"Are Republicans turning into libertarians?"


That's the question posed by baseball/politics numbers-cruncher Nate Silver, atop a pile of anecdotes and polls.

Aside from all the this-year's-model economic stuff that you'd expect from a party that miraculously relocated some of its alleged principles at the precise moment it lost power, there were these notes I found interesting/promising:

—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).

— If gay bashing is becoming less in vogue among Republicans, it's unclear which other cultural issues—areas where Republicans sometimes favor bigger, more statist government—might take its place. Yes, there's always abortion. But I'm surprised there hasn't been more anti-immigrant sentiment, as often happens when jobs are scarce; perhaps the Republicans' poor performance among Latino voters on November 4th might have scared them away from that issue. Marijuana legalization seems to be gaining some traction (although more among pundits than policymakers), but about half the conservative commentariat (see Glenn Beck, for instance, who calls himself a libertarian) seems to embrace it.

Silver's conclusion:

Maybe you see a pattern there and maybe you don't. But of 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.

I don't know if I see a pattern, but I do know that A) I'd be happy if it were true, B) there does seem to be some public-opinion tectonics underfoot on bailouts, marijuana, and gay marriage; and C) my expectation of national Republicans going libertarian even one hour past election day is roughly zero. Other thoughts?