Many media outlets talk of a rising tide of libertarianism in the GOP. They say the party will/should embrace a more libertarian streak. Examples of this include the Washington Post on Sunday and Reason.com everyday of the week.
The argument being that younger voters (who normally don’t vote in primaries) support gay marriage but don’t want to pay taxes so if the GOP simply ignores millions of social conservatives who are in its state committees, staff its county/city committees, and are precinct captains, then we’ll be entering a GOP golden age.
You can probably guess how realistic I think that entire proposition is for the GOP.
First, there is the political reality I mentioned that the GOP’s activist base is not socially liberal and many of them (not all) got involved with the GOP because of social issues including being pro-life on abortion, anti-immigration, getting tough on crime and opposing gay marriage.
Second, there really aren’t that many people in the GOP we are socially liberal and economically conservative. Have I taken a poll on this? Nope. I’m sure Reason, Log Cabin Republicans or Republicans for Choice have and they say I’m wrong. But what I do have is actual election returns.
Consider this. In 2008 a legitimate social liberal/fiscal conservative ran for President on the GOP side. His name? Rudy Giuliani. Yes, Time Magazines’ Man of the Year in 2001 was (based on his record in office) pro-choice, pro-gay rights, for reforming gun laws but also cut taxes, reformed welfare, lashed government, and very pro-free trade. Hell George Will called his term as NYC Mayor “The eight most consecutive years of successful conservative governance in the 20th Century in America.”
How many states did he win? Despite being a national hero Rudy won NO states in the 2008 primary.
But at the same time someone who was socially conservative and economically liberal ran for the GOP nomination. His name was (is) Mike Huckabee. Mr. Huckabee is 100% pro-life on abortion, opposed to gay rights (especially gay marriage), against gun control, but opposed NAFTA, was against vouchers in Arkansas (in fact he received the Arkansas teacher union endorsement), and called the Club for Growth the Club for Greed.
How did he do? Well he wasn’t Man of the Year or anything, in fact he was a national political unknown when he announced in 2007, but the governor ended up winning Iowa, West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Kansas, and Louisiana. He came in second in the delegate count.
I think this tells us that a likeable populist still has appeal with Americans. Second, it shows that the GOP primary voters are ust as suspicious of big business as they are of big business. Huckabee was not the first to exploit this fact. Does the name Buchanan ring any bells? Third, this is a party whose cultural identity is in the South and small towns. Candidates thought to be too favored by those in big cities or the Northeast (aka God’s country) may not be able to fly with the current GOP primary voting crowd.
So for the three people reading Reason Magazine or the national newspaper political writers getting ready to proclaim a libertarian rebirth in the GOP you might want to hold your horses. Recent history suggests your bark is way bigger than your bite.