Politico ran a piece yesterday that argued that libertarians were ascendant in the Republican Party because of the receding importance of social issues and the growing importance of fiscal ones in the eyes of the electorate, and that libertarian Republicans had a chance to "rebrand their governing philosophy" with Ron Paul's "ride into the sunset". Yet even the article itself seems to present evidence to the contrary:
Perhaps the biggest opening for libertarians comes in foreign policy, where the traditionally muscular GOP doctrine is undergoing a sea change. Fritz Wenzel, who has polled for both Pauls, said the electorate has little appetite for international adventurism in the wake of Iraq and Afghanistan.
"There will not ever be a single Republican Party ideology," he said. "That said, there's no question that the libertarian spirit of the Republican Party is growing in influence. That's because [voters] feel there is a greater threat to freedom – to their individual freedoms and the freedoms of future generations."
"They're coming back to core values, and a lot of these core values are reflective of what has come in the modern era to be libertarian values – an emphasis on freedom, security and privacy," he added.
This crew believes demographics will work to their advantage. They see a generation coming of age that was too young to fully experience the Sept. 11 attacks yet saw the effects of a major recession and two wars.
The libertarian message of self-reliance resonates with younger voters," said another Republican strategist who has worked with the libertarian forces. "Ron Paul tapped into that."
Ron Paul, of course, was for years not only the most prominent, but one of an exceedingly few number of anti-war voices on the right. He was one of only six Republicans in the House to vote against the Iraq War; by 2006 nearly two-thirds of Americans opposed the war. Brian Doherty has written about the next generation of Ron Paul-inspired Republicans in Congress.
Ron Paul's departure from Congress arguably leaves more air in the room for other libertarian candidates to galvanize voters, but the post-Ron Paul evolution of libertarian Republicans is hardly a "rebranding" away from the messages Ron Paul espoused but a wholesale adoption of them. As Doherty chronicled in his book Ron Paul's rEVOLution, Paul hasn't changed his tune since first entering politics in the 70s. Libertarian ideas have become mainstream in the GOP partially/largely because of the success of Paul's last two presidential campaigns in bringing those ideas into the mainstream. There wouldn't be a Rand Paul to bring libertarians into the mainstream if there wasn't a Ron Paul to build momentum for ideas that are increasingly relevant to the political and economic situation we find ourselves in.