libertarians and the gop
You see the occasional article about how we are now in a “libertarian moment” or that the GOP has been captured by libertarians. It is true that libertarians are getting more publicity than before, but it truly hard to argue that libertarianism – a consistent demand that the state scale back across the board – is actually here. For example, in the Real Clear Politics average of presidential primary polls, Rand Paul, the most libertarian candidate, has a huge 2% of support from GOP voters. Gary Johnson, the libertarian GOP former governor of New Mexico, could barely register support above the margin of error of polling, also gaining 2%. Ron Paul has done the best with an enormous 8% of polling in 2008 – and he ran against only two other people! And of course, the Libertarian Party itself has done very poorly at the polls and has shown no ability to pull a significant number of GOP votes.
Why does the media periodically report that libertarians are having a “moment?” Why does Salon think that libertarians run America? Three hypotheses: (a) Republican voters and politicians conveniently co-opt anti-state rhetoric when it suits them, even if they clearly do not have libertarian sympathies; (b) Some libertarians, like Ron Paul, are charismatic and have more media presence than the average GOP politician; and (c) libertarians are disproportionately drawn to the GOP due to demographic or cultural factors. An alternative version of (c) is that the GOP is a coalition of high-SES groups who have populist grievances, which would attract libertarians. My hunch is that (a) and (c) reinforce each other, while (b) has little explanatory power. Add your own thoughts in the comments.