Is the Libertarian Moment Over?

Rand Paul’s presidential bid is all but over. He hasn’t announced dropping out yet, but he’s at 1 percent to 3 percent in the various polls. Reports say he is putting more time and effort into his re-election campaign for the Senate.

Current polls say the front runners for the GOP nomination are Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Marco Rubio, usually in that order. (A very recent Investors’ Business Daily / TIPP poll has Carson ahead of Trump and Rubio ahead of Fiorina, but it’s Investors’ Business Daily.)

What does this tell us about the Republican base?

I have yet to figure out the appeal of Ben Carson, unless people have persuaded themselves he can steal the coveted Black Vote from the Democrats. He may be attracting the evangelical / culture warrior vote, but that’s the only explanation I can think of.

Fiorina doesn’t stand for anything except Fiorina. What stands on issues she has taken are all GOP boilerplate, and she’s failed to say much about many domestic issues, such as social security. So her appeal can’t have anything to do with issues. She has recently added an “answers” feature to her website, in which one may ask a question about her stand on an issue and get “answers.” I typed in “what do you plan for social security,” but none of the “answers” that came up had anything to do with social security. I did learn she plans to get tough with China, though.

That leaves us with Trump and Rubio. Trump is clearly the least libertarian candidate in the field. He’s essentially promising to be a dictator and get stuff done by ordering it done. Rubio seems to be the only conventional politician with a shot at the moment, possibly because he’s not Jeb!, who is fifth in all the recent polls.

Anyhoo — Awhile back libertarian-leaning Republicans were certain that a small-government, pro-liberty, Randian economics libertarian position represented the future of Republicanism. But it seems the base didn’t get that memo. They want a tough guy (or Fiorina) who will be dictator and break heads and get tough with foreign people. Oh, and they want someone who will stick it to liberals.

A month ago Michael Lind wrote that Donald Trump’s popularity among the teabaggers exposed them for what they are — not “small government” freedom fighters but old-fashioned right-wing populists.

Think William Jennings Bryan or Huey Long, not Ayn Rand. Tea Partiers are less upset about the size of government overall than they are that so much of it is going to other people, especially immigrants and nonwhites. They are for government for them and against government for Not-Them.

Today, Conor Lynch writes,

Trump has vindicated the left’s suspicion that the Tea Party is not a small government libertarian movement, but a kind of white-identity populism akin to the 1960s reactionary movement led by politicians like George Wallace. Right-wing populists have long been dubious of foreigners, immigrants, minorities and elitists — both in the intellectual and monied sense. Sound familiar?

Trump has taken advantage of the fears and insecurities of a significant portion of white Americans, who see the influx of non-white immigrants — Hispanic, Asian, Muslim — as a threat to their way of life. In their view, Muslims are terrorists (i.e., Syrian refugees are members of ISIS — even though half are children), Mexicans are rapists and job-stealers, foreigners are cheaters, black people are lazy, and so on. They also distrust intellectuals and experts. Consider, for example, the denial of scientific realities like climate change and evolution. Even though the vast majority of scientists agree that human beings are warming the planet with their carbon output, most Republican supporters simply refuse to believe. Overall, the Tea Party movement appears to be a combination of white-identity politics and anti-intellectualism.

This is not exactly earth-shattering news for most of you, of course. I think the only ones caught by surprise are actual libertarians.

39 thoughts on “Is the Libertarian Moment Over?

  1. From the Taylor “Salon” article:

    “…[the Libertarian movement] which not too long ago seemed poised to take over a large segment of the Republican Party.”

    Seemed to whom? It was nonsense then, and it’s nonsense now.

  2. Carly’s got a magic 8- ball type web site. Ask her web site any question and you’ll get any one of six stock answers?
    I’m surprised that Carly can’t see that her lies and deceptions reflect as much on the character of our country as she claims the issue of abortion does.

