While other factions of the Democratic Party are organized in the Congress, like with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Blue Dog Coalition and the New Democrat Coalition, the libertarian faction is not organized in such a way. Nevertheless, groups made up of the party membership, such as the Democratic Freedom Caucus do exist. It was established in 1996 by Hanno Beck, Mike O'Mara and Andrew Spark. The caucus maintains a platform, a list of principles, and a guide for activists. The group's leadership currently includes 40 state chairs and regional representatives.
Libertarian Democrats support the majority of positions of the Democratic Party, but they do not necessarily share identical viewpoints across the political spectrum; that is, they are more likely to support individual and personal freedoms, although rhetorically within the context of Democratic values.
U.S. Representative Jared Polis, a libertarian-oriented Democrat, wrote in Reason magazine: "I believe that libertarians should vote for Democratic candidates, particularly as our Democratic nominees are increasingly more supportive of individual liberty and freedom than Republicans." He cited opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act, support for the legalization of marijuana, support for the separation of church and state, support for abortion rights and individual bodily autonomy, opposition to mass surveillance, and support for tax-code reform as areas where the majority of Democrats align well with libertarian values.
While maintaining a relatively libertarian ideology, they may differ with the Libertarian Party on issues such as consumer protection, health care reform, anti-trust laws and the overall amount of government involvement in the economy.
After election losses in 2004, the Democratic Party reexamined its position on gun control which became a matter of discussion, brought up by Howard Dean, Bill Richardson, Brian Schweitzer and other Democrats who had won in states where Second Amendment rights are important to many voters. The resulting stance on gun control brought in libertarian minded voters, influencing other beliefs.
In the 2010s, following the revelations by Edward Snowden about NSA surveillance in 2013, the increasing advent of online decentralization and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, the perceived failure of the War on Drugs, and the police violence in places like Ferguson, Democratic lawmakers such as Senators Ron Wyden, Kirsten Gilibrand, and Cory Booker and Representative Jared Polis have worked alongside libertarian Republicans like Senator Rand Paul and Representative Justin Amash to curb what is seen as government overreach in each of these areas, earning plaudits from such traditional libertarian sources as Reason magazine. The growing political power of Silicon Valley, a longtime Democratic stronghold that is friendly to economic deregulation and strong civil liberties protections while maintaining traditionally liberal views on social issues, has also seriously affected the increasingly libertarian leanings of young Democrats.
The libertarian faction has influenced the presidential level as well in the post-Bush era. Alaska Senator and presidential aspirant Mike Gravel left the Democratic Party midway through the 2008 presidential election cycle to seek the Libertarian Party presidential nomination, and many anti-war and civil libertarian Democrats were energized by the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns of Ron Paul. This constituency has arguably embraced the 2016 presidential campaign of independent Democrat Bernie Sanders for the same reasons.
- Representative Jared Polis of Colorado – described as "left-libertarianish" and the "most libertarian-leaning Democrat" in Congress, Polis has since "entering office in 2009, ... emerged as a leading voice on civil liberties, from gun rights to online privacy, from defending Bitcoin to advocating legal weed." Polis has written an op-ed in Reason magazine arguing that libertarian-inclined citizens should vote for Democrats. Polis has emphasized digital freedom issues and opposition to mass surveillance and warrantless wiretapping. He is an occasional Democratic visitor to the otherwise Republican-dominated House Liberty Caucus.
Polis also, however, advocates single-payer health insurance (a "Medicare for all" model) and preschool being added to public education.
- Former Representative Tim Penny of Minnesota – described as a fiscal conservative, Penny worked for the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute after leaving Congress.
- Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey — has been described by a longtime friend as having a "libertarian bent"; as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, he "drew criticism from liberal allies for embracing charter schools and voucher programs advocated by libertarians." "He also championed "enterprise zones," a free-market approach to solving urban blight credited to the late Jack Kemp, a hard-core supply-sider and occasional Republican presidential contender who helped raise money for Booker's first mayoral campaign." Daniel J. Mitchell of the Cato Institute identities Booker as having libertarian views in opposition to the War on Drugs.
- Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon — known for civil libertarian views and cooperation with libertarian Republican Senator Rand Paul in efforts against the use of domestic drones and warrantless surveillance
- Former Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin — known for civil libertarian views and for being the sole senator to vote against the USA Patriot Act in 2001
- Former Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska — after his time in the Senate, Gravel unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, switching to the Libertarian Party the same year and losing its nomination as well (see Mike Gravel presidential campaign, 2008).
U.S. State GovernorsEdit
- Former Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico
- Former Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana
Authors and scholarsEdit
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- "Another approach: The Democratic Freedom Caucus". FreeLiberal.com. Woodbridge, Va.: The Free Liberal. 2005-04-14. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
- "DFC platform". DemocraticFreedomCaucus.org. Somerville, Mass.: Democratic Freedom Caucus. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
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- "Guide for activists". DemocraticFreedomCaucus.org. Somerville, Mass.: Democratic Freedom Caucus. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
- "DFC state chairs and regional representatives". DemocraticFreedomCaucus.org. Somerville, Mass.: Democratic Freedom Caucus. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
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- Jared Polis, Vote Democrat for Real Libertarian Values, Reason (October 30, 2014).
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- "Profile: Tim Penny". Campaign 2002. St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Public Radio. 2002-09-12. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
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- Conor Friedersdorf, Russ Feingold Tried to Warn Us About Section 215 of the Patriot Act, The Atlantic (June 14, 2013).
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- Sarah Wheaton, Gravel to Run for Libertarian Nod, New York Times (March 26, 2008).
- "Libertarian Party" in Historical Dictionary of United States Political Parties (ed. Harold F. Bass Jr.: Scarecrow Press: 2d ed., 2009), p. 180: "Among the more prominent Democrats in the Libertarian camp is former senator Mike Gravel ... who ran unsuccessfully for the presidential nominations of both the Democratic and Libertarian parties in 2008."
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