Now, there are people with principles different than mine who say we've actually found “the perfect leader for America's moment of permanent constitutional crisis.” They say we’ve found someone “who cares more about results than process, who cares more about winning the battle than being well-liked, and a person who believes in asking what [they] can get away with rather than what would look best.”
That wasn’t Breitbart.com describing Donald Trump.
It was Matt Yglesias describing Hillary Clinton before Trump’s rise. His article is a reminder that, if she wins, the progressive left will opt out of the tyrant-proofing project. "Committed Democrats and liberal-leaning interest groups," Yglesias wrote, “are facing a reality in which any policy gains they achieve are going to come through the profligate use of executive authority, and Clinton is almost uniquely suited to deliver the goods. More than almost anyone, she knows where the levers of power lie, and she is comfortable pulling them, procedural niceties be damned... if there is a future for making progressive policy, that future is executive action.”
Then again, maybe Ted Cruz will pull out a victory.
In that case, Democrats will rediscover their Bush-era objections to executive power, while Republicans go John Yoo on us again; offer defenses of police officers so unqualified you'd swear that they don't have YouTube; side with the FBI as it tries to secure a backdoor into our smart phones; and trample on other core liberties besides.
As usual, there are only worrying scenarios for libertarians this election cycle. When the most liberty-loving candidate may well be the socialist with disdain for economic freedom, but with solid anti-war, anti-surveillance, and civil libertarian bonafides, things are not optimal. Still, I stand by my belief that libertarianism is not doomed.
Back in 2014, when everyone was debating whether or not America was experiencing a libertarian moment, I urged against judging the matter using the standard that much of the press reserves for libertarians, where conservatives and progressives are judged with the understanding that political change happens on the margins, whereas with libertarians, antagonists and sympathizers alike act as if success means a radical shift toward an ideologically pure, uncompromising libertarian utopia.
In reality, libertarian ideas will only ever be implemented partially, in a system of checks and balances, where even modest reforms are difficult to achieve. The real question is whether future electorates will support policies that enhance liberty compared to the status quo. If that's what is meant by “a libertarian moment,” we're arguably coming off several important ones, and can expect more in years to come.
In recent memory, whole states have legalized marijuana and millions of gays have won the freedom to marry a person of their choosing. Technology continues to be both a blessing and a curse to liberty-loving people. Libertarians face a long, hard fight on surveillance, for example, and there's no guarantee of victory. At the same time, the rise of ubiquitous video had an unexpected benefit: So far, instead of bringing Orwellian dystopia, it has allowed citizens to capture unprecedented footage of police officers, proving a degree of brutality and abuse that libertarians have long known about but that most other Americans had to see in order to believe.