For example, a recent Gallup Poll showed that Republicans overwhelmingly think big government is a bigger threat than big business, even more than they did three years ago:
Now, 80% of Republicans view big government as the biggest threat to the country, up from 68% in December 2006. At the same time, Democrats’ perceptions of the greater threat are completely reversed. In December 2006, 55% of Democrats said big government posed the greater threat, while 32% said big business did. In the latest poll, a majority of Democrats now view big business as the greater threat (52%) while only about one in three think big government is.
Silver goes on to note other evidence that the GOP is becoming more libertarian:
– The Republican alternative budget could be considered a somewhat radical experiment in libertarianism, dramatically slashing taxes while promising to balance budgets — an achievement that would only be possible if the size of the government were cut enormously. Meanwhile, the Republicans, with help from some Democrats, stuck into the budget debate an amendment to curb the estate tax, which will cost the government about $100 billion in revenue annually.
– Republican insiders are increasingly uncertain about whether gay marriage, which was such an important issue for the party over 2000-2004, is any longer a winning issue at all for them. Reaction to the Iowa Supreme Court decision was surprisingly muted in conservative circles. Meanwhile, at least one prominent Republican presidential candidate, Utah’s John Huntsman, has come out in favor of civil unions (although not gay marriage itself).
Silver goes on to note that, heading into 2010 and beyond, the GOP has several choices ahead of it:
[O]f the roughly four different pathways the Republicans could take in the post-Obama universe — toward Ron Paulesque libertarianism, toward Sarah Palinesque cultural populism, toward Mike Huckabeesque big-government conservatism, or toward Olympia Snowesque moderation/ good-governmentism — the libertarian side would seem to have had the best go of things in the First 100 Days.
Perhaps, but all we’ve seen so far is talk. Even the budget proposal that Silver mentions was more of a talking point than a serious policy alternative. What matters is what Republicans actually do when they get in power, and history shows that they don’t have a much better track record than the Democrats.
If the GOP really is becoming more libertarian, then I welcome it. Not only because of my own political beliefs, but because I think it would be healthier for the country to have an opposition party that is less beholden to the religious conservatives. For now, though, I’m skeptical and waiting for Republicans to prove to me that they’ve changed.