  3. “Trump/Fiorina 2016: Me Me Me”. That would certainly be interesting. They are both strong personalities that think they are wonderful and always right. Probably she would go rogue like Palin did when she got tired of someone telling her what to say and how to say it. Well, as they say: Pass the popcorn!!

  4. If it’s Trump/Fiorina, won’t Palin feel left out? But then, maybe she’d be happy with Department of Exterior. Or Secretary of Re-education.

  5. Now that the OMG party has surfaced all its really crazy candidates for Pres., I can’t wait for the Demos to get going. This entire campaign so far has big hints of the Mad Hatter’s Ball Room Fiesta. I thought I had seen some nutty campaigns, but this one shows signs of topping them all. This reminds me of nothing more than Pogo the Possum-“With tiny flags flying and tiny trumpets blaring, we has met the enemy and he is us!” There is one thing sure- God (if there is a god) has left the building.
    Does Sarah Palin remind anybody else of Grendel’s Mother? Where is Beowulf when we need him?

  6. My impression is that, since Reagan, the Republicans have looked for another icon that could make their talking points (whatever they happen to be) and sound good doing it, so that they can’t be attacked or shamed for those point. If the President can get up there and talk about Cadillac driving welfare queens, and people nod and applaud, they can’t attack *you* for talking about the same thing.

    That’s why George W. was considered a success for as long as he wasn’t a toxic liability. He could project a good image.

    This is just my pet hypothesis, of course, but it would explain why Trump is the big leader right now, and why Fiorina is doing well after after the last debate, why Carson is doing far better with fewer theatrics than one would expect.

    It would also explain why bland Rand can’t get anywhere.

    However, it wouldn’t quite explain the failure of Cruz. I saw him briefly in a clip with Colbert, and I have to admit, he is *very* polished at delivering talking points. I mean, he’s throwing out BS claiming that Reagan unleashed huge economic growth by cutting taxes (when the real cut was in interest rates after excessively high ones) and regulations, but as BS goes, my heaven, that is one shiny, well polished turd.

  7. I think the only ones caught by surprise are actual libertarians.

    First off, there are no actual libertarians. Second, the people who call themselves libertarians aren’t fooled – they know the scam they’ve been running.

    No, the only ones caught by surprise are Chuck Todd, Mark Halperin and a few others of their ilk. They’re the only ones who actually believed any of this.

  8. An interesting feature of the Rubio run is that Alan Grayson is making a bid for Rubio’s Senate seat. If Rubio tanks, he can drop the presidential bid and go back to his Senate election – and he polls better than Alan. However, Alan looks good if Rubio waits too long to abandon the presidential run.

  9. The appeal of Carson is to those folks who support the idea of high hurdles for minorities to vote – as in ID requirements and then close the DMV offices in black areas. SO voting for Carlson ‘proves’ they aren’t bigoted.

    Carly fills the same function for sexist morons who want to control girlie parts and look down on the whores who use birth control. Planned parenthood (to them) is a front organization for feminism which they despise. But the sexism is unpopular, so a woman who will participate in the judgmental condemnation of empowering women .. is their candidate.

    Part of Trump’s appeal is racist, anti-Hispanic with a chorus of dog-whistling to white christian supremacy. But he’s also tapped into legitimate distrust of the corruption – and he’s calling out both sides for it. He’s willing to throw the hedge-fund crowd under the bus, but from what I read, the rest of the tax plan lowers taxes on top earners and pretends it will all work out.

  10. Well, I don’t want to be a thread hog, but…I’ve been thinking about Carly Fiorina and trying to figure out what it is about her that I find so distasteful. I think one of the reasons she grates on me is watching her get so worked up and incensed over the abortion issue when she has no established history for concern about abortions previous to her presidential aspirations. When I see the intensity with which she rails against Planned Parenthood, and the horror and outrage she conveys against abortions I find it difficult to reconcile her apparent emotional state with her new found cause.
    I not sure if she is showing a character flaw like something similar to a true believer mentality where the adherent or convert plunges in head first and is overtaken by whatever cause they decide to pursue. Like a reformed drunk lecturing on the evils of alcohol or a newly converted Christian on fire for the Lord. Or whether she is just a total fraud pandering to the Christian right with a dramatic flair of indignation designed to get them on board for her journey to the Oval office.
    I don’t see her as sincere in the slightest. But I can’t rule out a true believer mentality either.

