The Rove Realignment

Have libertarians been driven out of the GOP?

Back in 2000, Texas Gov. George W. Bush's political savior, Karl Rove, was performing nothing short of an electoral resurrection, running around South Carolina calling Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) an unpatriotic, illegitimate-black-baby-fathering Manchurian Candidate.

Who could have guessed that eight years later, the senator from Arizona would be dedicating the remainder of his political life to finishing Karl Rove's good works on Earth?

And yet, as McCain runs around the country this fall, calling Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) an unpatriotic, socialistic terrorist-paller-around-with, it seems he's taken it upon himself to complete what should be called the Rove Realignment.

No, not the once-envisioned "rolling realignment," under which the Republican Party would add to its base of white Evangelical Protestants, bringing in Hispanics, culturally conservative African Americans, and economically vulnerable whites—those who supported Medicare Part D and opposed gay marriage in equal measure—to create a "permanent" Republican majority that would last at least a generation.

McCain's working on the other realignment: The one where eight years of fiscal recklessness and cultural warfare alienates swing voters and withers the Republican Party until the very base of the conservative movement cracks in half—splitting a coalition that has endured since the Barry Goldwater campaign of 1964.

That coalition between social conservatives and economic libertarians (who tend to be socially moderate to liberal), served the GOP well from 1964 to 2006. It gave the party eight years of Ronald Reagan and 12 years of a Republican Congress. But the Bush years have proven to be one long pulling apart. And, in a matter of days, we may just see the final snap.

The Cato Institute has done excellent work over the last few years tracking the shift in the libertarian vote—the roughly 10 percent to 15 percent of the American public that can be categorized as fiscally conservative and socially liberal.

Based on an analysis of the American National Election Studies, Cato found that between 2000 and 2004, there was a substantial flight of libertarians away from the Republican Party and toward the Democrats. While libertarians preferred Bush by a margin of 52 points over Al Gore in 2000, that margin shrank to 21 points in 2004, when many libertarians—disaffected by the Iraq war, massive GOP spending increases, and the campaign against gay marriage—switched to John Kerry.

Polling on libertarian voters is somewhat sparse during elections, but there are a couple of data points and some broad trends that can give us an idea of where things stand now. An early October Zogby Interactive poll found that self-identified libertarians (about 6 percent of the poll's sample) give McCain only 36 percent of their vote, lower than the 45 percent and 42 percent Zogby found them giving Bush in the last two elections. The libertarian voters claim to be defecting mainly to Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr and other third-party candidates, not to Obama. A Gallup poll conducted in September, which identified libertarian-minded voters with a series of ideological questions about the role of government in the economy and society (pegging them at around 23 percent of the electorate), found that only 43 percent of these voters plan pull the lever for McCain, slightly fewer than did for Bush in 2004. The Gallup poll also finds a significant uptick in libertarians planning to vote third-party, with 3.5 percent supporting Barr.

At the broader level, McCain's problems with the libertarian side of the conservative base are evident in how he's faring regionally. While the GOP can win the South without libertarian voters, as McCain is doing handily, it can't win the "leave-me-alone" Interior West without a healthy portion of them. And even before the economic crisis took over the national headlines in mid-September, the three up-for-grabs Mountain states—which by themselves, when added to the 2004 Kerry states, hold enough electoral votes to swing the election to Obama—looked grim for McCain. New Mexico (Bush by 1) has looked solid for Obama all year; Colorado (Bush by 5), likewise, has hardly deviated from an Obama lead in the RealClearPolitics average this election season. Only Nevada (Bush by 3) has seen the advantage teeter back and forth (it's now leaning Obama).

Why would libertarians abandon McCain? After all, they believe in low taxes—and McCain is the one promising those. And if they're concerned about social issues, well, McCain's never shown much of a stomach for cultural warfare.

That is, of course, until now.

The real McCain, whoever that is or was, may still believe that major swathes of the Religious Right represent "agents of intolerance" in our politics. But he has decided to stake both his election and the Republican Party's future upon them—from the barely coded racial refrain of "Who is Barack Obama?," to the rallies with shouts of "terrorist" and "kill him," to the corrosive choice of pipeline-prayer Sarah Palin as his running mate and heir apparent.

Tax cuts or no tax cuts, a party that can be roused in time of deep crisis only by fear and tribalism—a party that a supposed moderate is now deeding to its most extreme elements—can scarcely serve as a safe home to liberty or the voters who cherish it.

Two years ago, I wrote a book imploring the Republican Party not to follow its worst elements off a cliff—not to evolve, in short, into an insular party with little-to-no appeal outside of the rural, the southern, the Evangelical. As the McCain campaign flames out in a ball of Rovian disgrace, scorching the center in an attempt to fire up the base, it's difficult to reach any other conclusion than that the battle for the soul of the Republican Party has been lost.

Ryan Sager is the author of The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians and the Battle to Control the Republican Party.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Have libertarians been driven out of the GOP?

    Yeah Ryan, forty four years ago. Where you been?

  • Bingo||

    Ahhh... the "Get A BRAIN! MORANS" guy is my favorite counter-protester. He really puts so much of himself into his signs.

  • ||

    The real question is: What has the Republican Party done for advocates of smaller government and lower taxes lately? The answer is 'nothing'. GOP executive rule has presided over the largest expansion of government spending and power in our nation's history. The saddest statement on the GOP's libertarian credentials is that the Democrats can now legitimately claim the mantel of being the party of fiscal responsibility. The Republican Party has degenerated into an anti-intellectual organization that rejects intelligent discourse in favor of sound-bite thought and gutter politics.

  • ||

    Where once again we learn that libertarians care not for agricultural subsidies, health care, or free trade. Libertarians don't stand for just lower taxes, and it's important to recognize that you can't lower taxes without lowering spending-- but surely libertarians should be concerned about the Sen. Obama's spending proposals.

    Of course, I'm linking those notorious Rovians at the Cato Institute for these analyses, so I can't be trusted.

    Nope, it all comes down to Sarah Palin's church is creepy-- and that mentioning Sen. Obama's creepy church is beyond the pale and a reason to vote against McCain as well.

    Montana may lean libertarian in some ways-- but as that article shows, it also has a lot of subsidized sugar beet farmers who normally vote Republican but are voting for Obama, since he's "never voted against the sugar program," unlike Sen. McCain. Scary McCain is opposed to ethanol subsidies, the sugar import limits, the tariff on Brazilian sugar ethanol, and all that other stuff, you see.

  • ||

    The Republican Party has degenerated into an anti-intellectual organization that rejects intelligent discourse in favor of sound-bite thought and gutter politics.



    Funny, I'd apply that to almost the entire "Trade" section of Sen. Obama's campaign website. "Fair trade" and the "Patriot Employer Act" are sound-bite thoughts and gutter politics.

  • tarran||

    What's the purpose of getting into office and holding on to it indefinitely?

    I don't think the Republicans were motivated simply by a desire to keep the Democrats out of power. I think they wanted to use the power of office for their own ends.

    And when a person wishes to control government to further their own ends, all too often it is in order to use the power to acquire walth for themselves, which is not libertarian.

    In my experience, the Republicans who wanted power and were willing to modify their ideology to gain that power tend to mouth libertarian sounding platitudes in good times, and denounce libertarians in bad times. The actual philosophy of small government never actually figured in their plans. Tha plaitudes were more of a magical incantation, they say them, and people pull levers in the voting booth sending them back into office for another term.

    Libertarians, with their annoying demands that the government do less will rarely if ever get more than lip service from those who desire to wield political power.

  • gmatts||

    I've never understood why Rove has been branded a political genius to begin with.
    He took a candidate that, being the son of a previous president, had a huge network of resources available to him and won the presidency while recieving less votes than his opponent. Then he began to focus on creating a "permanent majority" only to have his party lose control of both houses of Congress, have his candidate, a sitting wartime president, win re-election by just 3 points, and now that same party is poised to be on the recieving end of a severe "thumpin'".

  • Abdul||

    It's accepted as fact that Karl Rove was behind some push-polling that implied McCain had fathered a black child, and this cost McCain the South Carolina primary. But the only source I've ever seen for that allegation was a Boston Globe column written by McCain's campaign manager.

    I'm not suggesting that Karl Rove is above dirty tricks, but I am sincerely asking if there's any evidence that these push polls really happened, that Rove was behind them, and that it had an impact on the South Carolina republican primary.

