One of the great general truisms of contemporary American politics is that Democrats are the party of freedom on social issues and Republicans are the party of freedom on economic issues.
And like most truisms, that one is actually a load of nonsense.
Republicans passed Medicare Part D, many joined in voting for bailouts, and almost universally are opposed to pro-market immigration reforms. However, most people acknowledge the ways the GOP has worked to advance non-free-market measures.
What I’m interested in looking at here is how badly the Democrats have betrayed their supposed commitment to civil liberties.
It’s certainly true here at the state level.
Just a few weeks ago Gov. O’Malley announced he would veto any bill the General Assembly passed legalizing medical marijuana.
Looking at gay marriage, another signature civil liberties issue at the moment, Gov. O’Malley did give it his support this time around – but he was conspicuously silent about it last year when it didn’t aid in his presidential ambitions.
And during his time as mayor of Baltimore O’Malley was the architect of policies that lead to thousands of people being arrested without probable cause.
And it isn’t like Gov. O’Malley is a fringe figure within the Democratic Party – he is considered to be one of the frontrunners for his Party’s presidential nomination in 2016. If he’s the type of person they’re turning to as a leader, what does that say about the Party as a whole?
Looking from a potential presidential candidate to our current one, the story gets no better.
Pres. Obama flagrantly broke his promise to leave alone medical marijuana clinics that obey state law.
He went back on his promise to close Guantanamo and end the practice of using military tribunals instead of civil trials for terror suspects.
Going further than Pres. Bush ever did, Pres. Obama asserted the right to not only order the assassination of U.S. citizens, but to do so without trial and without having to reveal who is targeted and why.
Continuing with that trend, Pres. Obama has also more than outdone Pres. Bush in terms of deportations, well on track to deporting more people out of the U.S. in a few years than Pres. Bush did over two full terms.
It even appears that the U.S., under Obama’s administration, is pressuring Central American leaders to not attend a discussion on drug legalization they had previously supported.
It seems pretty clear to me that this isn’t an issue of one or two men betraying their Party’s values. There has been almost zero pushback against Obama from the Democrats when it comes to civil liberties while O’Malley’s readiness to set them aside hasn’t done anything to hamper his presidential aspirations.
The only conclusion to be drawn from that is that civil liberties are, at best, a back-burner issue for Democratic politicians and voters, if not actually something they care about at all (so long as they hold the reins of power).
So please, if you are a voter who cares about civil liberties and you have historically voted Democrat, please don’t continue to enable a Party that doesn’t care about the issues you value.
I’m not saying vote Republican, I won’t pretend they’re any better. But don’t limit yourselves to the two major parties.
Make a protest vote for someone like the Green Party or the Libertarian Party, whose likely nominee, Gov. Gary Johnson, was rated higher than Pres. Obama by the ACLU. Or just don’t vote at all (but make sure to tell the Democratic Party and others that you aren’t and why).
Whatever you do, make sure that the Democrats know the civil liberties vote isn’t to be taken for granted.
(FULL DISCLOSURE: I am the former Maryland State Director of Gov. Gary Johnson’s presidential campaign. I am also a member of the Queen Anne’s County Republican Central Committee. From the point at which Gov. Johnson left the Republican presidential primary I have endorsed no presidential primary candidate.)