  11. I hate to say this, but, maybe you guys are being a bit harsh. Recently, Ben Carson was discussed what he would do if he were faced with a situation like the school system in Oregon. He responded:

    “I would say ‘Hey, guys, everybody attack him!’” he added. “He may shoot me but he can’t get us all.”

    Talk about thinking on your feet, that’s the kind of leadership that will have Vladimir Putin quaking in his boots.

  12. Greater love has no presidential candidate than to lay down his life for his friends?..Ben Carson seems to be indulging in a Let’s Roll fantasy.

  13. Swami,

    Wow that’s quite an article, “pass us by in His Coming Wrath and not destroy our County as He did Sodom and Gomorrah,” they atcually put that into a govermental resolution? Between that and the GOP’s reaction to the latest mass shooting I’m beginning to think that President Obama was for seeing the future with that comment about “clinging to guns and religion”!

  14. I don’t think Libertarianism is over. It’s stumbled because Rand Paul has lost momentum, failing to sell his beliefs beyond his narrow base, and because the larger-than-life savior figure of Donald Trump is way more adept at channeling the right’s id.

    A year or so ago in California, where the GOP is lost in the wilderness, people were wondering if libertarianism would be its salvation – appealing to young affluent urbanites. I’m sure it’s still popular in Young Republican circles, but even here, it’s a much smaller voice being drowned out by the larger furor.

    So at this point in the campaign, the question seems to be Trump + who else, who will be his running mate?

  15. I know I am going to come across as something that I think I am not but I do not find anything appealing about Carly Fiorina. She is hard, there is nothing soft about her. I find her arrogant, condescending and judgmental. It shows in her face and I don’t like that either. So maybe I agree with Trump.

  16. Holy cow… every time Ben Carson opens his mouth, he sounds like he’s been breathing gas fumes.

    Now, this would be weird: if someone smuggled one of those 3D-printed, plastic semi-automatic guns (not loaded, of course) into the audience at the next GOP presidential debate, and stood up in the middle of the blah-blah and pointed it at the stage. I don’t envision this with the intention of anyone getting hurt, and I certainly don’t expect it would clarify any of those empty minds on the subject of gun safety. But, at the very least, we’d see which candidates wore their brown pants that night and which didn’t.

  17. As I have written before, I spend a lot of time in a media shadow. But, I have a radio in the barn. I had the misfortune to be feeding the animals during NPR’s “Marketplace.” (If there is a Hell, “Marketplace” will be broadcast without relief.) I heard Kai Ryssdal talking with someone who seemed scattered and poorly prepared. It was Ben Carson. I was astounded.

    I think Maha raised the question of whether Dr. Carson might be suffering from dementia. I am not qualified to make that determination, but, to put it more informally, “Somethin’ ain’t right” with the good doctor.

    Ben Carson has achieved the impossible, he makes “Dubya” seem intelligent by contrast.

  18. “Ben Carson has achieved the impossible, he makes “Dubya” seem intelligent by contrast”

    Big difference Carson’s ignorance is willful, he completed medical school yet he does not believe in evolution? Dubya is just a dimwitted frat boy who never had to learn so he never did!? I don’t worry much about Carson, he is only there to mask the right’s overt racism!

  19. What bothers me is that if Carson was competing for the Democratic nomination, *everyone* would be pointing out that when guns start firing, if you haven’t been under fire, you have no (fornicating) idea what you will do. You might think you’d say “come on folks! He can’t shoot us all!” and charge – not unreasonable if you have reason to believe he’s going to execute everyone – but your brain might realize that’s the right thing to do and it might not be able to make you start to move.