  • ||

    The saddest statement on the GOP's libertarian credentials is that the Democrats can now legitimately claim the mantel of being the party of fiscal responsibility.

    Two equations:

    "My boyfriend Joe used to beat me 4 times a week and now beats me 6 days a week, while my boyfriend Frank has moderated his behavior, and now only beats me 6 days a week" =/= "Frank is a better boyfriend than Joe"

    The GOP abandoning even the pretense of fiscal responsibility =/= Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility.

  • ||

    Sounds like a bunch of political Hooplah to me.

    Jif
    www.anonymity.cz.tc

  • ||

    Ryan, one would think that if there really were some kind of Rovian realignment that Sen. McCain would be cleaning up in rural areas. Ain't so:

    The Center for Rural Strategies poll, commissioned on behalf of the National Rural Assembly, sampled rural voters in 13 swing states from Oct. 1-21. During these three weeks the poll found that Obama led McCain 46 to 45 percent, which is within the poll's 3.38 percent margin of error.

    President Bush won among rural voters in battleground states by 15 points in 2004, and that margin was critical in his victory in key states such as Ohio.



    Sen. McCain is doing worse among those big empty Western states because of rural areas-- and it's not for libertarian reasons, but because "[m]ore rural voters in the poll thought Obama would do a better job handling the economy than McCain, but voters though McCain would do better handling Iraq."

    Of course, it could just be, as Thomas Frank will try to tell you, that farmers and other rural voters have realized that they need socialism as an out and that the GOP has never been serious about the social conservative agenda. That seems quite the opposite of what Ryan is arguing, though. It would be, though; Thomas Frank believes that the GOP only uses social conservatism as a feint to implement a radical libertarian economic ideology, whereas Reason writers tend to assume the exact opposite.

    I tend to feel that the reality is that it's hard to fashion a majority in the country anyway, and people aren't consistent about their beliefs. "Regulate everything except for my job or what I care about!" is far too common. In any case, as long as there aren't enough true libertarians out there, you'll be disappointed. Politicians do have to chase votes.

  • Abdul||

    gmatts,

    In 2008, Rove doesn't look like a genius. In 2004, when the GOP swept the table, he looked a lot smarter. I think you're right, however, that he's been given a lot of credit for electoral successes that he didn't really generate.

  • ||

    I think "Godwacker" has got it right. And reality is, the best Republican president since Eisenshower was Clinton. Its unfortunate that Democrats, the slightly less stupid party, decided that someone affliated with a horny, but successful man was not preferable to someone with a blank slate.
    We need a loyal opposition, but todays Republican party has to disintegrate so that it can be replaced with a party that has a response to issues other than "magical thinking."

  • ||

    1. The big swing this year is that rural voters are swinging against McCain as compared to Bush.

    2. As quoted in the above article, many farmers, especially sugar beet growers, many of whom are based in Colorado, North Dakota, Montana, and sugar cane farmers, based in Florida oppose McCain and are voting Obama, even though they normally vote Republican.

    Alan Welp, a Wray, Colo. farmer, who is the president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, said in a telephone interview that farmers usually vote Republican but that he believes McCain's opposition to farm programs will lead farmers to vote for Obama. "Sen. McCain seems to want to radically alter [the farm safety net]. It is not what we need at this time with higher input costs and lower commodity prices."



    This, then, is supposedly a sign that McCain is appealing to rural groups too much and is non-libertarian.

    I'd say that it's more a sign that opposing ag subsidies costs a lot more votes than it gains. Certainly trying to hold onto those rural votes in other ways can mean alienating other voters. But it doesn't mean that Sen. McCain is losing because he's not libertarian enough. In one important sense, Sen. McCain is losing because he's too libertarian on one issue for the American people.

  • ||

    As an aside, I'm happy to see Sager back in the fold. Now that the Sun has gone to the big printing press in the sky, can we get more Sager here?

  • ||

    Karl Rove's reputation for genius comes from:

    1. Managing a candidate as skilled as George W. Bush (has anyone else seen any footage of him from the campaign trail in 2000? That guy was GOOD!) to a 0.5% election loss versus Al "the human yawn" Gore, while a third party on Gore's left drew 3.5%, and

    2. Managing an incumbent wartime president's re-election campaign, and coming closer to losing than any other similary-situated candidate in American history, when the challenger was John Kerry, and

    3. Seeing his boss's popularity rating hit 90% after the worst terrorist attack in American history, and having the President's party pick up seats in the next election.

    For my money, the political genius of our era is Howard Dean.

  • ||

    Re: John Thacker

    I'm a libertarian, and no fan of Obama. But instead of defending free-markets and capitalism, the Republican nominee has supported the nationalization of the financial industry and corporate welfare, any argument the GOP has to defend free markets is washed away in a tide of hypocrisy. Add to that the lightly vialed racism (ie 'Obama is not one of us'), and the Republican Party has lost the moral high ground in this election.

    Re: prolefeed

    I think you missed the dark sarcasm of my comment. I did not in any way mean to imply that the Democrats are really fiscally conservative or fiscally responsible -- only that when George Bush spends more money than Johnson, Carter, and Clinton combined, the reality is that the Democrats do have a better record, how ever low that standard might be.

  • Critical Thinker||

    Yawn. This article reads as a poorly disguised plug for the author's book and introduces no new insights.

  • ||

    Ryan, one would think that if there really were some kind of Rovian realignment that Sen. McCain would be cleaning up in rural areas.

    Yep.

    The Republicans saw their numbers spike after 9/11, and thought it was a realignment. In reality, it was just a rally 'round the flag effect.

    This year's election would look very similar to what we're seeing even if Karl Rove was never born, and there would have been an illusory realignment towards the president after 9/11.

  • BDB||

    The GOP isn't losing this election because of rural areas. They're losing it because they're getting their clocked cleaned in the white collar suburbs. NoVA, Charlotte, Denver, Reno. They're the reason the respective states they lay in are in play. These used to be solidly Republican areas.

  • ||

    "The Cato Institute has done excellent work over the last few years tracking the shift in the libertarian vote-the roughly 10 percent to 15 percent of the American public..."

    whoa - anyone else think this might be a bit overstated? 10-15%!!! I realize this represents the ideological base as opposed to the party faithful - but it's kind of sad when the party that actually represents an idealogical base can't get more than about 10% of it to vote for it in an election. (BOE calculation - 1% vote libertarian vs. 10% base cited in article)

  • BDB||

    I'll add Indianapolis and the Chicago suburbs in Indiana to that list, too.

    Small towns don't have many voters.

  • ||

    Another brilliant Rovism:

    The fastest-growing counties are solidly Republican: therefore, realignment!

  • BDB||

    They're not anymore. The Republicans have completely alienated a place like Fairfax--that voted for Bush in 2000, barely went to Kerry in 2004, but now is voting Democrat at a 60%+ clip every election.

  • ||

    I realize this represents the ideological base as opposed to the party faithful - but it's kind of sad when the party that actually represents an idealogical base can't get more than about 10% of it to vote for it in an election.

    It's a winner-take-all election, you know. Even if those 10-15% of people were actually all principled libertarians (instead of some being the "I'm libertarian except when it comes to this one issue that I really care about-- and I care enough to vote on that" type of voter), if they all voted Libertarian it wouldn't make a difference.

    Yeah, supposedly the parties might try to notice and move in a libertarian way to capture those voters-- but those moves can lose any many votes as they gain too.

    Look at the party's advertisements; while Sen. McCain is certainly not running ads citing his libertarian positions (though I'm glad that he mentioned a few during the debate, such as on tariffs and agricultural subsidies), neither is Sen. Obama. No, Obama that I've seen is running ads talking about how bad corporate tax cuts are, about how bad free trade is (without being renegotiated), and especially about the health care plans.

    Neither candidate is reaching out to libertarians in advertisements. There just aren't enough there.

    NoVA, Charlotte, Denver, Reno. They're the reason the respective states they lay in are in play. These used to be solidly Republican areas.

    There is a lot of truth to that. But except for Charlotte, all of those are hit by the bubble-- and all of those helped cause the bubble through their land use management and zoning laws, of course. They're the very areas being bailed out. Do you really think that McCain, if he had opposed the bailout and hadn't made his stupid mortgage buy-back proposal for people who bought too much house, would be running better in those areas filled with people who bought too much house?

