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In American politics, a libertarian Democrat is a member of the Democratic Party with U.S. libertarian-leaning political viewpoints or views that are relatively libertarian compared to the views of the national party.
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. However 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.
In general they support tax cuts, same-sex marriage, the decriminalization of marijuana, a non-interventionist foreign policy, and to a certain extent, hard money. They are more likely to oppose deficit spending, protectionism, subsidies (especially to corporations), race-based affirmative action, and many regulations on small businesses.
They staunchly support civil liberties and agree with the national party's stances on civil rights, separation of church and state, and habeas corpus for unlawful combatants; they oppose indefinite detention without trial or charge, the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, the USA PATRIOT Act, warrantless wiretapping, the War on Drugs, bans on gambling, and prohibition of prostitution.
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.
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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.
- Former Representative Tim Penny of Minnesota - described as a fiscal conservative, Penny worked for the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute after leaving Congress.
- 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 nominations as well (see Mike Gravel presidential campaign, 2008).
U.S. State Governors
- Governor Jerry Brown of California
- Former Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico
- Former Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana
Authors and scholars
- KGO Radio host and former U.S. Presidential candidate Gene Burns
- Former Democratic National Committee Press Secretary Terry Michael
- "Reclaiming our Jeffersonian liberal heritage, with a back to the future re-branding of the Democratic Party". TerryMichael.net. Washington: Terry Michael. 2006-07-04. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
- "Now playing at Reason.tv: Interview with a libertarian Democrat!". YouTube.com. Mountain View, Calif.: YouTube LLC. 2008-08-28. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
- "DemocraticFreedomCaucus.org Freedom Democrats". Democratic Freedom Caucus. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
- "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.
- "Principles of the DFC". DemocraticFreedomCaucus.org. Somerville, Mass.: Democratic Freedom Caucus. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
- "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.
- Moulitsas, Markos (2006-07-07). "The Libertarian Dem". The Daily Kos. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
- Blake, Aaron (2013-08-01). "Libertarian Democrats: A movement in search of a leader". Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
- <Polis, Jared (2014-10-30). "Vote Democratic for Real Libertarian Values". Reason Magazine. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
- Lake, Eli (2013-02-26). "Rand Paul and Ron Wyden, Drone Odd-Couple". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2015-06-06.[dead link]
- Shackford, Scott (2014-03-04). "Ban the Dollar!". Reason Magazine. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
- Voorhees, Josh (2015-03-13). "Pot's Path Forward". Slate. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
- Kim, Seung Min (2014-07-08). "Cory Booker and Rand Paul team up for justice". Politico. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
- Roose, Kevin (2013-01-24). "Political Leanings of Silicon Valley". New York Magazine.
- Kotkin, Joel (2014-01-09). "How Silicon Valley Could Destabilize the Democratic Party". Forbes. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
- Hamby, Peter (2014-04-07). "Can Silicon Valley disrupt the Democratic Party?". CNN. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
- Wheaton, Sarah (2008-03-26). "Gravel to Run for Libertarian Nod". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
- Steinmetz, Katy (2011-12-30). "Six Reasons Ron Paul Has Appeal Beyond the GOP". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
- Koerner, Robin (2012-05-29). "Blue Republican or Red Democrat? The reEVOLution Crosses Party Lines". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
- Schwarz, Hunter (2015-05-01). "Why Bernie Sanders is the Democratic Ron Paul -- And Why He Isn't". Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
- Weber, Peter (2015-05-04). "Why Bernie Sanders is the Ron Paul of 2016". The Week. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
- Scott Shackford (April 5, 2014). "Ban the Dollar!". Reason.
- Scott Shackford, The Gamer Congressman: Is Rep. Jared Polis the first in a wave of libertarian-leaning video game enthusiasts?, Reason (June 2014).
- Jared Polis, Vote Democrat for Real Libertarian Values, Reason (October 30, 2014).
- Robert Draper, Has the 'Libertarian Moment' Finally Arrived?, New York Times Magazine (August 7, 2014).
- "Profile: Tim Penny". Campaign 2002. St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Public Radio. 2002-09-12. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
- Jacobs, Ben (2013-02-26). "Rand Paul and Ron Wyden, Drone Odd-Couple". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on June 4, 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-31.
- Nick Gillespie, Five myths about libertarians, Washington Post (August 2, 2013).
- Conor Friedersdorf, Russ Feingold Tried to Warn Us About Section 215 of the Patriot Act, The Atlantic (June 14, 2013).
- Jesse Walker, A Farewell to Feingold, Reason (November 3, 2010).
- 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."
- Ben Smith, Jerry Brown, Libertarian, Politico (September 9, 2011).
- "Decentralism" in The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism (SAGE: 2008: ed. Ronald Hamowy), p. 112: "In post-World War II American politics, decentralist themes can be found in such disparate groups as ... the Democratic left (former California Governor and Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown)."
- David Weigel, The Real Bill Richardson: Is the presidential contender a libertarian Democrat?, Reason (August/September 2007).
- "Markos Moulitsas: the case for the libertarian Democrat". Cato Unbound. Washington: Cato Institute. 2006-10-02. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
- "Whatever happened to the libertarian Democrat?". Reason.com. Los Angeles: Reason Magazine. 2008-08-27. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
- "Idea flying, a maverick breaks the feminist mold". The Milwaukee Journal. Milwaukee, Wisc.: Journal Communications Inc. 1992-12-06. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
- "Hark, a libertarian looks to her right". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, Australia: John Fairfax Holdings. 2005-04-19. Retrieved 2005-04-19.
- "I have re-registered as a Democrat". KGO-AM Radio. San Francisco: KGO-AM Radio. 2008. Archived from the original on December 16, 2010. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
- "Why won't the Dems show some leadership on Iraq?". Reason.com. Los Angeles: Reason Magazine. 2007-01-11. Retrieved 2011-06-22.