In a political environment where third party candidates struggle to win major elections, Libertarian votes tend to become "swing votes" sought after by both Democratic and Republican candidates. Since traditional Libertarians share some values with Democrats and some with Republicans, it's often difficult for commentators to predict which side of the aisle will benefit from the Libertarian vote. Although the Libertarian platform features a strong focus on individual liberty, and the Democratic platform revolves around fairness and community action, there are plenty of important issues on which members of both parties tend to agree.
The Libertarian party includes many individuals who align with Republicans on fiscal policy, but disagree with right-wing social policy. Libertarians who feel strongly about issues such as abortion rights and marriage equality may vote in favor of Democratic candidates. The national Libertarian party platform lists both personal relationships and abortion as individual liberties that shouldn't involve government force. The platform states that the party's stance on leaving these matters up to individuals doesn't mean that the party agrees or disagrees with them. The national Democratic party platform also supports freedom to marry and equal treatment under the law for same-sex couples. Democrats tend to support the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, and the party platform states support for a woman's right to a safe and legal abortion regardless of ability to pay for the procedure.
Some Democrats found common ground with Libertarians during a 2013 House of Representatives vote to defund the National Security Agency's phone record collection program. More than half of House Democrats voted against the controversial surveillance program that had been overseen by Barack Obama, a Democratic president. Many Libertarians were also critical of the 2001 Patriot Act, signed into law by George W. Bush, a Republican president. This law approved wiretapping and other controversial methods of gathering intelligence, as a response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Although both the NSA phone record collection program and the Patriot Act received bipartisan support, they also were issues that joined traditional Libertarians together with a faction of "Libertarian-leaning" Democrats who cite privacy rights and civil liberties as reasons why they disagree with these surveillance programs.
The Libertarian party platform states that the protection of individual rights is the only proper form of government, and that the U.S. military should defend the country from aggressors, not police the rest of the world. Although the language in the Democratic party platform is more complex, and allows for some interventionist policies in controlling nuclear weapons and defeating terrorist groups, many Democrats and Libertarians share an anti-war outlook. The 2012 national Democratic party platform gives Democrats credit for charting paths out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Libertarians believe that criminal laws should protect individuals' rights to life, liberty and property. Some Libertarian politicians oppose laws that criminalize recreational drug use. Although the Democratic platform asserts the party's commitment to preventing drug crimes, it does state that sentencing and enforcement of laws have been racially biased, and that some laws regarding drug crimes should be reviewed or changed. Both party platforms lend support for due process, fair access to legal counsel, and constitutional protection for the accused.
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