  • gmatts||

    "The fastest-growing counties are solidly Republican: therefore, realignment"

    Another thing that that fails to consider is why certain areas are growing faster than others. It's not as if it's merely because Republicans hump more and therefore their areas are growing in population. Alot of it has to do with people moving out of traditional Democratic areas to traditionally Republican areas in order to retire to areas where cost of living is much less. But these people also bring their ideology and voting patterns with them as well. Which is maybe why areas like NC, VA, FL, NM, NV, etc. are starting to get a little more "blue".

  • ||

    Actually, I think they are, BDB. They're just not the same counties.

    Theoretical County

    2000: pop 4000, 95% Republican

    2002: pop 7500, 80% Republican

    2004: pop 14,000, 72% Republican

    2006: pop 22,000, 62% Republican

    2008: pop 31,000, 50% Republican.

  • BDB||

    Thacker--

    No. But he voted for the bailout, and he's still losing there. Suburban voters don't like the culture war stuff, they don't like being told they're form a "fake" America, they don't like being told small towns are the only places with "values". That's what is going on.

  • ||

    all of those helped cause the bubble through their land use management and zoning laws, of course.

    Of course.

  • ||

    Aren't bubbles always caused by a shortage of supply?

    You know, like the Great Stock Shortage of 1998.

  • BDB||

    EX., Delegate Steve Albo, the only state legislator left in Fairfax County told the Washington Post this summer that Fairfax is becoming blue because too many people in Fairfax are "on food stamps and government assistance, so they vote for the Democrat Party".

    He is probably going to lose next year over that.

  • BDB||

    Should read, the only Republican state Rep. left in Fairfax.

  • ||

    The GOP isn't losing this election because of rural areas. They're losing it because they're getting their clocked cleaned in the white collar suburbs.

    Very good point. Playing devil's advocate, it's also worth noting that the evangelical movement is centered in the suburbs, not in rural America, so the social-con message was also primarily aimed at upscale suburban voters.

    But I believe that Obama's glib hoodwinkery is expertly targeted at suburban voters. Should he be elected, it will be interesting to see whether suburbanites continue to support Obama and the Democrats as they try to enact left-wing policies that have traditionally not played well in suburbia.

    BTW, I would advocate waiting for the post-mortem until the patient is actually dead. It seems likely that Obama will win, but many media polls seem to have odd sampling bases and are all over the place. The only poll that counts is next Tuesday. I guess polls, however dubious, have a certain value in ginning up Internet conversation.

  • BDB||

    Another example--

    In Chesterfield County, VA in 2005 the Republican-controlled Board of Supervisors started holding hearings about teaching intelligent design in the public school system, thinking it was a winning issue.

    They were shocked--SHOCKED!--when voters threw them out on their ear in 2006 for spending time on that instead of fixing roads.

  • ||

    Aren't bubbles always caused by a shortage of supply?



    Umm, they certainly can be. Not always, certainly. A low elasticity of supply means that price shoots up when demand increases, and drops dramatically when demand falls off.

    Just ask Ed Glaeser about the effects of land-use regulation and the housing bubble. Or Nobelist Paul Krugman.

    Krugman in 2005:

    But in the Zoned Zone, which lies along the coasts, a combination of high population density and land-use restrictions - hence "zoned" - makes it hard to build new houses. So when people become willing to spend more on houses, say because of a fall in mortgage rates, some houses get built, but the prices of existing houses also go up. And if people think that prices will continue to rise, they become willing to spend even more, driving prices still higher, and so on. In other words, the Zoned Zone is prone to housing bubbles.

  • BDB||

    Evangelical voters aren't suburban, ChrisO, they're exurban.

    A suburb is Mecklenburg County, NC.

    An exurb is Wasilla, AK.

  • ||

    After all, they believe in low taxes-and McCain is the one promising those.

    No. They believe in low government spending. And McCain is not promising that. The fact that he wants to leave more of the bill for the next generations to pick up should not make him any more attractive to fans of limited government.

  • ||

    Have libertarians been driven out of the GOP?

    This one has been. Not into the the arms of "change", but for every position on the ballot that has any third party option, I'm voting third party. Libertarian (preferred) Socialist, Green, Coctitutionals are all above the Dems and the GOP for me. If no third party is available, I'll hold my nose and vote Dem or leave it blank.

    My best and last hope is that the GOP will hurry the hell up with their self-immolation. Just be honest, become the Bapticostal party and be done with it.

  • ||

    Suburban voters don't like the culture war stuff, they don't like being told they're form a "fake" America, they don't like being told small towns are the only places with "values".



    Sure, most don't. And Sen. Obama also said that "I'm not interested in the suburbs. The suburbs bore me," and most people don't like being told that where they live is boring (and by implication that they and their lives are boring.) But people do get over that stuff, both ways.

    They're just not the same counties.

    There is a mixture of that. Fairfax County has somewhat more people voting Republican than it did 20-30 years ago. It just has two to two-and-a-half times any many voting Democratic. And of course there's even more shifts than what that reflects-- as Fairfax County has grown in size, it's actually been even or slightly negative in "internal migration" in recent years, as residents have gone to places like Raleigh, NC (Fairfax is the top county of origin for new residents of Wake County, NC), or perhaps just farther out in VA. Much of the growth in Fairfax has come from new US residents. So there's been a lot of turnover.

  • ||

    The fact that he wants to leave more of the bill for the next generations to pick up should not make him any more attractive to fans of limited government.



    He's actually pretty good on Medicare-- and getting slammed by Sen. Obama for that for draconian "cuts" in ads I've heard recently. Since, after all, leaving the bill for the next generations is always popular, regardless of party.

  • ||

    Umm, they certainly can be. Name one. Tulip bulbs? Electrification bonds? Tech stocks? All of those bubbles grew up during a period when supply was booming.

    Krugman certainly didn't win the Nobel for that article.

    Shortages of supply cause prices to rise, but in a smooth curve consistent with an increase in demand. The price spikes characteristic of bubbles are a different beast altogether.

    Furthermore, the theorized cause has been in place for decades without causing a bubble, while its effects on home prices have long been noted, and not conforming to a bubble. Then, suddenly, there are some well-understood shenannigans in the mortgage market, immediately after the stock bubble popped, and the zoning was supposed to be the causal agent?

    Furthermore, places like California and Florida have seen huge building booms, long before the bubble really got hot. They had zoning regulation, certainly, but it didn't do much to limit supply.

  • BDB||

    The places "further out" are voting Democrat though, too--Loudoun and Prince William. They were ridiculously Republican just one cycle ago.

  • Derrick||

    I think the personalities of the candidates - not just stances on issues - have a lot to do with things.

    Completely putting policy aside, Obama seems way more steady, warm, and collected, and McCain seems angry, headstrong, and divisive. I think McCain just rubs people the wrong way.

  • ||

    Shortages of supply cause prices to rise, but in a smooth curve consistent with an increase in demand. The price spikes characteristic of bubbles are a different beast altogether.

    Did you read the academic papers of Ed Glaser that I linked? Apparently not.

    Furthermore, the theorized cause has been in place for decades without causing a bubble, while its effects on home prices have long been noted, and not conforming to a bubble.

    Wrong. California had a bubble in the 1980s and early 1990s. Not as large as this one, but it did, and prices declined for several years afterwards. So did Hawaii, Oregon, and Vermont-- all states with stricter land-use regulations then. While the US had never seen price declines on a national scale before (the very argument used to justify Gramm-Leach-Bailey, since therefore hedging on a national scale would eliminate risks of local downturns), California had. California real estate, for example, did not recover to the 1990 peak until almost 1998 or 1999. (California, for example, allows cities to control development in unincorporated areas in the counties in which they lay. This allows supply to be restricted much more.) Please read some of Ed Glaeser's papers.

    It's quite inaccurate to say that California's regulations "didn't do much to limit supply." Again, those papers, as well as others, point to a much lower elasticity of supply in California. You may think you saw a building boom, but the numbers don't bear it out.

    More states have adopted stricter land-use planning since then. Florida adopted a statewide growth management planning law in the late 80s. Arizona passed one in 1998.

