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Only on Salon, where some days it feels the Liberals have lined the moat with alligators and pulled up the drawbridge, can a guy like Glenn Harlan Reynolds – Instapundit to you – be billed a “prominent conservative blogger.”
Not only that, he’s willing to forecast the demise of the GOP. Oh, happy day!
Huh? “Conservative”? Compared to whom? Jesse Jackson? If anything, Reynolds is a pretty typical example of his class and upbringing: A moderately Republican son of the South – that “Harlan” says a lot if you know how to listen – it would be more surprising if his politics were, in fact, any different.
As good as Reynolds has been for my business – and it’s plenty good, believe me – I’m not here to praise him or bury him. I’m here to make a few observations. His essay today on Salon pretty much convinced me that Reynolds – net savvy, not particularly ideological, impatient with the hard Right, exasperated by the far Left – is the, er, pundit doing the best job of articulating the political aims and interests of Progressive Libertarians.

Let me be clear about this: We’re not talking Progressive in the touchy-feely, Lefty sense that’s so popular these days. This is, instead, a reference to the early 20th Century reform movement that shaped this nation’s politics for much of the last century. Progressive Libertarians – with their emphasis on self-reliance, speed and their profound disrespect for existing institutions – are not yet aligned with a political party. And as Reynolds illustrates on Salon, it remains to be seen who will capture their imaginations.
Progressive Libertarians – usually self-employed and business-savvy, interested in creating a political environment that’s efficient and well-run like the companies and corporations where they feel at home — are picking up members from both sides of the political spectrum. In Silicon Valley, many of these folks call themselves Democrats or Independents. A few identify themselves as Libertarians. In his Salon piece, Reynolds notes that many of his fellow travelers will remain Republicans, just not enthusiastic Republicans. He identifies himself as “Libertarian-leaning” and says social conservatives’ willingness to flout their party’s long-standing support of Federalism to enact the Terri Schiavo legislaition will cripple their political fortunes.
Perhaps. But I think the Schiavo bill – legalized judge-shopping – is the straw that breaks this particular camel’s back. This stuff has been building for a while. Take a look at California. When he ran for governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger got plenty of Democratic support in Silicon Valley by tapping into the Progressive Libertarians’ impatience and frustration with local and state government. He promised voters – dismayed by political shenanigans, corruption and incompetence – straight talk and quick action. He’s kept it up. A self-made businessman, Schwarzenegger knows his audience. In the presidential election, Howard Dean – also widely supported in the valley — did something similar. His outside-the-beltway talk and his staunch opposition to the war appealed to Democrats impatient with their party’s woolly-headed leadership. Dean’s willingness to embrace new technologies helped with this crowd, too. It’s the same group who happily approved a $3 billion bond issue to make the state a haven for embryonic stem cell research. This group thought – probably mistakenly – that Dean’s willingness to embrace technology also meant he would support the entrepreneurial, take-no-prisoners view of the world. Dean captured this group’s frustration, as did the stem cell measure, but his candidacy faded; when it came time to support him as Democratic Party Chairman, Progressive Libertarians turned elsewhere. And the recent politicking on stem cells is providing a clear illustration of Progressive Libertarians’ short-comings: Its members may be moderate in style and tone but have trouble crafting political strategies that embrace and extend their goals.
I don’t think Reynolds is – as Salon would have it – predicting the demise of the Republican party as much as he’s illustrating a political shift that’s in the works across the country, in both parties. It’s one that folks at Salon and other Lefty outlets, hunkered down behind the ramparts, would be smart to notice in the party that shelters them. More than one voice is being raised – on and off the ‘net, in and outside both political parties – for a politics of moderation and consensus. It’s one reason legislative and Congressional redistricting is so popular with voters in California and elsewhere. This could be another occasion in our national political history when disgust, frustration and outrage, sends everyone running for the high middle ground.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 12:05 PM | Permalink

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