Those “Libertarian Kids” Already At the GOP Punchbowl

Leave it to the intrepid Alan Abramowitz to identify the one underlying claim of the “libertarian moment” hypothesis that hasn’t already been demolished–and then take a baseball bat to it. At Sabato’s Crystal Ball today, Abramowitz first debunks the idea that “libertarian” is the most common ideological tendency among under-30 voters. But then addresses the idea there’s much of any electoral gold in appealing to “young libertarians” (which he defines as voters who are conservative on social welfare issues but liberal on gay rights issues):

[T]he vast majority of young libertarians in 2012 were already voting for Republican candidates: 76% of younger libertarians, along with 82% of older libertarians, reported voting for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. In addition, young libertarians overwhelmingly identified with the Republican Party and favored Republican House and Senate candidates by wide margins. Among libertarians under the age of 30, those who identified with or leaned toward the Republican Party outnumbered those who identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party by 74% to 17%. Of these young libertarians, 75% reported voting for a Republican House candidate in 2012 and 81% reported voting for a Republican Senate candidate.

So the claim that the GOP can expand its vote and overcome the deadly demographic trends that appear to doom its future by rebranding itself as “libertarian” is sorta like the earlier belief the Tea Party Movement represented some new and powerful constituency outside but potentially aligned with the GOP: it’s largely an illusion. Just as the Tea People are mostly yesterday’s movement conservative ultras dressed up in tricorner hats (and calling themselves “independents” because they’ve never ever felt the GOP was conservative enough), the “young libertarians” being invited to the party are already right there at the punchbowl. Rediscovering them doesn’t give them additional votes.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.