    Regional and statewide growth management laws and planning are relatively recent in most states, outside of California and the others (Vermont, Oregon, Hawaii). Regional and statewide growth management plans affect the elasticity of housing supply much more than simply one city controlling its own zoning. They allow cities to control the neighboring rural countryside as well and shut down development. This removes one common source of extra supply; traditionally, while those already owning homes in a city want to shut down development in order to raise their home prices, rural owners of vacant land are willing to sell to developers in order to make money. This provides a safety valve and encourages the growth in housing supply. (Albeit at a cost of sprawl that could be avoided if the cities didn't have anti-density zoning regulations, like those in DC that limit housing height and mandate minimum parking and lot size.)

    Las Vegas appears to be a special case-- in the case of Nevada, a driver appears to be slowing federal land sales to developers, another source of cheaply developed land (without zoning restrictions) going away.

    North Carolina and Texas don't have such laws; they also didn't have a bubble. It's at least worth investigating.

  • Kolohe||

    Another brilliant Rovism:

    The fastest-growing counties are solidly Republican: therefore, realignment!


    If the Republicans didn't destroy their brand by historically unparrallelled incompentence, this would have been true.

    And now they're digging themselves further in the hole by saying these places aren't 'real america'

  • Tsu Dho Nihm||

    I never really thought that libertarians had a place in the GOP. The libertarian-like promises of the Republicans have never been anything more than vapor.

    It does show that libertarians, like everyone else, are suckers for a slick marketing campaign promising them their hearts' desires.

  • ||

    Krugman certainly didn't win the Nobel for that article.



    For stating something well-known and demonstrated in dozens of other papers by dozens of other economists? No, he didn't, just as he didn't win the Nobel for his "rent control is bad" article either.

    Ed Glaeser has quite a few papers in the area; I threw in Krugman to demonstrate that this is the settled consensus of those who have studied the issue and of those in their field. But I guess some people just have to be anti-intellectual denialists questioned the settled science consensus.

  • ||

    Evangelical voters aren't suburban, ChrisO, they're exurban.

    I think that's splitting hairs. I bet you'd be surprised how many evangelicals there are in more established suburbs.

    No question, though, that Obama has made huge inroads among non-evangelical suburbanites, even out in the exurbs. Like I said before, it will interesting/amusing to see their reaction if Obama gets into office and begins behaving like the bastard stepchild of Jimmy Carter and Henry Wallace.

  • ||

    They believe in low government spending. And McCain is not promising that. The fact that he wants to leave more of the bill for the next generations to pick up should not make him any more attractive to fans of limited government.

    Funny still how it's going to add up to:

    1) Bush signs farm bill, passes Medicare drug benefit-- WIN

    2) McCain opposes ag subsidies, votes against Medicare drug benefit-- FAIL

    And this of course is going to convince Republicans that they need to be more libertarian somehow.

  • ||

    NoVA, Charlotte, Denver, Reno. They're the reason the respective states they lay in are in play. These used to be solidly Republican areas.

    Definitely some truth to that. But McCain is running 15 points behind Bush in rural areas of swing states. If he were running 15 points behind in suburbs as well, wouldn't he be getting crushed by even more in those states? I'm not totally sure of that, but it seems like the swing against McCain is worse in rural areas.

    As noted, they don't have all that much population, so losing them by more still isn't as many raw votes as lost in suburban areas. But it still argues against the premise that the GOP is becoming a rural party, when Obama is doing even better, relatively, in rural areas than in suburban, compared to recent Dem candidates.

  • ||

    I like to think that the individual pictured is sending a message to Congresscritter Jim Moran and his family.

  • ||

    And this of course is going to convince Republicans that they need to be more libertarian somehow.

    The idea is that a GOP crack-up--of any kind--provides libertarians with an opportunity to get their voices into the mix in a way that hasn't been possible since Tom DeLay and his friend took over the part in the late '90s.

    And remember, the rebuilding of the GOP will occur in a very different environment to the one we face today, assuming Obama wins. The opportunity for drawing a sharper distinction between the parties will exist, and I have a gut feeling that much of the social-con stuff will pale in comparison to anger over expansion of government in a leftward direction. Building a majority party in the USA is never an easy, or pretty, process. There will always be compromises.

  • ||

    I meant to write "Tom DeLay and his friends"...I assume he had more than one crony. :)

  • ||

    It does show that libertarians, like everyone else, are suckers for a slick marketing campaign promising them their hearts' desires.

    Boy is soodohnimb right about that one.

  • ||

    The drug war party has not been libertarian in my lifetime.

    "And this of course is going to convince Republicans that they need to be more libertarian somehow."

    Republicans will not be convinced to be more libertarian by losing...they will see that they cannot win unless they somehow support either

    1) a more peaceful socialism than the they have been the last 8 years and/or

    2) a less crony-corporatist socialism than they have been the last 8 years.(this 2nd point would include something like sending out $40k checks to every person with a net worth below 100k instead of trillions to Goldman/Morgan or massive simplification of the tax code, elimination of regressive payroll taxes...a distinction between income and wealth.

    In other words, swedish socialism may be popular due to our publicly educated masses, but lying us into wars and giving trillions of our money to rich bankers is not.

    Libertarianism may not be popular, but a more peaceful foreign policy with a marginally better economy would be.

  • ||

    as McCain runs around the country this fall, calling Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) an unpatriotic, socialistic terrorist-paller-around-with,

    Anyone know when McCain said this?

  • ||

    Did you read the academic papers of Ed Glaser that I linked?

    Yes, I'd seen his arguments before, including when Jesse Walker linked to them several weeks ago, and I found them implausible for the reasons I explained.

    Florida adopted a statewide growth management planning law in the late 80s. Arizona passed one in 1998.

    And like California's regulations, they didn't do much to crimp supply, as the building booms continued. They may have increased housing costs by raising the cost of supplying a unit, but those two continue to be high-growth, low-cost housing markets.

    Regional and statewide growth management plans affect the elasticity of housing supply much more than simply one city controlling its own zoning. Usually not, since most of them include mandates for assuring housing supply, often by overriding the snob-zoning, anti-growth regulations of individual municipalities.

    For stating something well-known and demonstrated in dozens of other papers by dozens of other economists? He didn't state something well know and demonstrated in dozens of other papers - he argued a highly questionable point that went beyond the well-known, frequently-demonstrated poing about land use restrictions raising prices, and argued that they actually generate bubbles.

    You're cherry-picking one highly questionable, highly ideological writer with an ax to grind, and overstating an area of research you plainly don't know very much about, because that one writer's conclusion fits your political preference. How sad for you.

  • ||

    Oh, btw, any time you want to answer my challenge to provide a single historic example of a bubble that developed as a result of supply restrictions, that would be great.

    I won't hold my breath, because that's not how bubbles work.

  • ||

    In other words, swedish socialism may be popular due to our publicly educated masses, but lying us into wars and giving trillions of our money to rich bankers is not.

    Libertarianism may not be popular, but a more peaceful foreign policy with a marginally better economy would be.


    Swedish-level tax rates would not lead to a "marginally better economy." And would lead to the GOP coming right back into power. The GOP has major problems, but Gabe, I do not think that you have much of a handle on how it could get over those problems--certainly not from a libertarian perspective.

    I truly think that many of the people who are voting for Obama have no idea what is going to happen to this country over the next four years if he wins. In American politics, parties are usually their own worst enemies, and I suspect this will be the case for the Obama-led Democrats. A more melanin-rich Jimmy Carter.

  • ||

    But it still argues against the premise that the GOP is becoming a rural party

    Yes, it does. I think it's better to say that the GOP is becoming a regional party, winning the rural and suburban areas of the South and some of the west.

  • Paul||

    Aren't bubbles always caused by a shortage of supply?

    No, bubbles happen when there's a perception of short supply.

  • ||

    Karl Rove is the Alan Greenspan of politics.

  • Fluffy||

    I think that the actual impact of existing land use regulations on the bubble was marginal.

    But I also think that the land use narrative helped to create the psychology of the bubble.

    The perception that real estate was an asset class that typically always appreciated and would keep appreciated was reinforced by the perception that increasing limits on new supply would be ongoing.

  • KT||

    Don't worry, it's probably the media's fault.

  • Paul||

    I think that the actual impact of existing land use regulations on the bubble was marginal.

    Possible, especially when you consider land-use cities like Portland who have quietly scaled back their land-use restrictions repeatedly.

