Break out the champagne, folks. The traditional parties aren't clicking with voters like they used to.
Only Team Red and Team Blue dead-enders can disagree. In January, Gallup found a historically high number of Americans – 42 percent – self-identify as politically independent. The Republican brand is totally in the crapper, with just 25 percent copping to that affiliation, and the Democrats are flatter than a leaking bottle of SodaStream seltzer, pulling just 31 percent (abandon hope, all ye who pray for Elizabeth Warren).
The one major exception to politics as usual on the national stage, I argue in a new Daily Beast column, is Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who is injecting libertarian viruses into the body politic like some sort of Dr. Feelgood. A snippet:
Paul recognizes that the way forward on the national stage is not to get hung up on social issues (marriage equality, abortion, immigration) that act as dog whistles for the party faithful but do little to address widespread concerns about the size, scope, and competence of government. After years of activist government under both George W. Bush (who jacked spending, regulation, and surveillance like nobody else) and Barack Obama, a large and growing majority of Americans agree that government is "trying to do too many that should be left to individuals and businessess". The record 72 percent of people who consider government a bigger threat than big business or big labor to the future of the country are not likely to be wooed back to the Republican and Democratic folds via fervent appeals to build a really tall wall along the U.S.-Mexico border or to fight against the Koch Brothers.
While Paul's past calls for a libertarian embrace of freedom in "both the economic and the personal sphere" have been inconsistent, he's now also talking about procedural reforms that voters of all ideologies should support. "There is a third way and it's out there," he told Beck. "We need term limits, we need reading the bills, we need single-purpose bills…I think you would see people from both parties rally" around such ideas.
Read the whole thing, including interesting comments about Paul from Democratic strategist Joe Trippi (whom Reason TV interviews here). Trippi, who masterminded Howard Dean's internet-fueled insurgency, thinks Paul could be among the first candidates to win the White House in a post-political-party era.
Matt Welch and I interviewed Rand Paul in 2011. Check it out: