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Libertarian Democrat

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In American politics, a libertarian Democrat is a member of the Democratic Party with political views that are relatively libertarian compared to the views of the national party.

While other factions of the Democratic Party, such as the Blue Dog Coalition, the New Democrat Coalition and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, are organized in the Congress, the libertarian faction is not organized in such a way.


Libertarian Democrats oppose NSA warrantless surveillance. In 2013, well over half the House Democrats (111 of 194) voted to defund the NSA's telephone phone surveillance program.[1]

Former representative and current Governor Jared Polis of Colorado, 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".[2] 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.[2]


Modern era[edit]

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.[3][4][5][6] 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.[7][8]

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,[9] and many anti-war and civil libertarian Democrats were energized by the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns of libertarian Republican Ron Paul.[10][11] This constituency arguably embraced the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns of independent Democrat Bernie Sanders for the same reasons.[12][13] In the state of New Hampshire, libertarians operating from the Free State Project have been elected to various offices running as a mixture of both Republicans and Democrats.[14][15] A 2015 Reuters poll found that 22% of Democratic voters identified themselves as "libertarian," more than the percentage of Republicans but less than the percentage of independents.[16]

Public figures[edit]

Ron Wyden
Jared Polis
Russ Feingold
Mike Gravel

Current elected officials[edit]



  • Jared Polis, 43rd Governor of Colorado, member of the United States House of Representatives from Colorado's 2nd congressional district (2009–2019), and member of the Colorado State Board of Education (2001–2007).[21] In 2014, the libertarian magazine Reason described Polis as "left-libertarianish"[22] and the "most libertarian-leaning Democrat" in Congress due to his role as "a leading voice on civil liberties, from gun rights to online privacy, from defending Bitcoin to advocating legal weed."[23] Polis has written an op-ed in Reason magazine arguing that libertarian-inclined citizens should vote for Democrats.[24] Polis has emphasized digital freedom issues and opposition to mass surveillance and warrantless wiretapping.[24] While in Congress, he was an occasional Democratic visitor to now-Libertarian Representative Justin Amash's otherwise Republican-dominated House Liberty Caucus.[25] As Colorado governor, Polis vetoed in 2019 three bills that would have created occupational licensing requirements for homeowners' association managers, sports agents, and genetic counselors; the vetoes reflected Polis' libertarian leanings.[26][27] However, since he was elected Governor, Polis has shown a liberal progressive stance with his backing and signing of legislation increasing state oversight of the oil and gas industry through Senate Bill 181, restricting gun rights through six different gun control bills, as well as 14 bills expanding government regulation over the healthcare industry as of 2021. Governor Polis, on the other hand, has also backed the use of cryptocurrencies and the elimination of Colorado's Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) and tax increases on tobacco.

State representatives[edit]

Former elected officials[edit]

United States Senate[edit]

  • Russ Feingold, United States Special Envoy for the African Great Lakes and the Congo-Kinshasa (2013–2015), United States Senator from Wisconsin (1993–2011), and Member of Wisconsin Senate (1983–1993). He is known for his civil libertarian views and for being the sole senator to vote against the USA Patriot Act in 2001.[29][30]
  • Mike Gravel, United States Senator from Alaska (1969–1981), 3rd Speaker of Alaska House of Representatives (1965–1967), and Member of Alaska House of Representatives (1963–1967). After his time in the Senate, Gravel unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, switching to the Libertarian Party that same year and losing its nomination as well (see Mike Gravel 2008 presidential campaign).[31][32] After that he then switched back to the Democratic Party in 2010 and remained in it until his death in 2021 (even running for president again as a Democrat in the 2020 election).

United States House of Representatives[edit]


State lower chambers[edit]

  • Elizabeth Edwards, Member of New Hampshire House of Representatives (2014–2018). She has been described by WMUR as "having a libertarian streak".[42]
  • Joseph Stallcop, Member of New Hampshire House of Representatives (2016–2018). He left the Democratic Party for the Libertarian Party in 2017, describing his views as "classically liberal".[43]