  • ||

    ChrisO ,
    I certainly agree that higher taxes won't make things better... I just said the swedish socialist model was more popular than the neo-con socialist model that we curerntly have.

    "marginally better economy" would come from not wasting as many resources on tax code compliance and dropping bombs...and instead wasting it on socialist programs.

    You are correct, I left out the option of the republicans keeping the exact same militarized crony socialism policies and just waiting for america to get pissed at democrats(which I agree will happen).

  • ||

    "No, bubbles happen when there's a perception of short supply."

    I'd argue for most people the perception was of limited *time* to buy before prices rose out of reach, and that price was rising due to the flood of cheap money bidding up prices, not because of actual lack of supply.

  • alan||

    You are correct, I left out the option of the republicans keeping the exact same militarized crony socialism policies and just waiting for america to get pissed at democrats(which I agree will happen).

    The only restraint after Nov 4 is Rahm Emmanuel, and perhaps some of the policy guys in an Obama White House (assuming), otherwise the Democrats are the usual crocodiles offering to ferry you across the river they always have been.

  • mark||

    Not sure why this article blandly asserts that McCain is the one promising low taxes.

    McCain is, in fact, promising nothing different than what we have now. Obama promises to raise taxes for certain brackets, lower them for several others.

    We can argue all day about the merits of cutting taxes for one bracket vs. another from an economic standpoint, but we know already that one candidate has a plan to cut taxes for at least someone.

  • ||

    John Thacker:

    In one important sense, Sen. McCain is losing because he's too libertarian on one issue for the American people.

    Good one, but farmers are a special-interest group, and an increasingly miniscule subset of the American people.

  • alan||

    McCain is, in fact, promising nothing different than what we have now. Obama promises to raise taxes for certain brackets, lower them for several others.

    Noticed though how the narrative gets warped. How the candidates are judged is based on whatever election year plan their staff comes up with to attract the most votes instead of their actual record, no matter how it contradicts their record.

    A few times in the past few weeks acquaintances have told me, 'Obama is going to lower your taxes' (I know very few arguing for McCain these days TBH). Oh really ? You have that in writing with a notarized signature?

  • ||

    You are correct, I left out the option of the republicans keeping the exact same militarized crony socialism policies and just waiting for america to get pissed at democrats(which I agree will happen).

    Gabe, you're undoubtedly correct about this. Before change can happen, the GOP will probably have to go through a round or two of Democrat-like whining about how they didn't get their message out.

    There's also no doubt that the nanny state is much more popular than fiscal restraint at the moment. Unfortunately, I think it may take the Chinese and other foreigners turning off the credit spigot to change that. The National Credit Card seems to have just a little bit of room left on it. When the USA inevitably defaults on its unpayable national debt, things could get interesting.

  • ||

    A lot of libertarians care about the size and scope of government; on that account McCain is a dismal failure. He is also a failure on issues like free speech. I'll be voting for McCain because Obama is even worse, but I can understand why libertarians would just stay home or protest vote.

  • alan||

    I'm voting for the first time in years after the tragic mistake I made at the polls in 2000 (Bush). Barr -- Munger -- Dole (for voting against the bailout she gets my grudging support) and mostly 3rd party down the line.

  • ||

    Derrick:

    I think the personalities of the candidates - not just stances on issues - have a lot to do with things.



    More than anything else for American audiences. Otherwise, how could the celebrity of Palin be explained? And, ironically, how else could the absence of outrage at the "hanging Palin" effigy be explained? There are many aspects of society that this holds true for.

  • economist||

    Wow, alan, you voted in the last 16 years? How can you sleep at night?

  • Recovering Republican||

    "The Republican Party has degenerated into an anti-intellectual organization that rejects intelligent discourse in favor of sound-bite thought and gutter politics."

    This, I must admit is now true. I still feel an odd kind of affiliation with the Republican party but I no longer feel comfortable among a group of Republicans.

    I first called myself a Republican with the revolution of Professor Gingrich. He was, and still is, a brilliant man who studied history and had a fiscally conservative and Pro-Constitution agenda. He promised to bring to a vote a list of 10 items and he brought them to a vote. (No, he did not promise that they would all pass.) I have, up till this year been active in the party every two years since then. I would campaign; I would hang door signs on the homes of registered Republicans. I noticed a shift in 2004 and 2006. In those two years I no longer felt comfortable with my fellow campaign volunteers. The rhetoric was no longer primarily about limiting government. I remember being given a list of questions on a "phone survey" I was supposed to ask registered voters in 2004. I quit that task after a few calls. I felt sick to my stomach. Most of the questions were about cultural issues and were biased in their wording. I couldn't do it anymore. I still wanted Bush reelected. But I felt like alien, I was an atheist who saw no logical reason why we should amend the Constitution to prevent two gay people from tying the knot.

  • economist||

    Recovering Republican,
    This is why I never volunteered for political campaigns. More often than not they attract the wrong kind of people.

  • economist||

    I saw the signs much earlier. Back in 2000 when people were asking if Bush could "save" the GOP. I swore off voting for major party candidates after that.

  • economist||

    Except for Ron Paul, for whom I voted in the Republican primaries.

  • ||

    The Libertarians started leaving the Republican party when Tricky Dick got nominated.

    -jcr

  • ||

    I first called myself a Republican with the revolution of Professor Gingrich.

    I don't know if Newt ever meant a word he said, but the sad fact is that once he got a taste of power, that's all he wanted.

    -jcr

  • ||

    An old Clancy book that anticipated 9/11 had a Korean Airlines pilot flying a 747 into the Capitol Building while the president addressed Congress. Regardless of who is elected, we're going to see a figurative inferno.

    One asks, "Isn't there anybody who can play this game?" only to see the wretched behavior of the press jackals tearing apart any new warm, non-lefty body.

    The media is dead. Long live the media.

  • David Ross||

    Re, the "kill him" meme - are you calling the Secret Service a bunch of liars, or do you not cruise the web very much?

    Maybe you think "well it COULD have happened". Fake but accurate!

  • ||

    Sager is an idiot. He's been pushing this same dishonest crap for years now.

    Here's a news flash - the GOP is run by and for the Chamber of Commerce. Those people despise both libertarians and conservatives.

  • Anthony||

    I agree that there is an issue for libertarians and the GOP (although I still intend to vote for McCain, on moving back to New York in August, I registered as a Libertarian, not a Republican).

    I think what the GOP needs is a return to cultural federalism and minarchism. I also wonder if conseravtism really is a winning political strategy. After all, people want government to get them things.

    I think for a while at least, the answer is to sit on the sidelines and choose the battles carefully.

  • ||

    "This article reads as a poorly disguised plug for the author's book and introduces no new insights."

    And the book was a bad joke. Sager was singing the praises of Dem's like Brian Schweitzer and calling them wonderful libertarians. CATO gives him, and the other pols from the Mountain West, failing grades.

    The most libertarian governors, according to CATO, are from the Bible Belt.

    Surely Sagers fifteen minutes are up by now?

  • Richard||

    I am somewhat agnostic about same sex marriage, however I am deeply concerned about the courts intervening where they clearly do not belong. The author's reference to 'campaign against gay marriage' flips the issue. Since no society until very recently ever recognized gay marriage, there is clearly a campaign for gay marriage. If only they would campaign and not petition the courts to do what the ballot does not.

  • ||

    Yes. The more "right wing" the RP gets, the fewer its adherents. Free spending moralizers don't get my vote.

    The real question is: What has the Republican Party done for advocates of smaller government and lower taxes lately? The answer is 'nothing'.

  • David Ross||

    Big Boy 10:42, if by "lately" you mean 2007-8: the Republicans prevented the expansion of SCHIP. Also, in March 2007 the Republicans held the line on "card check" unionisation. Just two that come to mind.

    And McCain / Palin are proposing a smaller government and a less onerous tax system than Obama.

    So the real answer is hardly "nothing"

  • ||

    Much of this is correct (IMO.) Where I would take some issue, w/ Ryan, and some other libertarians, is in knee-jerk criticism of Palin. While she is certainly culturally conservative, there is little evidence to suggest she has allowed her personal views (on abortion, gays, creationist curricula, and more) to dictate policy. In a certain sense, that is REAL libertarianism; having and holding views while not seeking to use government to foist them upon others.

