Conservatism

Half of Tea Partiers Are Libertarians. The Fun Half.

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the gal on the right is clearly the libertarian. Look at those glasses! And her daring low cut jacket.

David Kirby—of Holy Moley, There Are Libertarians Everywhere! fame—is at it again, separating the wheat from the chaff at a recent Tea Party rally and finding that about half of the revelers are best described as libertarians. Kirby, along with Cato colleague Emily Ekins, reports that 48 percent of participants at a Virginia rally "believe 'the less government the better' and don't see a role for government in promoting 'traditional values.'"

About 60 percent of these folks call themselves "independent" or "something else" when asked about their political affiliation, so they can be tough to sniff out. But for you skeptics out there:

Some might say that two Cato Institute analysts are likely to find libertarians everywhere. But our survey replicates a Politico/Targetpoint survey from a tea party rally in April, which also revealed an even split between libertarians and conservatives.

This is reflected as well in a new national survey from The Washington Post/Kaiser/Harvard on the role of government. It found respondents who support or lean toward the tea party split on the social issues: 42 percent moderate-to-liberal, 57 percent conservative or very conservative.

If the Tea Party seems schizo—what with all of the "Get Government Out of My Medicare" business—that's because it's a house divided. Or at least a lean-to partitioned by a sheet strung on a clothesline. The traditional conservatism of half the crowd is easier for outsiders to grasp, and easier to capture in polls. But buried in the crowd are findings like this one, which reveal something else is going on in the ranks besides the same old conservative Republican ticked-offness:

When asked whether the Republican or Democratic Party has the best ideas to fix government, 80 percent of tea party libertarians said "neither can be trusted," compared to 64 percent of conservatives.

Elsewhere, Cato's David Boaz—the other half of the dynamic Holy Moley, There Are Libertarians Everywhere! duo—sees a wee libertarian boomlet in the interstices of polls on weed, gay marriage, and health care. And in the Examiner yesterday, John Vaught LaBeaume sees some folks anxious to hop onto the libertarian hayride, including Rep. Ron Rand Paul's opponent.

UPDATE: For those curious about methodology, lots more details here. And charts here.

NEXT: Politics Ain't Beanbag; It's Dog Shit. Literally.

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  1. Not to be a party-pooper, but there’s a difference between being a libertarian and having one or two libertarian ideas that don’t unduly inconvenience your safe, collectivist worldview.

    1. Anyone who doesn’t tow the entire party lion, is a heretic and not to be trusted. That will over a lot of converts.

      If so many libertarians weren’t such assholes, they would be out convincing people and the social conservatives would be bitching about how the Tea Party was high jacked by the Libertarians instead of the other way around.

      1. Rote statements against government do not a libertarian make, John. Maybe they’re correct, and there are actually a lot of real libertarians in the Tea Party movement. If they gain any ground, I guess we’ll see, won’t we?

        1. Do rote TEAM RED TEAM BLUE statements make a libertarian?

        2. Maybe there would be more libertarians if libertarians would be more tolerant and try to convince people. The biggest grass roots revolt against the government in God knows how long and the Libertarians are standing around bitching and moaning about how the unclear are participating. It is just fucking pathetic. What a lost opportunity.

          1. ‘ck NO. Not TOLERANT. Try Dogged. Oh, we’re in there, and sliding into the remains of the Republican clubocracy. kwitcherbitchin.

      2. I consider the Libertarian Party to be little more than a bunch of stoned anarchists. For that reason I call myself a libertarian, not a Libertarian.

        1. There is nothing wrong with stoned anarchists. I’ll be voting for a few of these stoned anarchists in November.

      3. Re: John,

        If so many libertarians weren’t such assholes[…]

        I always run the risk of being called that, but I prefer taking my chances with that than being called an “unprincipled prick”, any day of the week.

        1. Principles?

          Oh no! That makes you an … ideologue!

          Never you mind that “government is the answer to every problem” is itself an ideology, you’re the ideologue!

          Ideologue!
          Ideologue!
          Ideologue!

          1. I bet he engages in partisan politics, too !

      4. libertarians = assholes

        Is “assholes” code, by any chance, for “atheists,” John?

        1. If the shoe fits…

          1. If the foe shits…

        2. I have been known to try to purge semi-libertarians.

          It is a personality trait…and i agree with John that it is a negative.

          I don’t know if it is a common trait among libertarians.

          But i do suspect it is a common trait for a minority political ideology of any stripe.

