, and as Millennials are expected to constitute 75 percent of the workforce by 2020, one might be tempted to say that the fate of the “Big Two” parties lies in the embrace of their small government cousins.
“I think Republicans will not win again in my lifetime … unless they become a new GOP, a new Republican Party,” Sen. Rand Paul (R – Ky.) told Glenn Beck. “It has to be a transformation. Not just a little tweaking at the edges.”
Many have argued that the Millennials’ awareness of societal issues and connections to their communities make them less likely to relate to the “Big Two” political ideologies.
“While good deeds ought to be done, many Millennials do not see the government as the means to achieve these good deeds,” Robert Alexander, professor of political science at Ohio Northern University, told MintPress News. “A significant number of my own students seek fiscal solvency and consider themselves socially liberal.
“Many do not see themselves connecting with Democrats, Republicans and certainly not Tea Party Activists. They would seem to prefer going it alone — not out of political conviction, but because they do not seem to have much faith that government can solve problems important to them.”
The new battlefront
Several issues, including the War on Drugs and marijuana legalization, marriage equality, immigration reform, student loan debt, abortion access and government surveillance, have created the impression that the main parties are hopelessly detached from the concerns of the people, especially Millennials.
In 2013, under an expanded Progressive and Libertarian class in Congress, a suite of small government policy reforms were introduced, including the Amash Amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill, introduced by Rep. Justin Amash (R – Mich.). It would have prevented the government from invoking Section 215 of the Patriot Act, thereby denying the government access to telephone metadata unless the government had reasonable suspicion of a connection to terrorism.
Through the heavy lobbying of the White House and the National Security Agency, the bill was defeated 217-205.
The “third option”
The Progressive and Libertarian policy-lines, which advocate personal freedom and protections from undue burdens, have presented a third option to those concerned about issues such as the ballooning personal and national debt crises, the expansion of violence due to bigotry and denial of due process, and the influence of outside influences on the political system.
“It is unfair to say that Libertarians are separating from conservatives,” Adam Dick, a writer with the Ron Paul Institute, told MintPress News. Dick asserted that Libertarians come from all points in the political spectrum, and Democrats are just as likely to be Libertarians as Republicans.
“There is a movement among some people in regards to Libertarian-thinking, the polling is showing that people are now seeing the government — more now than ever before — as being one of the greatest threats to individual rights … there is an undeniable libertarian movement underway that is separate and distinguishable from both the Republicans and the Democrats,” Dick concluded.