    There is little to like in McCain; from a libertarian viewpoint, there is even less to like in Obama. Perhaps significant support for Barr from disaffected Republicans (and Republican voters; not always one and the same) might nudge the GOP back toward more balance between it's cultural, economic, and libertarian wings. Or not.

  • ||

    Do you libertarians really think that Barack "spread the wealth" Obama (with hefty Democratic majorities in both houses) will somehow advance your ideas better than John McCain?

    If so, expect a profound learning experience in the next four to eight years.

  • Anthony||

    Choler -- I think for me at least is why I view the role of libertarians, and the larger conservative "movement," as one of standing on the sidelines for a while and choosing carefully the battles.

    And while I do not necessarily see Obama as "socialist", I do see him as a collectivist, interventionist, and that what I think his governing style can be best bescribed by reference to Burnham's managerial state or Galbreath's "new class".

  • economist||

    Person of Choler,
    Which is why I voted for Barr.

  • David Ross||

    RJ, the number to watch is whether "conservative" support is over 50%.

    Bush 2000 saw that Gore + Nader was over 50%. That's why his initial plan was to govern from the fiscal Left (NCLB, metals protectionism, farms, Medicare etc) with only tax cuts held over from his base.

    If Obama (+ Nader, + Constitution) wins with 48% and he sees the Libertarian and Republican totals over 50%, he might decide to govern like a Clinton rather than the Carter of his instincts.

    (Still no retraction from Sager over the "kill him" lie.)

  • ||

    I understand the flight from the Republican Party, I'm ready to bolt myself. But as soon as you trumpet your libertarianism while fleeing to the Democrats, well, you really ought to rename your magazine or at least put a disclaimer--"I write for Reason but I really don't know what that means." Because claiming libertarianism and voting Democratic is not reason. Naivete, maybe. Reason, not.

  • Scott||

    Not this one. While I'm, naturally, pretty sour on where the Republican Party has gone, we still only have two choices and it's still the better of the two.

    But quite a few of my fellow libertarianish pals have become frustrated enough to just shrug their shoulders. So there's clearly something to what you say.

    But, as I tell them, I think that's short-sighted. We need to either work to improve the GOP or move the Democrats over to where we are. The latter seems wholly unlikely, considering the Democrats' base.

    And we won't have any influence in the GOP if we're not working within it.

    Just my opinion...

  • David Ross||

    Scott, what seems to have worked for socialists is to form a "New Party" vanguard with one foot in the Democratic Party and an informal system of membership.

  • ||

    "The real McCain, whoever that is or was, may still believe that major swathes of the Religious Right represent "agents of intolerance" in our politics. But he has decided to stake both his election and the Republican Party's future upon them-from the barely coded racial refrain of "Who is Barack Obama?," to the rallies with shouts of "terrorist" and "kill him," to the corrosive choice of pipeline-prayer Sarah Palin as his running mate and heir apparent."


    This is dishonest left-liberalism, not libertarianism. Sager's a moby.

  • economist||

    To all libertarians voting for McCain:
    McCain's campaign is already dead, and your votes aren't going to change that. So why give the Republicans the impression that their base is larger than it really is?

  • ||

    --> rallies with shouts of "terrorist" and "kill him,"

    Ryan, stop publishing LIES!

    No proof of that.

  • Anthony||

    > Suburban voters don't like the culture war stuff, they don't like being told they're form a "fake" America, they don't like being told small towns are the only places with "values". That's what is going on.

    I agree (which is why I think cultural federalism needs to be reestablished). But by the same token, the urban yuppie cohort of the Democratic party (of which Obama is from) also claims that the suburbs are boring cultural wastelands (look, I am an urban. libertarian, conservative -- I like the cities, but grew up in the suburbs and understand why people like to live there).

    Obama at one point before he ran for higher office, claimed that suburbs "bored" him.

    So it goes both ways.

  • Anthony||

    economist -- I agree with you that McCain has no chance (I think the bank p[anic and his reaction to it is what ended it). In any event, I live ini NYS, in Brooklyn, so my bote is meaningless anyway.

    For me there are a few issues. One is that I have too much personally and emotionally invested in McCain. Silly I know. But I volunteered on his campaign in 2000 and spent most of the time since early 2002 whinning that McCain should have been president, not Bush.

    Second, I think the main job of the president is protection of the homeland, and I think Obama, with his Messianic outlook and his fear of looking weak will get us into further war. McCain views himself as neither Messianic nor does he have to prove he is not weak (JFK's fear of looking weak is what casued Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis).

    Thrid I want Obama to win by as little a spread in the popular vote as possible, to reduce the "mandate for massive change" talk.

  • Pundit Joe||

    To those looking to bolt from the Repubs - I understand your feelings, - I'm a strong conservative and I feel the party has abandoned me, but please consider the following.

    McCain/Palin ain't a perfect choice, but under a McCain administration we could at least still fight to restrain governmental growth/spending. An Obama administration, with a supermajority in congress would offer us no such opportunity. They could push through all manner of social and bureaucratic expansions with little effort. We all know how hard it is to eliminate those beasts once they are born. Toss in judicial nominees that will seek to legislate from the bench and we are in serious trouble. A chance like this doesn't come along often, so I fully expect Dems to take advantage of it while they can.

    A McCain administration, with a Dem House and Senate, would oppose at least some of the expansions and thus slow down the erosion of our liberties. Thus, giving us more time to fight.

    Please don't surrender the government and our liberties to the Dem's to control. Regaining lost freedoms is a lot harder than preserving them. Please help us fight for freedom and help change the direction of the GOP towards limited government and fiscal conservatism.

  • ||

    Mr Sager's article is weak on reasoning, and might as well be a Democrat position paper with its discussion of McCain as Bush Three and the usual run of discredited Dem talking points on McCain's campaign 'hostility' and Sarah Palin.

    George W Bush has done his best to push the libertarian-minded (and I'd number myself among them, though I'd never sign up for the Libertarian Party as now constituted) out of the party, but he had a lot of help from the GOP in Congress and elsewhere (like our RINO governor Sch-whatever.)

    To claim that McCain is an extension of the Bush program is to ignore the man's legislative past. McCain is no libertarian, but he is (support for the present bailout notwithstanding) a longstanding fiscal conservative and a man with a far better understanding of international relations than Bush has ever had.

    McCain is a decent man to stop the bleeding and stabilize both the country and the party. The question is where things go from there.

    Sarah Palin's record in Alaska is pretty much exactly what I'd want to see from a pragmatic libertarian-leaning Republican. An important part of this, of course, is that she has governed according to the law even when that law runs counter to her personal beliefs. She clearly understands, unlike say Bobby Jindal, that issues such as abortion and creationism are political third-rails in the broader context. I think those of a libertarian bent who demonize her based on personal beliefs have spent too much time reading the New York Times.

    The GOP will recover its vitality only so long as it finds leaders who can enunciate a path for small-government conservatism. Among all Bush's failures, the greatest has been his utter lack of oratorical skills. I'm convinced that at least some of Obama's support among the (deluded and misled, IMO) center is that after eight years of the Mumbler-in-Chief people are ready for someone who SOUNDS Presidential. And he may be an empty suit on foreign policy and dangerously statist everywhere else, but he does SOUND good.

  • actor212||

    As a liberal libertarian, I welcome my more conservative brethren home.

  • David Ross||

    Another thing: You want to be publicly accused of racism every time you ask The One a question? Sager won't mind, because he's just established his goodthink bonafides ("barely coded racist refrain"). How about the rest of you?

  • ||

    Libertarians are fiscally conservative and socially liberal? So they want to insure the election of Barak Obama by voting for him, voting for Barr or not voting. If this is true, then one things libertarians are not is very smart.

  • ||

    "libertarians" voting for an academic Marxist?

    Crackheads.

  • Who Is Good Will?||

    WHOA WHOA WHOA. The "kill him" thing has been conclusively disproved. There's absolutely no evidence to support the assertion this happened.

    Reason is peddling the plastic turkey all over again.

    And the really sad part about that is that this article would hold up very well without tossing utterly dishonest statements. When Mitch McConnell is making his stand in Kentucky on the basis of his ability to win earmarks, there is plenty of reason to suppose that the GOP leadership a) really doesn't get it and b) really doesn't care about libertarian voters at all.

    Please, next time, keep it honest.