          We are here because we are dedicated….so yeah we just might be assholes….and if we want more in our ranks we might want to consciously try to keep it in check.

          1. I have been known to try to purge semi-libertarians.

            Testify brother! Smash the HERETICS!

            1. Testify brother!

              Back in the day I in more then a few threads went after Jeniffer and Thoreau pretty hard…plus there is Weigel but I was right about him….even though i flip flopped a few times on my assessment of him.

              1. I’m not advocating a libertarian purity test. I’m simply warning against getting our hopes up over a “movement” that may prove to be ephemeral. I hope I’m wrong.

                1. Heh, movement. That probably best describes it. With less than half of voters paying any real income taxes, and everyone receiving direct payment benefits from the government I’d say the socialists have already won. The rest is just letting it play out.

                  As evidence I hold up France. Riots breaking out over the mere suggestion of altering the “social contract” for benefits. (ok, not a perfect example since they like to strike and riot for sport as much as anything else, but still…)

                  1. they like to strike and riot for sport

                    There’s nothing quite like catching a fish across the face when the fish mongers riot. Ahh, the memories …

  2. Hurr! Durr!
    Socially liberal fiscally conservative.

    Theres more libertarians at the Stewart/Colbert rally than in the whole TeaBagger movement

    Herr! Derr!
    Let’s punish the Rethuglicans AGAIN!!!

  3. at a recent Tea Party rally and finding that about half of the revelers are best described as libertarian

    -ish.

  4. Or at least a lean-to partitioned by a sheet strung on a clothesline.

    Or a really shitty single with a great b-side that no one bothers to listen to.

  5. I see libertarians. Walking around like regular people. They don’t see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don’t know they’re libertarians.

  6. This is why they should forget about becoming their own party, and instead be more like a public interest group that advocates government spending cuts which is what both halves (and a whole bunch of other people) agree on.

    1. Which actually reminds me of this Onion article.

      http://www.theonion.com/articl…..ush,18204/

  7. I’m getting sick of the moronic assumption that someone who wants to get the government’s “hands off of Medicare” is committing some kind of gaffe so glaringly stupid that it invalidates anything else they say. People know that they’ve spent their whole working lives paying into a system that they expect to be there to provide a service for when they’re old, and when the government comes in and tries to change the rules to arbitrarily diminish their expected return, well, they get mad. And justifiably so.

    NB:This underscores the importance of never instituting this kind of government-managed pay system in the first place…

    1. The message that they aren’t “paying into” anything, but instead are paying a tax that is immediately being redistributed to other people, needs to be repeated again and again until it sinks in.

      1. Unfortunately, that message has been drowned out by people telling them the exact opposite for years.

        The voters in question may be wrong, but very few people (and certainly not the people making fun of them now) have actually told them the truth all these years. “You fucked up, you trusted us” is not the best policy.

        1. Hell, I make fun of them and tell them the zod-awful truth to their face. They just don’t *want* to hear the truth and instead want to desperately cling to the political narrative.

          It’s almost like watch Kirk double-talk a computer into self-destructing, but these beings just kill that sub-routine after a bit of smoke coming out of the ears and trundle on like nothing happened, snug in their little cocoon of massive rationalization.

          1. The fact that you used the “paying in” line shows how powerful any propaganda is when repeated often enough.

            It’s a sad fact, but deceitful, clever propaganda works when put on repeat.

    2. It isn’t paradoxical or hypocritical to favor the simple justice of getting a refund on your decades of stolen paychecks while still arguing in favor of a gradual phasing-out of the great social welfare programs that are bankrupting us. But how many Tea Partiers really have a good and comprehensive grasp of capitalism’s political-economic theories? Judging by what I’ve seen and heard over the last year, it’s a depressingly small percentage. Still, those old dogs can learn some new tricks. I hope.

      1. It isn’t paradoxical or hypocritical to favor the simple justice of getting a refund on your decades of stolen paychecks

        Beyond that, fear is a powerful emotion. An elderly person experiencing the usual infirmities of advancing age cannot reasonably be expected to enthusiastically support political action that they think may result in their being unable to get medical care. Distinctions between an entitlement and a return on previously paid taxes tend to go out the window when a person is confronted with the possibility that they may be helpless to prevent their own premature demise due to an inability to get medical care.

        1. And it is very easy for people who are young to tell old people to fuck themselves. I am young. I can work and pay my own way. So getting rid of the program is nothing but upside for me. IF I were old and couldn’t work anymore, I would look at it differently.

