Yesterday, Derek Hunter declared that libertarianism has entirely lost its meaning, that the party has devolved into a catch-all for people who want to criticize the government without doing anything about it. He also assumed that any Republican candidate would be better than a Democrat for classical liberals.
Hunter could not be more wrong. The Libertarian Party is still the face of “individual responsibility, small government, and free markets,” but how the LP arranges those priorities is changing. The Party needs to represent its constituency, appeal to young voters who largely have experience with Ron Paul, and has to emphasize its social liberalism to appeal to the broader American public. In doing so, the Libertarian Party is sharpening its policy prescriptions while becoming more inclusive, but that doesn’t mean the philosophy is meaningless or is standing at the sidelines.
Let’s have a look at some numbers of the people who call themselves “libertarian.” A few weeks ago, a think tank called the Public Religion Research Institute released a big data report on those who describe themselves as “libertarian.” There are some big consistencies; for example, 96 percent oppose Obamacare. But what is most striking is that a majority (39 percent) consider themselves “moderates”—not conservatives or liberals.
To be sure, this report notes that most libertarians are registered Republicans (45 percent). However, more libertarians are independent (35 percent), third party (15 percent), or Democrats (five percent) when combined. It is a misinterpretation of libertarian values to assume that all would vastly prefer Republican candidates. If we were just looking at party affiliation, Republican libertarians do not represent even half of the libertarian demographic.
So when Hunter exclaims that McCain would have been better than Obama, or Cuccinelli better than Sarvis or McAuliffe, he is speaking for himself, not for all libertarians. To ask libertarians to vote Republican reinforces only one purity test: Hunters’ own. Hunter seems to think that free markets is all libertarianism is about, and he’s happy to snuggle into bed with conservatism. Libertarians are the wrong audience for his kind of policy prescriptions.