Authors and scholars[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Blake, Aaron (August 1, 2013). "Libertarian Democrats: A movement in search of a leader". Washington Post. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Polis, Jared (October 30, 2014). "Vote Democratic for Real Libertarian Values". Reason Magazine. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  3. ^ Lake, Eli (February 26, 2013). "Rand Paul and Ron Wyden, Drone Odd-Couple". The Daily Beast. Retrieved June 6, 2015.[dead link]
  4. ^ Shackford, Scott (March 4, 2014). "Ban the Dollar!". Reason Magazine. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  5. ^ Voorhees, Josh (March 13, 2015). "Pot's Path Forward". Slate. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  6. ^ Kim, Seung Min (July 8, 2014). "Cory Booker and Rand Paul team up for justice". Politico. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  7. ^ Roose, Kevin (January 24, 2013). "Political Leanings of Silicon Valley". New York Magazine.
  8. ^ Hamby, Peter (April 7, 2014). "Can Silicon Valley disrupt the Democratic Party?". CNN. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  9. ^ Wheaton, Sarah (March 26, 2008). "Gravel to Run for Libertarian Nod". The New York Times. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  10. ^ Steinmetz, Katy (December 30, 2011). "Six Reasons Ron Paul Has Appeal Beyond the GOP". Time Magazine. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  11. ^ Koerner, Robin (May 29, 2012). "Blue Republican or Red Democrat? The reEVOLution Crosses Party Lines". The Huffington Post. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  12. ^ Schwarz, Hunter (May 1, 2015). "Why Bernie Sanders is the Democratic Ron Paul – And Why He Isn't". Washington Post. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  13. ^ Weber, Peter (May 4, 2015). "Why Bernie Sanders is the Ron Paul of 2016". The Week. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  14. ^ "Free State Project Watch: Candidate List 2016". fsp.org. November 2016. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  15. ^ O'Brien, Jack (September 20, 2017). "How the Free State Project Is Influencing New Hampshire Politics". Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  16. ^ Welch, Matt (April 30, 2015). "19% of Americans Self-Identify as Libertarians, New Reuters Poll Finds". Reason.com. Retrieved March 31, 2019.
  17. ^ Eidelson, Josh (July 17, 2014). "Rand Paul and Cory Booker's Washington Love Affair". Bloomberg.
  18. ^ Daniel, Mitchell J. (July 18, 2012). "Cory Booker's Libertarian Case Against the Drug War".
  19. ^ Jacobs, Ben (February 26, 2013). "Rand Paul and Ron Wyden, Drone Odd-Couple". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on June 4, 2013. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  20. ^ Nick Gillespie, Five myths about libertarians, Washington Post (August 2, 2013).
  21. ^ Jared Polis, Colorado's governor, is an unusual breed: a libertarian Democrat, Economist (March 30, 2019).
  22. ^ Scott Shackford (April 5, 2014). "Ban the Dollar!". Reason.
  23. ^ Scott Shackford, The Gamer Congressman: Is Rep. Jared Polis the first in a wave of libertarian-leaning video game enthusiasts?, Reason (June 2014).
  24. ^ a b Jared Polis, Vote Democrat for Real Libertarian Values, Reason (October 30, 2014).
  25. ^ Robert Draper, Has the 'Libertarian Moment' Finally Arrived?, New York Times Magazine (August 7, 2014).
  26. ^ Alex Muresianu, Colorado's Jared Polis Is the Latest Governor to Embrace Licensing Reform, Reason (June 5, 2019).
  27. ^ Krista Kafer, Polis' libertarian streak shows in his vetoes of three more occupational license, Denver Post (June 7, 2019).
  28. ^ Sterling, Bruce. "Meanwhile, in the Libertarian Free State". WIRED. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  29. ^ Conor Friedersdorf, Russ Feingold Tried to Warn Us About Section 215 of the Patriot Act, The Atlantic (June 14, 2013).
  30. ^ Jesse Walker, A Farewell to Feingold, Reason (November 3, 2010).
  31. ^ Sarah Wheaton, Gravel to Run for Libertarian Nod, New York Times (March 26, 2008).
  32. ^ "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."
  33. ^ Stancy Correll, Diana (May 6, 2019). "Ron Paul calls Tulsi Gabbard 'very best' Democratic candidate". Washington Examiner. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  34. ^ Boehm, Eric (January 11, 2019). "Tulsi Gabbard, Iraq War Veteran and Skeptic of America's Wars, Will Run for President in 2020". Reason. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  35. ^ "Libertarian Gary Johnson offers 'whatever I can do' to help Tulsi Gabbard in New Hampshire amid third party talk around the candidate". Business Insider.
  36. ^ "Profile: Tim Penny". Campaign 2002. St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Public Radio. September 12, 2002. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  37. ^ David Weigel, The Real Bill Richardson: Is the presidential contender a libertarian Democrat?, Reason (August/September 2007).
  38. ^ "Markos Moulitsas: the case for the libertarian Democrat". Cato Unbound. Washington: Cato Institute. October 2, 2006. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  39. ^ "Whatever happened to the libertarian Democrat?". Reason.com. Los Angeles: Reason Magazine. August 27, 2008. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  40. ^ Ben Smith, Jerry Brown, Libertarian, Politico (September 9, 2011).
  41. ^ "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)."
  42. ^ Adam Sexton (May 25, 2018). "Father, daughter on opposite sides of political aisle in Concord". WMUR.
  43. ^ Johnston, Bob (May 10, 2017). "Another New Hampshire legislator switches to the Libertarian Party". Libertarian Party. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  44. ^ "Idea flying, a maverick breaks the feminist mold". The Milwaukee Journal. Milwaukee, Wisc.: Journal Communications Inc. December 6, 1992. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  45. ^ "Hark, a libertarian looks to her right". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, Australia: John Fairfax Holdings. April 19, 2005. Retrieved April 19, 2005.
  46. ^ "I have re-registered as a Democrat". KGO-AM Radio. San Francisco. 2008. Archived from the original on December 16, 2010. Retrieved June 22, 2011.

External links[edit]