          But Libertarians tend to be young. And they tend have zero ability to understand why people think the way they do.

          1. As somebody once opined, the most successful political deception of the last century has been convincing the elderly that Medicare is not welfare. It is more than a little sad that a generation too proud to take charity has been conned into relying so heavily on it.

            1. John|10.28.10 @ 1:22PM|#
              And it is very easy for people who are young to tell old people to fuck themselves.

              Too many unprincipled “libertarians” take this tack.

  8. “interstices of polls”

    fail

  9. As part of my current doom-n-gloom mood, I am convinced that the social cons have decided to replicate their ’80s-era takeover of the Republican Party in the Tea Party, and that they will drive away anyone who doesn’t think the biggest issues we face aren’t fiscal collapse and an encroaching Total State, but rather the fact that the Wrong People are running the Total State, which should be used to enforce Traditional Values with an Authentic Jackboot.

    1. USA!
      USA!
      USA!
      Also: Jesus!

      1. Beck has been fairly silent on social issues. The only one that seems to surface with any frequency is immigration.

        he even came out and said gay marriage is not that big of an issue to him when compared to big government.

        Unless you think calling everyone a socialist is a social issue Beck is not the right target.

        1. no idea why i put italics on my own words.

        2. When Beck needed rally goers he started pounding the God note. He may be genuinely religious, but I believe he is more concerned with the size of government than the amount of faith we have.

  10. When asked whether the Republican or Democratic Party has the best ideas to fix government, 80 percent of tea party libertarians said “neither can be trusted,” compared to 64 percent of conservatives.

    64% is still a big number, basically saying that 2 out of every three conservatives do not trust either party.

    1. They say that to an interviewer/pollster. But when Sarah Palin starts to speak about traditional values ten minutes later, they’re hootin’ and hollerin’ with the rest of the crowd. They still want to “belong” after all.

      1. Can you provide a link to Sarah Palin speaking about traditional values?

  11. But buried in the crowd are findings like this one, which reveal something else is going on in the ranks besides the same old conservative Republican ticked-offness:

    Why does Mangu’s description of the libertarian tea pirates read like an HP Lovecraft description of Cthulu to me?

    1. Because you have read HP Lovecraft, and know what a “Cthulu” is?

      Personally, the closest I ever got to “Lovecraft” was watching “Lovelace” do her magic.

      1. That’s it, you’re going up on the Plateau when the Awakening comes.

  12. RedTeam/BlueTeam

    ‘Government is Good, unless it gets out of our hands.’

    ‘Government is Evil, unless it is in our hands.’

    1. spot on analysis

    2. I like it.

    3. Sidd Finch|10.28.10 @ 12:15PM|#

      Do rote TEAM RED TEAM BLUE statements make a libertarian?

      1. Is that what I did, Finch. Honestly? look into your black heart and ask yourself, honestly, is that what I did? Used phrases you have heard a million times before? No, that is not what I do. I guarantee you you have never met anyone like me before in the entirety of your existence. Your lies steal from me as assuredly as a pickpocket.

        1. no, yes, no, kinda. It was a response to Epsiarch that I pasted without giving adequate thought to the outrage it might inspire.

          1. Alright, that’s fine. Mistakes get made from time to time. I saw the Epi coment when I just now scrolled. My own original was inspired from listening to an online speech of my sitting TarpLover Republican Senator. I can’t see myself voting for him given his unapologetic and misleading excuses for that. Given the mood of the season, he’ll do fine without me though.

            1. Now that I see the context it’s pretty spot on.

  13. The only reason I like neo-cons on the tea party tip is that they REALLY get under the lib/prog skin. Other than that they are intellectual anchors dragging us down, we should really be careful with idiots like Angle saying she is in favor of prohibition…of alcohol and in the same breath talking about being a libertarian.

    1. Nevada. She’s making a play for the dying remnants of the bootlegger vote sorely in need of that govern subsidy prohibition provides.

      Ha, ever play Fallout2 where a bootlegger is literally married to the Baptist?

  14. I think you could argue that the majority of the country is libertarian leaning, in that they have an inherited distrust of a centralized government. It’s in our country’s DNA. In fact, it’s part of what Europe doesn’t get about America.

    Europeans wonder why we don’t just give in and hand over another 30% of our paycheck so the government can promise us more free candy. Yet European governments like Germany who are reversing their socialist economics are beginning to see results. Germany is on their way to having their lowest unemployment rate in 25 years.

