The Libertarian West

Glenn Greenwald has an article at Salon on the western states which are rejection the social conservativism of the Republicans:

Put another way, the successful campaign to defeat the Arizona referendum was based on a generalized libertarian aversion to governmental intrusion into the private sphere, rather than support for gay marriage per se. And therein lies the most significant lesson to be drawn from the weakening support for these referendums in 2006 — namely, the rejection by Western states of the activist social conservative agenda that has fueled the Republican Party’s dominance of the South.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that evangelical social conservatism as a political doctrine sharply conflicts with the libertarian political ethos of the Mountain West. In South Dakota, for example, only 17 of 66 counties voted against the gay marriage ban, but 11 of those counties were west of the Missouri River, where the Great Plains begin to become Badlands and the Midwest turns into the West. “As you move west, voters tend to be less evangelical and more libertarian,” said Jon Schaff, who teaches at Northern State University in South Dakota. “They’re saying they simply want government to leave them alone.”

Down in Arizona, the social conservatives who backed that state’s marriage ban had a similar experience. Cathi Herrod, spokeswoman for Arizona Proposition 107, told the Baptist Press: “We’re a Western state with a more libertarian bent. It’s gotten harder to pass a marriage amendment.”

Rove-ian visions of Republican electoral dominance depend upon solid Republican support throughout the Mountain West. Arizona, Colorado and South Dakota all delivered their electoral votes for George Bush in both 2000 and 2004, and four out of six senators from those states are now Republican. But the GOP’s increasing reliance on Southern-style social conservatism, and its accompanying abandonment of any libertarian pretenses, has led some Democratic strategists to see that region as fertile ground for substantial Democratic gains.

Greenwald also mentions Kos’s posts on Libertarians and Liberals, with Kos commenting here. (I’ve also discussed this previously, such as here.) Greenwald concludes with comments I’ve made here many times, that the Republicans cannot simultaneously win in the west with their rhetoric in support of individual liberty while pandering to the social agenda of the religious right:

No political party can be everything to everyone. As Republicans are forced to rely more and more on their base of white Southern evangelicals, they will be increasingly viewed as the party of intrusive governmental control.

In the process, the Democrats have the chance to become the party that stands for the right of adults to make decisions about their own lives free of moralistic governmental interference and regulation. Those who cast their votes based principally on such libertarian sentiments — driven by the belief that the government should, to the greatest extent possible, stay out of their lives — will view the Democratic Party as the far more attractive choice. The decreased support for same-sex marriage bans in the West, as well as the 2006 midterm results generally, make clear just what a potent opportunity this is for Democrats.

Follow-up Post: Reason’s Challenge to “Libertarian Democrats”

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1 Comment

  1. 1
    battlebob says:

    In Arizona, proposition 107 would strengthen a state law that already bans gay marriages by not allowing judges to overturn it in the future. Also benefits for unmarried people who live together would be removed.

    This law came about because of the success of similar proposals in 2004 and the extra voters that turned out. In this case, the seniors turned out to vote this one down as a lot of widowers live together and do not marry in order to keep their state benefits.

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