Here’s the text of an email conversation that Lex and I had recently:
This argument isn’t new but I think it’s essentially valid, and it’s presented well in this article.
Lex: Any successful party is a coalition. If it is successful long enough the members of the coalition start to grumble that they are not getting enough of what they want. I think there is a decent chance that the elements of the GOP coalition can fragment. The wishes of libertarians for a more libertarian approach will be dashed. The hopes of the Christian Right, which is actually what I am when you get down to it, for a more culturally conservative approach, will also be dashed. Neither group has enough numbers to get any of what it wants without being part of a coalition. The Religious Right is also generally for small government, so they are less likely to see anything at all to like about the Democrats. The libertarians may like the fact that the Democrats are for gay marriage, pornography and abortion and also drug legalization. Glenn Reynolds is very clear that he is against the GOP mainstream on these issues, for example, as one would expect of a professional academic. However, the core libertarian view has always been smaller government, and a key element of that has been gun rights. The Democrats have absolutely nothing to offer on these issues. However, libertarian voters are fickle and perfectionistic. So, they may vote for socialism to get pornography, for at least one election. I have never been a libertarian. Still, I am just not worried about the GOP coalition breaking up when (1) the Democrats seem not to have much to offer to anyone outside their current core constituencies, and (2) national security is a major issue and the Democrats are incoherent. The idea that the current Democrat leadership has the wit to “reach out” to libertarians is almost funny. Libertarian wishful thinking. If they do very badly in 2006 they may wake up and get their shit together in time for 2008. We’ll see what happens.
Me: A successful coalition has the largest amount of both members and dissatisfaction.
I agree with you mostly. The Dems are in a bind, because they can’t offer the libertarians or religious conservatives much of value without giving up their core socialism and control-freakiness.
There are lots of different value mixes among libertarians. I am pretty libertarian but I’m also opposed to gay marriage and favor substantial restrictions on abortion. The deal-killers for me with the Democrats are guns and, even more, the Democrats’ class envy and hostility to small business. I suspect that the issue that best encapsulates the ideological divide here is the death tax.