  • ||

    I can only speak for myself and a few other close friends, but I would answer that many of us have been driven to vote for the GOP as a few more years of reality have driven home the point that a vote for the LP is a vote for the Democrats (given that Libertarians are much closer to the GOP than to the Dems and therefore that lost GOP vote is a net gain for the Dems) just as a vote for Nader is a vote for the GOP (given that Nader voters are ideologically much closer to the Dems than the GOP). Combine that with the demonstration after 9-11 of the Democrat-like starry-eyed utopianism of the Libertarian Party - and don't get me started on their Open Borders nonsense - and I realized that the Libertarian Party is simply not serious enough to deserve my vote. So I label myself as a lowercase-L libertarian or, more commonly, as a constitutionalist who votes against the socialists of the Left.

    I voted for Marrou in 1996 and Browne in 2000 (and I will admit: Perot in 92) but soon realized that I did not have the luxury of a feel-good purity vote when there was a much greater evil in Democrat policies.

    You have two choices and you need to vote against the larger 'evil'. Sad but true.

  • ||

    I'd argue that, in fact, not only have libertarians not been driven out of the party, but that the man in Barry Goldwater's Senate seat who rails against earmarks and as a "gateway drug" to expanded government programs and the fusionist anti-pork reformer from Alaska represent the most libertarian GOP ticket ever (Reagan was more libertarian than either, but GHW Bush was about as un-libertarian as Texans are allowed to be--maybe more so, since he was mostly Yankee).

    The trouble is that 8 years of Rove-ism and "big government conservatism" (an oxymoron if there ever was one) has left the libertarian right dispirited and distrustful. And for "swing" voters, smaller government and lower taxes WERE the GOP brand. Well, if both sides are going to expand government and raise taxes, why go with the amateurs? At least Dems know how to grow government and soak the rich--Repubs will just screw it up.

    Rove is a Nixon guy--and Nixon didn't like Goldwater, or Reagan, except to the extent that they shared a common anti-communism. But even there, Nixon was famously soft and accommodationist.

    No, Ryan, the libertarians are back in the GOP stronger than ever. The Rove-Bush-Nixon wing screwups have handed over the party, because they can't win without the libertarians. The problem is, they handed over the party after they had damaged it by ignoring the small-government wing for eight years.

    More than likely the damage is repairable. But I doubt repairs so far will be sufficient to prevent four years of socialism.

    (and, of course, being pro-amnesty is fatal to the GOP.)

  • WhipperSnapper||

    Here, in a nutshell, is the problem:

    "Every time Democrats and liberals launch a moral counterattack against the "mean-spiritedness" of even the most modest conservative reforms, Republicans cower, turn, then flee and surrender the moral high ground. When faced with the charge repeated time and again that they represent big business, the rich, and the "greedy"-and that their "cold-hearted" policies hurt poor women, children, and the elderly-Republican resolve collapses.

    The process typically works like this. Day one: Republicans denounce, with nervous indignation, the growth of welfare and regulations. Day two: They concede that people in need have a right to government assistance. Day three: They propose to save particular welfare programs through pragmatic reform. Day four: They shake hands with their Democratic partners and declare that a new era of bipartisanship and consensus has finally arrived.

    What the mandarins of the conservative establishment do not and cannot understand, given their philosophy, is that conservatives-to the extent that they ever had any interest in defending individual rights and limited government-lost the fight because they never engaged the enemy with the only kind of weapon that could win: a moral argument against the claim that those in "need" have a moral claim on one's life, liberty, and property. More importantly, mainstream conservatives have never made a philosophic argument for individual rights, limited government, and capitalism on explicitly moral grounds. Ultimately, they are embarrassed by, and have always worked very hard to hide, the fact that capitalism can only be justified if each and every man has a moral right to live and work for his own sake and not as a sacrificial beast of burden to the "needs" of society."

    From: http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2006-fall/decline-fall-american-conservatism.asp

  • ||

    "As a liberal libertarian, I welcome my more conservative brethren home."


    Sager was always one of you.

    And "liberal libertarian" is an oxymoron, one that ranks rght up there with "socialist libertarian" - Noam Chomskys self-description. There's nothing at all libertarian about you people, you're just hiding from the word "liberal".

  • Paul Hsieh||

    Ryan Sager is exactly right.

    I live in Colorado, and I'm seeing that exact dynamic play out here in our swing state. The CO Republican Party has shifted hard towards the Religious Right and it's alienated numerous fomer supporters such as myself who are pro-gun, pro-individual rights, pro-national defense, but who abhor the social conservatives' focus on stopping abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research.

    Long-time CO political writer Ari Armstrong notes the same at:

    "Faith-Based Politics Costs Colorado Republicans"

    http://www.seculargovernment.us/blog/2008/10/faith-based-politics-costs-colorado.shtml

    Several of us have contacted our local and state Republican officians to tell them the same at:

    http://www.seculargovernment.us/blog/2008/07/gop-platform.shtml

    If the Republicans want to embrace the Religious Right and alienate non-religious supporters of limited government, then they're going to lose big time in Colorado as well as across the US. And they'll deserve it.

  • ||

    gmatts: I've never understood why Rove has been branded a political genius to begin with.

    This is mostly because of the paranoid delusions of the left. For the last eight years any and every instance of bad luck, coincidence, misfortune, etc etc has been blamed on 'Eville Genius Karl Rove.' Bush wins through the electoral college? Eville Karl Rove! Bush wins a second time? Eville Karl Rove strikes again!

    Eight years of bizarre paranoia fueled propaganda against you as a living breathing supervillian demon nazi will give you a reputation as at least a smart guy I guess.

  • ||

    Fiscally conservative - socially liberal used to be more succinctly called the Decadent Rich.

  • ||

    Well, you had me there for a good portion of the article until I got to this:

    "But he has decided to stake both his election and the Republican Party's future upon them-from the barely coded racial refrain of "Who is Barack Obama?," to the rallies with shouts of "terrorist" and "kill him," to the corrosive choice of pipeline-prayer Sarah Palin as his running mate and heir apparent."

    Barely coded racial refrain? Are you kidding me? If anyone is race baiting it's the Obama campaign. He doesnt look like those other presidents on the dollar bills you know... Not to mention the absolute avalanche of press articles claiming everything from socialist to skinny is "racist code". Yes skinny, no exaggeration.

    The "kill him" thing has been uncorroborated by they way, and at most is some random lunatic at a rally. Hi2U Code Pink?

    Granted there are some truely utterly amazingly ignorant idiots in the party, just like there are in every party including Libertarians by the way... So get a grip Sager.

  • ||

    "David Marcus | October 29, 2008, 1:34pm | #
    Fiscally conservative - socially liberal used to be more succinctly called the Decadent Rich."

    Well I'm not decadently rich by any means, but Sager had me thinking I should really look into the Libertarian party some more at first. Now I'm thinking it's still only a half fit party.

  • Scott||

    Dash, the LP is a sideshow act. They're interested in impressing themselves with their ideological purity more than in affecting actual policy.

    For me, I think this country's far too important for such games. Trust me, I hate voting for the lesser of two evils -- but I've been doing it for years and will, I'm sure, continue doing so.

    I take solace, at least, in knowing that the GOP didn't nominate this Huckabee character -- who I'm pretty certain I couldn't have voted for (even over Obama). McCain's better than he is, but at least as statist as Bush is.

    Such are the travails of we who just don't fit, alas.

  • ||

    Socially liberal libertarians face a tough choice with consequences no matter what they do. Go with Republicans and deal with social conservatives or abandon them to give the totalitarian economics of the Democrats an electoral advantage.

    It seems though that 'socially liberal' libertarians have failed in the relationship with social conservatives. The libertarian ideal is rooted in the self-evident individual right to live free and own the product of one's labor. Social conservatives believe the same but that such rights are endowed by our Creator.

    The goal then, should be to move society away from the past 80 years of coercive centralized collectivism back toward principled collectivism, which acknowledges the needs of the poor and persuades other free citizens to volunteer their individual lives (ie, time and money) to help those in need.

    Small 'c' communism works when members of the collective are free to join or leave or maybe even tailor their level of commitment. That's what civic organizations and churches ARE!

    On issue after issue dividing us socially, the one common thing should be freedom - freedom to live by one's own conscience, up until it violates the rights of another.

