In 2000, Jean Hardisty, then head of Political Research Associates, predicted an increase in the number of Americans who identify with the Libertarian party in her revealing book about the Right entitled Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence From The John Birch Society To The Promise Keepers. Ten years later, segments of the Tea Party very publicly infused libertarian ideals into the mainstream Republican Party. A recent op-ed in Politico lays it out like this, “Libertarians and the tea party movement are intertwined in ways the campaigns and the media have yet to fully appreciate.”
Now, as we head full swing into the final days of campaigning, Ron Paul supporters will likely be influential swing voters in the November elections. An emailed statement from the Libertarian Party a couple weeks ago boasted the following subject line: “Libertarian Presidential Candidate Gov. Gary Johnson Could Deprive Mitt Romney of 5 battleground states, 74 Electoral Votes, 27% of the Electoral Votes needed to win in 2012.” It’s hard to say at this point, but it’s not unprecedented that a third party candidate could seriously affect an election.
Just yesterday, Ron Paul hosted a “We are the Future” rally with the goal of spreading the message that his supports are the future of the Republican Party. (Paul will not be speaking at the Republican National Convention and he has not endorsed Mitt Romney.)
A lot has changed over the past decade. “Just eight years ago, ‘it was fringy people in the John Birch Society’ who were espousing Mr. Paul’s ideas for taking on the Federal Reserve System,” Jesse Benton, Paul’s campaign manager said. “’Now it’s the Republican Party’ that has drafted a platform plank calling for auditing the central bank.”
There are many facets of libertarianism, some that even align with the Democratic Party. As Hardisty points out, “libertarianism itself is ideologically broad enough to have both a left and a right wing.” But the level of support Paul has received (two million votes in this year’s Republican nominating contests, nearly five times the number he received as the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee in 1988) is alarming at best. Not only has Paul published racist and homophobic articles in his newsletters in the 90’s, but his policies are equally extreme. How does printing your own money sound? What about not having a public school to send your kids too?
The more mainstream these ideas become, the more acceptable it will be to consider them as policy. While there is zero chance that the Libertarian candidate will win in November, the party has already had a major impact on the 2012 elections. Let’s make sure they don’t gain any more ground in 2014.