    What people in America forget when the Team Red left idolizes Euro-socialism is that 8-10% unemployment is what they are AVERAGING in Europe over the last 25 years. Americans have it in our genes to reject the idea that this is OK as long as the government buys us free stuff.

    As an analogy I’ll use PJ O’Rourkes reason why Americans Hate Foreign Policy-

    Americans hate foreign policy. Americans hate foreign policy because Americans hate foreigners. Americans hate foreigners because Americans are foreigners. We all come from foreign lands, even if we came 10,000 years ago on a land bridge across the Bering Strait.

    America is not “globally conscious” or “multi-cultural.” Americans didn’t come to America to be Limey Poofters, Frog-Eaters, Bucket Heads, Micks, Spicks, Sheenies or Wogs. If we’d wanted foreign entanglements, we would have stayed home. Or – in the case of those of us who were shipped to America against our will – as slaves, exiles, or transported prisoners – we would have gone back.

    Being foreigners ourselves, we Americans know what foreigners are up to with their foreign policy – their venomous convents, lying alliances, greedy agreements and trick-or-treaties. America is not a wily, sneaky nation. We don’t think that way.

    We don’t think much at all, thank God. Start thinking and pretty soon you get ideas, and then you get idealism, and the next thing you know you’ve got ideology, with millions dead in concentration camps and gulags. A fundamental American question is: “What’s the big idea?”

  15. It’s what’s under the table that I’m interested in.

  16. ?sees a wee libertarian boomlet in the interstices of polls on weed, gay marriage, and health care

    Gay marriage is not an issue which involves libertarianism, regardless of what you guys hear on the cock-tail circuit.

    Saying that libertarianism supports gay marriage is a bit like saying that libertarianism supports court benches being made from oak rather than mahogany.

    1. So much confusion comes from political labels. Bill Mahr calls himself a libertarian – and is a loyal Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton, whom the independent-thinking, big gov’t supporter Camile Paglia considers to have an authoritarian personality. What does Bill Mahr and people like him want? A society in which all stigmas, social, political, legal and cultural with regard to personal behavior have been abolished. Isn’t this really one of the primary impulses of progressivism? And doesn’t this impulse ultimately derive from the desire of what used to be called “dissapated aristocrats” to escape the consequences of their own choices?

      It seems to me that a libertarian would want to get the gov’t out of the business of sanctioning marriage and yet I see many people who call themselves libertarian instead demand that the definition of marriage be changed to satisfy a sliver of the population. This seems to be inconsistent and suggests that some who self-identify as libertarian are no different from “Huckabee” conservatives who don’t mind big gov’t if people like them are in power.

      1. You’re a couple of days late on the gay marriage thread.

        1. Does the gay marriage thread ever end on H&R? The Tea Party movement should be a cause for hope for libertarians and yet paranoia about “fundies” seems to overwhelm the good vibes.

    2. Saying that libertarianism supports gay marriage is a bit like saying that libertarianism supports court benches being made from oak rather than mahogany.

      Still It would hard to be a “pure” libertarian and support the use of government power to prevent gay marriage.

      1. The issue seems to be whether government sanctioned marriage should be redefined. Nobody is advocating that government use its power to prevent gay couples from calling themselves married.

      2. Government does not prevent gay marriage. Gays and Lesbians can hold weddings, give each other rings, live together, have sex with each other, call each other wife or husband or whatever, all without any govt interference, in every state in the union.

        The issue is, whether government should use its power to expand eligibility for the special legal privileges associated with marriage.

        1. The issue is, whether government should use its power to expand eligibility for the special legal privileges associated with marriage.

          If you are talking about access to common law then yes libertarians should oppose government obstacles to those laws.

          Social security benefits….hard call.

          I kind of like the idea that when i am 80 of selling my marriage to the top bidder….if my market includes men i can get more bidders.

  17. “cock-tail circuit”

    nice

  18. #corrections

    Article notes “Rep. Ron Paul’s opponent,” speaking of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, Rand Paul’s opponent in his race for the Senate.

  19. this is interesting:

    http://www.cato.org/pubs/tea-party-survey/teaparty6.jpg

    Looks like a shit ton of libertarians voted for McCain. This might explain why there are so few actual tea pirates in Reason’s comment section.

  20. http://www.cato.org/pubs/tea-p…..arty14.jpg

    WTF is this!?!?

    Aside from giving a general trend this sucker is impossible to read.

