ATLAS ROCKED Zachary Caceres is a very lonely progressive libertarian.
If anyone knows the polarizing attributes of politics, it's Zachary Caceres. As a progressive libertarian, the 23-year-old Brooklynite represents one of the smallest, most misunderstood political groups of all.
"I have sort-of progressive goals, but I'm deeply skeptical of the ability of large institutions, including government, to accomplish those goals," he says.
A jazz guitarist with screamo hair, Caceres grew up conservative in a small town in Maryland. When he got to NYU to study political science, he started questioning his beliefs. "I became a lot more skeptical," he says. "There's a dichotomy between small government and not caring about people and an interventionist, overweening government. I naturally started reading some libertarians, and I found out that it was the most plausible way to meet my political goals and my progressivism." He pauses. "But there's a lot of baggage."
These days, he says, he identifies as a "progressive libertarian," not a conservative. But that just means he encounters even fewer like-minded people.
"It can definitely be a challenge socially," he says. "On the one hand, I find myself in a position where I'm agreeing with a lot of people around me — but it's half-agreement. Then I find myself completely alienated."
Caceres attended both a Tea Party rally and Occupy Wall Street. Things didn't go so well at either. "At the Tea Party, people would insinuate that I was some kind of pinko. When I would go to Occupy, I was clearly a closeted fascist that would exploit the proletariat." Even so, he says, "I identified more with the Occupiers."
Alienated as he is, Caceres tries to be an ambassador for his beliefs. "One of the jobs of someone in a political minority is to model good conduct," he says. To that end, he tries to be objective and to build bridges.
Still, "I don't bring up politics unless it seems very appropriate, but if people start talking about politics themselves, I don't shy away from talking about it with them. I should be allowed to talk about it, too."