Hot Tub Libertarians
Ryan Sager has a piece at RealClear Politics wondering what the Republicans have done to lose libertarian voters and trying to figure out how they can woo them back. He bases his analysis on polling results and definitions provided by Gallup, “which labels as libertarian voters who say they oppose the use of government either to ‘promote traditional values’ or to ‘do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses.'” He also cites a Pew survey which “finds 50 percent of libertarians identifying as Republicans, 41 percent as Democrats.”
Given that libertarians’ traditional home has been in the conservative base of the Republican Party for about five decades, as part of a strained partnership with social conservatives, their almost 50-50 split between the two parties today is big news.
Ryan thinks the answer is that too many libertarians would rather sit in their hot tubs than get out to vote. This strikes me as quite unlikely. Indeed, the idea that libertarians should naturally be Republicans is bizarre and ungrounded in reality.
Yes, there is a large group of economic libertarians who are likely to be most comfortable in the GOP. Call them “Phil Gramm-” or “Jack Kemp Republicans.” (Of course, the fact that the most obvious names to mind are of retired Republicans may say something about the decline of that wing of the GOP.) But there are also lifestyle libertarians who are chiefly motivated by drug legalization, sexual freedom, gay rights, and similar issues. Those people are much more affiliated with the Democrats. And always have been.
Indeed, the fact that libertarians don’t neatly align with one party or another is the reason there is a Libertarian Party. The fact that they only comprise 9 percent of the population explains why the Libertarian Party is spectacularly unsuccessful.