Why The Authoritarian Right Has A More Negative View of Libertarians Than Democrats Do

I’ve had a number of posts on libertarian views of the Democrats and Republicans, including posts on libertarians supporting Barack Obama in the 2008 election.  Kos notes an interesting item in a Pew Research Center study which looks at it from the opposite direction. The overall survey looks at views on capitalism and socialism, but one question looks at how Democrats and Republicans view libertarians:

Reactions to the word “libertarian” are evenly divided — 38% positive, 37% negative. On balance, Republicans view “libertarian” negatively, Democrats are divided, while independents have a positive impression of the term…

More than four-in-ten independents (44%) react positively to the word “libertarian,” while 32% have a negative reaction. Democrats are nearly evenly divided (39% positive, 37% negative). However, Republicans on balance have a negative impression of this term (44% negative, 31% positive).

I agree with Kos that it is not surprising that Republicans have a more negative view of the word “libertarian” than Democrats do. He writes:

The notion that Republicans are libertarian is ludicrous. They stick their noses into our bedrooms, into our doctors’ offices, into churches. They demand the roundup of people who don’t look like them. They whine about Miranda rights and due process. They are more concerned about the rights of big energy conglomerates, than they are about the rights of people to enjoy long walks on pristine beaches. They whine about true independent and free media that doesn’t validate their ideology. They freak out about anyone who doesn’t believe in their god, or worse, in any god at all.

For the American Taliban, “liberty” means their ability to impose their beliefs and lifestyle on the rest of society.

So of course they would react negatively to the word, since they equate it with libertinism. For a movement predicated on imposing its mores on the rest of society, this is obviously deeply offensive.

I agree that for the most part the negative impression of  “libertarian” is due to the authoritarian nature of the current conservative movement and Republican Party. There might also be an additional factor. While it makes little sense, many libertarians have seen the Republican Party as being closer to their views and have attempted to influence the party. This may have resulted in more conflicts between individual Republicans and libertarians, making some Republicans more likely to express a negative opinion of them as a result of such conflict along with their fundamental difference in views.

Poll Shows Increased Optimism That Economy Improving

There might be some additional good news for the Democrats in addition to that in the previous post. A New York Times/CBS News poll shows increased optimism:

A growing number of Americans think the economy is improving and three-quarters of them approve of President Obama’s handling of the economy, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Forty-one percent said the economy was getting better, up from 33 percent about a month ago, while 15 percent described the economy as deteriorating.Of that 41 percent, 75 percent approve of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy.

Another 43 percent said the economy was staying about the same; while 7 percent of that segment believe the economy is in good shape, the other 35 percent say it’s in bad condition.

One problem is that those who think this are people who are already more likely to vote Democratic: young more educated voters and Democrats:

Younger and better-educated Americans are more likely to describe the economy as on the mend. Sixty-one percent of Democrats said the economy was getting better, but only 16 percent of Republicans and 38 percent of independents agreed.

Over all, the public is evenly divided on their assessment of Mr. Obama’s management of the economy: 48 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove.

And again, there are strong partisan differences. Democrats overwhelmingly approve of the president’s handling of the economy — 77 percent to 19 percent. Among Republicans, however, 86 percent disapprove, while just 11 percent approve.

Even if this optimism comes primarily from Democratic voters at present, such views could spread to more groups by this fall. Even improving the attitude among traditional Democratic voters would be helpful for the Democrats in reducing the intensity gap which earlier seemed to give the Republicans a tremendous advantage.

The Party Of Conservative Old White Men Having New Difficulties

Republicans might have a good year this year due to the dynamics of off year elections, but long term the demographics are against them. Younger voters might not turn out in the numbers needed by Democrats this year, but Republicans will have a tough time making up for the loss of much of a generation in the future, especially as the percentage of minority voters increases. A party which has based its electoral strategy on the southern strategy (i.e. pandering to racism) is in serious trouble.

On example of this problem is that The Wall Street Journal reports that Republicans are losing the support of conservative Latino voters.

Massey Villarreal, a Houston businessman and past national chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, an independent group with chapters nationwide, said, “It’s insulting to have Republican leaders across the country applauding this racist law. I’m sure this is going to hurt the Republican Party.”

Latinos are the fastest growing demographic group in the U.S. After spending the first part of this decade loosening their historical ties to the Democratic Party, Latinos have been returning to the Democratic fold over such issues as the economy and immigration.

President George W. Bush clinched 40% of the Latino vote in 2004 with a message that struck a chord with a group that is generally family-oriented, religious and socially conservative. In 2008, President Barack Obama won two-thirds of the constituency’s vote in an election that confirmed Latinos’ emerging political clout.

Some Democrats in Congress have tried to cement that support by pushing for legislation that would overhaul immigration policy and create a path to citizenship for some of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S.

While the current Republican problem stems from the immigration bill, it is inevitable that the racism which is endemic in the American right wing will also create additional problems for the party of conservative old white men. Andrew Sullivan ties this into other aspects of the conservative mind set:

The GOP is now doing to Latinos what it did to gays. Its leaders – by backing the Federal Marriage Amendment in the last decade and now the Arizona law in this – are essentially saying that they do not understand how these measures could impact a minority’s collective psyche. Whatever the technical merits of either measure – and there were intellectually coherent (if, to my mind, unpersuasive) defenses of both – the lack of empathy or understanding is the real issue. It places the Republican “us” against the minority “them.” This is not just a failure of empathy; it is failure of judgment. The votes of Latinos will be massively important in the very near future, and the number of people who know and love gay people grows daily.

The Republican base’s inability to place itself in the shoes of homosexuals who are being told they could be second class citizens for ever or in the shoes of Latinos being told they are effectively guilty before being found innocent is a fatal moral and political gambit. Once your party has revealed that it cannot empathize and is willing to stigmatize an entire minority, it takes decades to reverse the damage.