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August 13, 2014 10:24 AM Cold Water For Libertarian Dreams

By Ed Kilgore

So I had an opportunity to publish a column-length exposition of my argument that the closest thing to a “libertarian moment” we are likely to see in the GOP involves a “constitutional conservative” movement that is itself more rooted in the Christian Right than in the works of Ayn Rand. Since the column is at high exposure TPM, I’m hoping to make a few libertarian and MSM heads explode.

Aside from the specific argument, what I hope people begin to understand is that the standard mental picture many people have of the conservative movement these days—you know, a libertarian Tea Party Movement versus a Pragmatic Business Establishment, with the Christian Right a fading phenomenon somewhere off to the side—is not very accurate. The Tea Party heavily, heavily overlaps with the Christian Right, and is an extremely important constituency for most Republican pols, and certainly for all but a couple of the most likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates. Moreover, the Christian Right is not resisting the “libertarian” theme of strict and permanent limitations on the size, scope and cost of government—for different reasons, conservative Christians are as committed to anti-government nostrums as anybody at Reason.

The more immediate point of my TPM column is to throw cold water on an idea that percolates through Robert Draper’s “libertarian moment” article: that by turning “libertarian,” the Republican Party can break out of its demographic ghetto and gain a lifeline among millennial voters who currently loath the GOP. Trouble is, the face of this “libertarian” GOP is just as likely to be Ted Cruz as Rand Paul, and for that matter, Rand Paul has theocratic connections and positions that aren’t going to wear very well on young libertarians over time. So no, it’s not likely the libertarian movement as we know it is about to get a major-party vehicle, and the GOP isn’t going to become the preferred party for dope-smoking freethinkers.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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