    Gif related:
    http://i.imgur.com/qkDqh.gif

  21. 2010 will be the year:

    1) Libertarians will win in the polls
    2) Linux gets accepted on the desktop
    3) Microbrews outsell Bud/Coors

    1. BetaMax finally makes its comeback.

    2. Did you ever figure out why CO2 is a trace compound in the atmosphere and about 10% of flue gas.

    3. 2) Linux gets accepted on the desktop

      My understanding is that I quit using Linux as my desktop at the exact moment it became user friendly.

  22. Wow, half of a big attention-getting, ostensibly influential movement is libertarian. That’s very good, best I think I’ve seen in my life.

    there’s a difference between being a libertarian and having one or two libertarian ideas that don’t unduly inconvenience your safe, collectivist worldview.

    You mean there’s a difference between being a libertarian and being a radical libertarian. Most people with ideologies of any kind aren’t radicals. Regardless of their overall leaning, the great majority also have other preferences that wouldn’t inconvenience the avg. person’s world view. That doesn’t disturb their general identif’n as whichever direction it is. So why do so many commenters on the US scene who use the word “libertarian” as a noun or adjective seem to include only the radical by it, and exclude the general?

    1. Because if it’s not principled, it’s not libertarian.

  23. Heh, movement. That probably best describes it. With less than half of voters paying any real income taxes, and everyone receiving direct payment benefits from the government I’d say the socialists have already won. The rest is just letting it play out.

    As evidence I hold up France. Riots breaking out over the mere suggestion of altering the “social contract” for benefits. (ok, not a perfect example since they like to strike and riot for sport as much as anything else, but still…)

    Isn’t that evidence of the opposite of what you’re claiming? What about the USA, and all the other countries that are not France? We’re all in the same world on the same calendar, yet strikes and riots are not breaking out everywhere that is not France. That’s evidence that France is different.

  24. Is threading broken for the rest of you too now?

    64% is still a big number, basically saying that 2 out of every three conservatives do not trust either party.

    They say that to an interviewer/pollster. But when Sarah Palin starts to speak about traditional values ten minutes later, they’re hootin’ and hollerin’ with the rest of the crowd. They still want to “belong” after all.

    That shows only that they trust her, not her party.

  25. Start thinking and pretty soon you get ideas, and then you get idealism, and the next thing you know you’ve got ideology, with millions dead in concentration camps and gulags.

    Or as Robert Wilson put it, “Convictions make convicts.” The typical American’s pragmatism is infuriating to ideologues, including the ones here, including me. But it’s that same pragmatism that has kept power out of the hands of the true believers, which is good because most true beliefs are false and dangerous.

    1. most true beliefs are false and dangerous

      I will grind your bones to dust beneath the stone of my unflagging devotion to the true cause, HERETIC!

  26. The bottom line is it’s stupid to expect any meaningful movement to sprout full-flown libertarian. Limited, constitutional government has been dead in this country for decades. Many of these people are attempting to understand and uncover a narrative of limited, constitutional government, that’s been essentially buried under a modern behemoth state – which they themselves themselves were molded, educated, and co-opted by – for decades, if not nearly a century. It’s amazing that this much of it’s even survived, considering the counter-pressures. Don’t make perfect the enemy of good. Get in there and educate them.

  27. it’s stupid to expect any meaningful movement to sprout full-flown libertarian.

    Indeed it’s stupid to expect any meaningful movement to sprout full-flown anything, pretty much anywhere, any time, but especially in the USA. Everything has always been a compromise, including the founding of the USA — and of any other country AFAIK. It’s just a matter of how good or bad a deal you can get.

  28. Hmmm. I think we might short circuit the Liberal machine if we have a Tea Party rally to legalize prostitution, end the War on Heroin, and raise the number of immigration visas to 1.5 million per year.

  29. Too many of the “liberals” would just use that as evidence of how crazy and dangerous tea partiers are. Those “liberals” wouldn’t legalize prostitution, because that kind of choice would enslave women; wouldn’t legalize heroin, because that’d just be the way for whitey to re-enslave the black man (or maybe the Chinks); and wouldn’t do something irresponsible to the labor market by greatly increasing immigration quotas — they just want better treatment of illegal aliens.

    They would point out how inconsistent those positions are with conservatism or capitalism, and use that as proof of how mentally unstable tea partiers are.

  30. I prefer the term “Classical Liberal”. The Libertarian brand has too much baggage.

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