    Up to here I would hope most libertarians agree, especially on the last point. But when the right to life is raised in opposition to abortion, the coalition fractures. Can this issue be resolved in a way which satisfies both sides?

    Here is where socially liberal libertarians need to compromise. For one, it is inarguable that human life begins at conception. The genesis of every person began with a male and female parent joining chromosomes to conceive a new code which immediately begins replicating cells (ie, 'living').

    Second, the mother-child relationship is unique among individuals due to the host role of the mother.

    It makes sense to admit sexual intercourse is how two people create a new person and that respecting innocent life is vitally important. But how to square this seeming common-sense proposition, supported by law where unborn children are killed without parental consent, with the widespread practice of the child's life being subject to the mother's convenience and/or pride (in most cases)?

    Change the law to reflect unborn humans as chattel property until born. In this manner we can all then admit the obvious - that abortion ends an innocent human life - but that if it is a sin, the state can leave judgment to God and/or the conscience of those involved.

    The same is true moving away from government run education to government funded/privately run to privately funded endowments for universal education. But that means allowing parents the choice of schools friendly to Young Earth Creation 'Science' or Wiccan 'Gaia Theory' or secularist scientism.

    Eventually students with brains enough to handle the rigors of college level learning, will have to confront modern science. For those who don't like religion or find it irrational, this is where the many converts to materialism occur.

    The bottom line regardless is of freedom to believe as one wishes to the extent allowable by the rights of others. Religious conservatives, the so-called extreme ideologues of the right, are much, much more inclined to hear the individual freedom argument than the extreme ideologues of the left.

  • Joe||

    Disappointing to see Sager repeat *yet again* the false, omnipresent "Kill him" story. Libertarians are almost always a lot better-informed and\or intellectually honest than that.

  • David K||

    To those libertarians voting for McCain:

    McCain is going to lose, so a vote for Barr will make little difference to him.

    Votes for Barr = a higher Libertarian vote percentage = less money spent on ballot access = more money spent on getting the message out.

  • Devil\'s Advocate||

    Libertarians wake up.

    A tape of Barack Obama just came out of him saying that he was upset that the Constitution limited government's power, and it should be written to say what Government must do.

    With 3 Supreme Court justices going to be nominated, you need to get your head examined if you don't vote for McCain.

  • David K||

    But McCain has his own issues with the Constitution.

  • John||

    "Back in the days of yore, when young whippersnappers listened to dangerous groups like the Beatles and major league sports were whiter than an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog, a certain strain of the Republican Party could be described as "libertarian." In a nutshell, these were economic conservatives who happened to be socially liberal, the kind of folks who would tell the government to get the hell out of both their wallets and their bedrooms. Their breed has become increasingly rare in the modern Republican ranks, to the extent that a new reason.com article declares that libertarians have been completely exiled from the GOP:

    ...

    The problem for libertarians is that voting Democratic is only a temporary escape from a Republican philosophy that has become increasingly statist and depressingly irresponsible. Libertarians are no more at home in the Democratic Party than Reverend Wright would be in a country club party. Forced to choose between the equivalent of a giant douche and a turd sandwich, where can libertarians go from here?"

    From:

    http://www.meltingpotproject.com/mpp/2008/10/is-the-libertarian-republican-extinct.html

  • ||

    To your point, "...the barely coded racial refrain of "Who is Barack Obama?"

    Alice, they're yours. They have truly lost their minds.

    Asking who someone is has become a "barely coded racial refrain?"

    If I was in my younger, radical, U of M days with Bill and Bernadette, I'd have said "Give me some of what he's smoking."

    Now, I say, "Give me NONE of whatever he's smoking."

    I'm never seen a more outlandish and intellectually corrupt statement in print.

    Congratulations. You have exceeded all of the lowest expectations for the level of your discourse.

  • Ayn R. Key||

    Wow, Ryan. First you participate in tanking Dr. Paul's campaign, and then you wonder why libertarians aren't part of the GOP tent anymore. Could it be that you helped drive them out?

  • ||

    I'm a social conservative who used to be a libertarian so that's my pov.

    At first I'm sympathetic with Mr. Sager's article, but then he flies off to NeverNeverland.

    From what I've seen, generally Libertarians (aka Tarians) like Sarah Palin. They saw her as someone who has socon values, but tended to govern Tarian. Besides, she's hot. One got the feeling that a lot of Tarian guys would have loved to find a Sarah in the grocery line, and exchanged phone numbers with her.

    I went over a list of fifteen small-libertarian points someone drew up. Me, socon evil theocrat anti-intellectual, tribalist blah, blah, blah, me agreed with 14.5 of the 15. I might not agree with all of your reasons why we should do a policy, but most of the time when its rubber meet the road time, a Socon is just a different flavor of Tarian (and everyone knows that Tarians have a thousand different flavors anyways. Ya'll are probably more schismatic than Baptists, and thats saying something.)

    Tarians tend to take a very limited number of assumptions, and try to make clearly logical structures from them. Socons tend to take in a much wider and more complicated universe, and make something that is frankly a little incoherent at times. Thats not anti-intellectualism. Both approaches are useful. Disdaining the seeking of wisdom just because it can't be precisely reduced to Aristotellian logic seems closed-minded and intolerant to me.

    Yes, Mr. Sager, that's you. Except I think you know better.

    So what are the Libertarians problems? Two-fold.

    1. Prejudgice. Your socon comrades mostly agree with you, but you spend an irrational amount of time attacking them with a venom that is out of proportion to the offense. Libertarians need to get over their bigotry. Socons have a right to a big seat at the table. And let me add that Tarians have a right to a seat at the table as well. I don't want to drive you out of the R party. I need you.

    2. RINOs. There are those in the R party who don't believe in morality however you choose to define it (by Ayn Rand, or RAH, or Paul the Apostle). They believe that power is good, and keeping power is better. And if they can get the Tarians to keep the Socons in line, then the RINOS continue to sit at the head of the table while smarter, tougher, and more moral people sit below them or are kicked off the table entirely.

    One last plea...I'd have been reasonably happy to have voted for Fred Thompson. I think he shot himself in the foot when he dissed socons, and after that he went downhill rapidly. But, he could have been good, real good.

    Instead, we got John McCain. Granted, war hero, honorable man, but he's not a conservative.

    The fanning of prejudgice against Southerners and evangelicals and poor whites is advantageous to a few pundits, but I fail to see how it helps the advance of Liberty.

  • ||

    Is Obama not a Manchurian Candidate? I still don't understand who this guy is. He has no Birth Certificate, at least not one he is willing to share with us. He won't release any of his records from his educational experience, the most substantive experience he has, and his whole thing last night was like a "get comfortable with me in the white house" propaganda piece.

    It's like he has become a part of the American so called "branded" lexicon whereby it's not the product that matters but the marketing and the advertising.

    Who is this guy? Where is he from? He's lived under three different names, he has not history- where are all of his Harvard, Columbia friends? Who knows this guy? The only people we know of are now Wright, Ayres and now Khaliki(?) and a guy named Rezko who we worked for in Chicago who got him started in politics who has connections to Syria and Iraqi terrorists and is a convicted federal prisoner.

    What is going on in this country?

  • Troy Westin||

    Libertarian and Proposition 8 advocate? Is that possible?
    I recommend to EVERYONE to read the post on editorialsection.com http://editorialsection.com

  • Alan||

    Associated Press Edition Date: 10/31/08

    WASHINGTON - The Secret Service is looking into a second allegation that a participant at a Republican political rally shouted "kill him," referring to Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

    The Scranton Times-Tribune reported that someone in the crowd shouted "kill him" after the mention of Obama's name during a rally Tuesday for GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin in Scranton, Pa.

    Shouts of "traitor," "terrorist," "treason," "liar," and even "off with his head" have rung from the crowd at Republican rallies.

    The anti-Obama taunts and jeers are noticeably louder when McCain appears with Palin, a big draw for GOP conservatives.

  • Alan||

    RE: Libertarian and Proposition 8 advocate? Is that possible?

    Boy, you've got that right. What a piss-poor situation when the great "defenders of liberty" are interested in nothing more than marginal tax rates and wealth-acumulation.

  • Alan||

    RE: I still don't understand who this guy is.

    You don't sound like you have the ability to understand anything more complicated than "you betcha".

  • Sun Stealer||

    No.

  • قبلة الوداع||

    thank u

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement