Mark Penn, who has been a pollster and consultant to the presidential campaigns of Bill and Hillary Clinton, John Anderson, and Ross Perot, writes about political discontent in Britain and the United States in the Washington Post today, noting that in this country
socially liberal and fiscally conservative voters believe, especially after what happened with health care, that they have no clear choice: They must sign on with the religious right or the economic left.
Libertarian — or fiscally conservative, socially liberal — voters are often torn between their aversions to the Republicans' social conservatism and the Democrats' fiscal irresponsibility.
Libertarian-leaning voters are a large swing vote, and they do indeed find problems with both parties. As parties increasingly cater to their "base," libertarian-leaning independents find themselves dissatisfied with both liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans. We noted in our first study, "The Libertarian Vote," that according to the 2004 exit polls, "28 million Bush voters support[ed] either marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples" and "17 million Kerry voters . . . thought government should not . . . 'do more to solve problems.'" That was 45 million voters who didn't seem to fit neatly into the red-blue, liberal-conservative dichotomy.
But Penn is on less solid ground in his next line:
It is just a matter of time before they demand their own movement or party.
Movement, maybe. The Ron Paul campaign certainly appealed to antiwar, small-government voters. And the Tea Party movement focuses almost exclusively on economic and constitutional issues, making it more appealing to libertarians than typical conservative organizations. Meanwhile, as the Tea Party opposition to the Democrats' big-government opposition surges, so does progress toward marriage equality and rational drug reform. Maybe those various libertarian-leaning groups will find each other. But a new party is a much bigger challenge. It's no accident that the only third party that achieved even modest success in recent history was headed a billionaire who was also a celebrity, Ross Perot. Ballot access laws, campaign finance restrictions, exclusion of third-party candidates from debates and media coverage, single-member districts -- all make it difficult to start a successful third party. It may also be the case that moderates, who tend not to be very angry, and libertarians, who don't really much like politics, are particularly ill suited to undertake the massive amount of work that a new party requires.
But Penn is absolutely right to point to the plight of "socially liberal and fiscally conservative voters," forced in every election to "sign on with the religious right or the economic left."
A new report by the non-partisan Law Library of Congress now publicly available reviews the legal and constitutional issues surrounding Honduran President Zelaya’s removal from office. The report concludes that both the Supreme Court of Honduras and the Congress acted in full accordance with the constitution in removing the president from power. The study, first reported by Mary O’Grady in the Wall Street Journal this Monday, is consistent with the point she, Juan Carlos Hidalgo, and others have made with regard to Washington’s unbelievable policy of undermining Honduras’ rule of law by insisting on Zelaya’s return to power, calling his removal a coup, and otherwise sanctioning the small nation’s Supreme Court by suspending the visas of its justices.
The House has passed a measure imposing a special punitive tax of 90% on certain employee compensation in response to the AIG scandal. As others have noted, this raises serious constitutional issues. Article I, Section 9, Clause 3 says simply and directly: "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed." The congressional bill being considered in response to the AIG bonuses seems to violate both those prohibitions at least in spirit.
The Constitution's Framers apparently considered (page 154) this clause to be very important in guarding against legislative tyranny, and James Madison noted in Federalist 44:
Bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and laws impairing the obligation of contracts, are contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation.
Aside from the dangers to liberty from overzealous members of Congress, there are issues of priorities here. While Congress has been busy with this particular inquisition, the Federal Reserve is moving ahead with a new plan to shower the economy with a massive $1.2 trillion cash infusion--an amount 7,200 times greater than the $165 million of AIG retention bonuses.
So members of Congress should be grabbing their pitchforks and heading down to the Fed building, not lynching AIG financial managers, most of whom were not the ones behind the company's failures.