You get smarter as you get older. No question about it. Perspectives change, of course. But nothing much has changed in my political opinions since I was about 15, and that was a long time ago. I know more, but the values have stayed pretty much the same.
What has changed is the political culture in America. Even this New England-bred lefty concedes that the 1960's left us with a legacy of nannyism of the kindly, intrusive, intensely annoying variety on the Democratic side -- which then got taken over by the self-righteous goon squads on the Republican fringe and turned into hardcore authoritarianism, into statist nannyism.
I don't like either of them. They leave us with no air to breathe. When I returned to the US after a long time overseas, this finger-wagging conformity, this dreadful nannyism, was probably the most noticeable uh-oh! in America next to environmental degradation.
These days my old-fashioned New England leftiness, unchanged, is showing its libertarian streak. That streak is turningup in lots of fellow lefties who are skeptical about the Democratic Party.
We're the ones who demand a government which stays out of marriage, out of personal medical decisions, out of historical revisionism, and countless other areas of life. We want a state that facilitates liberty, not redefines it downwards and fences it in.
John Tierney writes about libertarians in today's New York Times. He seems to think only Westerners tend to be libertarians. Wrong. He misses the libertarian toughness now ever more visible in progressives and others on the left who live in Oregon and Washington as much as in Nevada, in Tennessee and Pennsylvania as much as in Maine and New Hampshire. Or here in Texas. Leave out the fringies on the left and the right and you'll find a huge coalition of mildly libertarian centrist conservatives and progressives . They're all looking at the 21st century perversion we call federal government and thinking R-E-F-O-R-M.
Tierney reminds us:
...The Republican war on marijuana — the chief priority of the current drug czar — isn’t playing any better in the heartland. More than 40 percent of people over the age of 12 have tried marijuana, and more than three-quarters of Americans support legalizing it for medical purposes. The White House and the Justice Department have had little luck in their attempts to stop states from legalizing medical marijuana, but they have succeeded in alienating voters...
...Western Democrats have been siphoning off libertarian voters by moderating their liberal views on issues like gun control, but Republicans have been driving libertarians away with their wars on vice and their jeremiads against gay marriage (and their attempt to regulate that from Washington, too)...
And here's the one which resonates with me:
...They distrust moral busybodies of both parties, and they may well be the most important bloc of swing voters this election, as David Boaz and David Kirby conclude in a new study for the Cato Institute...
If I had to give only one reason why I left the Democratic Party several years go, it would be precisely that. Disgusted by the moral busybodies on the right, I had to admit I was no less disgusted by the moral busybodies in my own party. I had the occasion a little while back to talk with an energetic Democrat running for a high state government position. What struck me was the extent to which he shares that view.
Both parties are facing splits in their own ranks. How the Democratic Party deals with the independence and libertarian streak of the new progressive movement will define its future, I think.