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In Declaration of Independents, Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch chronicle the rising importance of independents and libertarians:
“Independents and libertarians are arguably the vanguard of American public opinion, an advance scouting party hinting at where and how hard the country as a whole will turn against its leaders.”
A new poll from the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation confirms this. Many independents have already made up their mind. But 13 percent of the independents, or about five percent of the total electorate, are truly undecided.
Cato’s David Boaz points out that these voters are highly dissatisfied with today’s political system, that 64 percent support “smaller government with fewer services,” and 63 percent favor gay marriage. He writes, “These are the true swing voters, and they might well be described as fiscally conservative and socially liberal.”
This helps explain why more and more Republican candidates are running as “functional libertarians”—emphasizing fiscal issues such as spending, tax reform and ending bailouts, while avoiding subjects like abortion and gay marriage—and winning. This strategy may unite Tea Partiers in the primaries, appeal to libertarian independents, and woo other general election voters concerned about the economy.
Rand Paul may be a savvier politician than his father, perhaps trading his endorsement for Romney for a primetime speaking slot. But Ron Paul delegates, libertarians, and Tea Partiers’ views influenced the GOP platform. The Fiscal Times reports that in addition to “privatizing Medicare,” and promoting a “flatter income tax,” the draft GOP platform calls for a “permanent audit” of the Fed and even a national commission to study returning to the gold standard.
Paul Ryan is more political still, and perhaps the best libertarians can expect from today’s Republican Party. Notwithstanding claims that Ryan’s budget is “draconian” “radical” and “extreme,” Ryan only manages to balance the federal budget in 2063, compared to Rand Paul’s plan that balances in five years.
The story of the three Pauls and libertarians' growing political clout should give all libertarians reason to cheer—libertarian Tea Partiers and libertarian independents included. Thomas Jefferson wrote that “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Increasingly, politicians fear libertarians. And that’s a good thing.