    Everyone who knows anything about firefights knows this. In the Civil War, I think I heard it was referred to as having “seen the elephant” – once you’ve been in a shooting battle, you knew how you’d react, and now could make more rational decisions, but when you first realized the problem was not the bullet with your name on it, but all the ones flying marked “to whom it may concern” you were just a normal person coming to grips with one of the worst parts of human mortality – where you realize it’s not just that you will die someday (but everyone – EVERYONE! – will try to help keep that from happening if they can), but that *those* people want you to die – or at least suffer so much that you can’t do anything – and there’s a whole lot of them, doing their *best* to plant you.

    To call that merely “mindblowing” is an understatement.

    Anwyay: if Carson was a Democratic candidate, they’d *savage* him for this kind of BS. But he’s a Republican, so they’ll let him go.

  20. Okay, we’ve agreed; Trump/Fiorina for the Republicans. Now who should be Bernie Sander’s running mate? Not Elizabeth Warren; she’s busy being useful in the Senate. Hillary Clinton? Al Franken? Alan Greyson? Any suggestions?

  21. Okay, we’ve agreed: Trump/Fiorina for the Republicans. Now who should be Bernie Sander’s running mate? Not Elizabeth Warren; she’s busy being useful in the Senate. Hillary Clinton? Al Franken? Alan Greyson? Any suggestions?

  22. The Taa Party was in fact started by small-government Libertarians. It began with a fundraiser by supporters of Ron Paul on December 16, 2007. However, the general public never heard of the Tea Party until Rick Santelli’s infamous CNN rant of February 19, 2009, which was carefully orchestrated by big business interests bankrolled by the Koch brothers. From that point on, the majority of those identified as Tea Party were such as you describe. However, the Paulistas continued to believe that they were and are the core of the Tea Party, although they represent only a small fraction of them. Anyway, it’s hard for me to see much difference, other than that Paulistas are are less likely to be well off, and many do oppose Wall Street and big banks in an idealistic but totally ineffective way.

  23. “I am not sure that the greatest man of his age, if ever that solitary superlative existed, could escape these unfavorable reflections of himself in various small mirrors; and even Milton, looking for his portrait in a spoon, must submit to have the facial angle of a bumpkin.” George Elliot, “Middlemarch”

In our society, success of any type is a virtue due a certain tribute. A talented surgeon, like Dr. Carson deserves the recognition of his talents. But, unlike “the greatest man of his age,” he has been beguiled by his reflection in the small mirrors around him. He is convinced that he is an intellect of greater scope than reality would support. He has escaped the unfavorable reflections, but not the favorable ones.

    The human mind is a strange device. It is surprisingly good at reconciling disparities between belief and reality, sometimes tragically so. Here, in NC, the phenomenon of educated minds holding onto beliefs and rejecting well supported science, e.g. evolution, is not rare. The mind is elastic and absorbs tension and contradiction deftly. Ironically, there may be some evolutionary advantage to an inflated self image. The current Republican primary should be a suitable test of that possibility.

  24. Excellent comment, goatherd.
    I agree with you 100%. Sometimes when I get to feeling in awe with my human capabilities I have to reflect on Carl Sagan’s description of my significance in the cosmos. I don’t even register. I think that’s a healthy perspective. Not only for myself but in viewing others.
    Yo soy nada!

  25. @Swami Re Carly…
    Carly isn’t such a mystery to me. Over the years I met and worked with dozens of account executives like her, both male and female. And more than that on the client side. She’s “kiss up, kick down” all the way.

  26. I recently compared a Rand worshipping objectivist colleague of mine’s point of view to a 60’s patchouli smelling archetypal hippie POV. He was thrown by it. Libertarians don’t see themselves as hippies. They hate hippies. But they are a lot like the imagined naive and often ignorant hippie archetype from those days. Utopian, impractical, with no idea how disconnected their world view is from the way the world really works. But unlike the Libertarian POV, Hippies were friendly, unselfish, kind, gentle, generous and a lot of fun to hang with.

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