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Is The Republican Party Becoming More Libertarian ?

by @ 10:52 am on April 22, 2009. Filed under Politics, Republicans

Via Stephen Gordon and Nate Silver, there seems to be some speculation out there that the Republican Party is moving toward a more libertarian direction on policy issues.

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.

5 Responses to “Is The Republican Party Becoming More Libertarian ?”

  1. EJ says:

    i would be very intereted to see if sanford and now with some talks emerging, former governor of NM Gary Johnson also, both run for pres in 2012. Even if these two dont become front runners, its interesting to note that the two of them are far more of the liberatarian bend then what we have seen recently and particuarly in the case of sanford, far more palletable to the general public then Paul. Paul at least seems to have shown that even if he is a little too extreme and comes off nutty, there is a “pro liberty” constituancy to try to cater to.

  2. tfr says:

    I also vote “no confidence” until I see some action, and not just hot air.

  3. Dick W. says:

    Quote:
    > For example, a recent Gallup Poll showed that Republicans overwhelmingly think big government is a bigger threat than big business,

    The problem with this statement is that “big government” and “big business” are in symbiosis with eath other.
    The one cannot live (thrive) without the other. Ergo, no party will ever willingly part ways with their “big business”, paying…sorry…contributing lobbyists.

  4. digdug says:

    I dont consider Ron Paul a libertarian. Imo he’s a states rights conservative. He believes in EVERYTHING decided at the state level, even if that would mean a state would ban guns. He’s for creationism in science class, banning abortion,… and other religious right issues. He just wants them implemented, or to be allowed to be implemented, one state at a time – except for abortion which he wants banned at the federal level (hypocrit). He also, last election, endorsed a verifiable theocrat for Pres.

    So he isnt my idea of a libertarian republican. I cant think of anyone off hand that is. The only politician I can think of is William Weld, and even he is kind of centrist on some issues. I dont think any libertarian politicans (“liberal” on social issues, conservative fiscally) exist today. Youd probably find that philosophy fairly widespread among the public though, which is weird considering this is a democracy (I mean weird that there arent more politicians that are libertarian). Just goes to show you how much control each party is under the far right and far left.

  5. Jeff says:

    I also am awaiting to see how the Repbulicans change/morph. However, the alternative is not good

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