Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com posted earlier in the week at his blog, asking “Are Republicans Going Galt?”
Pointing to the Tea Party’s origin within the libertarian movement, Silver questions whether the Republican Party is tilting in the libertarian direction in wake of their solid defeats in 2006 and 2008.
The objective evidence Mr. Silver presents includes:
• A recent Gallup survey suggests that 80 percent of Republicans believe that Big Government is a bigger threat than big business, versus just 10 percent who think the opposite. He says “it has now become almost a definitional issue for Republicans.”
• “The Republican alternative budget could be considered a somewhat radical experiment in libertarianism”; and
• Republican insiders are increasingly uncertain about whether gay marriage, which was such an important issue for the party over 2000-2004, is any longer a winning issue at all for them.
Comparing Big Government to big business doesn’t really tell us what we need to know, unfortunately. Big business may be one of the entities competing with limited government that Republicans “sell their souls to” — however, there are a plethora of other entities that Republicans have chosen before smaller government, including puppet politicians, special interest groups, neo-conservatives, pork projects, and religion, to name just a few.
The idea that the Republican alternative budget is radical in any way is foreign to me. It is a far better budget than any one that Republicans proposed under the Bush Administration (no surprise there), and this budget would ultimately reduce the size of government if adopted. However, it is not even close to “a radical experiment in libertarianism”.
Speaking to Mr. Silver’s final point: I’m no Republican insider, but I never believed gay marriage was an important issue for the GOP. Ditto on abortion.
In 2004, for example, the RLC issued a press release against the Federal Marriage Amendment. My recent post at this blog, “Are Republicans Shifting on Gay Marriage and the War on Drugs?“, indicates that at least some Republican legislators — most of whom were already in the moderate wing of the party — have had the courage to support equal rights for gays.
To this point, I count just two libertarian-leaning legislators (both from New Hampshire) who had the courage to take a principled stance of supporting marriage equality for gays and lesbians. If Republicans are going to stand up for equal rights in the near future (and why shouldn’t we?), it will have to be libertarian-leaning Republicans who lead on the issue.
As evangelical social conservative commentator Cal Thomas wrote recently, “The battle over same-sex marriage is on the way to being lost [for social conservatives]. For conservatives who still have faith in the political system to reverse the momentum, you are — to recall Harold Hill [in The Music Man] — ‘closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge’.”
In summary, I think the Republican Party is shifting, but it is not proven with the evidence provided by Nate Silver. Instead, I measure it by how fast the RLC is growing (at a very rapid pace — we can barely keep up!), the enthusiasm of the Ron Paul movement, and the anger in the faces of those who attended the Tea Party protests last Wednesday.
The battle for liberty has just begun. Brace yourself.