Can libertarianism lead to GOP victories in blue states? Rand Paul says yes.
Speaking with giants from Silicon Valley, Paul sought to explore the potential for Republicans to reach an electorate they have longed forfeited.
Writing in the Washington Times, Paul said, “I think Republicans will not be a national party again until we can compete everywhere, every time, for every vote-coast to coast.”
The need for revitalizing the party’s outreach to a broader voter base has been discussed at length since the 2012 elections. Paul argues the answer lies not in a more moderate party, but a “libertarian-leaning conservatism” that seeks tolerance and less government.
Can it work? GOP strategist Jon Yob considered this last April on the Michigan-based show, Off the Record, when asked if libertarian Congressman Justin Amash could win Democratic Senator Carl Levin’s seat at the end of his term:
“…If Mr. Amash runs and he wins, then you know the notion will be…Rand Paul’s a strong candidate because he can appeal to Democrat voters in blue states. If he loses it’s the opposite.”
National Journal’s Tim Alberta had similar thoughts:
Amash is a unique politician with the potential to transcend traditional party appeal. He preaches transparency and accountability, having never missed a vote in Congress. (He also writes lengthy notes on his Facebook page explaining every vote.) His isolationist streak has earned him a following among young people. His Arab-American heritage makes him appealing to minorities. He’s the rare politician with fans at both the American Civil Liberties Union and Right to Life.
This approach may prove to be more viable in light of last week’s revelation of the NSA’s PRISM program. If the New York Times editorial board is any indication of how left-leaning voters are feeling, it could present an opportunity for Republicans to attract disaffected Democrats.
More important than defecting Democrats, libertarian candidates are more likely to attract support from voters under 30 according to a report released by the College Republican National Committee. The report found that in the 2012 election, Romney garnered 2 million more votes from those over 30 than the president, but Obama received 5 million more votes from the 18-29 demographic than the former Massachusetts governor.
Despite finding that only 22 percent of “Millennials” believed the president’s policies had assisted young people in finding employment, they still gave Democrats a 16 point edge over Republicans in terms of handling the economy. According to the report, this is due to young voters being turned away by Republican tendencies to condemn gay marriage as a form of public policy — this more than any other social issue was considered a “deal breaker” — and going to bat for big businesses rather than standing with up-and-comers.
These numbers are consistent with a report published by veteran pollster John Zogby last year. At Forbes.com, Zogby gave the results of his study that found only 44 percent of Millennials, a group he calls “First Globals,” believed health care to be a right, and a mere 20 percent agreed that spending was an effective way to economic growth.
Quick to not give Republicans false hope however, Zogby noted that these “First Globals” were not conventional conservatives either. Only 22 percent supported a preemptive war approach to foreign policy, and only 25 percent believe homosexuality to be morally wrong.
Summarizing his findings, Zogby wrote:
These attitudes betraying both the traditional left and right fall generally within the bounds of libertarianism. Live and let live. Individual responsibility is as important as collective responsibility. Avoid military interventions. Distrust both government and corporations. Protect civil liberties.
Another potential selling point for libertarians is the drug war. The Huffington Post reports that 47 percent of those asked said it should be legal to grow marijuana, while 37 percent said it should not.
Interestingly, the poll found that 54 percent of Democrats supported legalizing the growth of marijuana, while only 34 percent of Republicans shared this view.
In between the two major parties were independent voters; 48 percent of them believed growing marijuana should be legal. The same poll indicated a rising number of voters supported legalizing marijuana use and regulating it in a way similar to alcohol.
Libertarian-leaning Republicans, such as Rand Paul, have argued the drug war should be left to the states, which opens the door to broadening the GOP’s appeal. Paul has also come out in opposition to mandatory minimum sentencing, an issue sure to resonate with minority and low-income voters.
A left-leaning electorate becoming more disillusioned with this administration’s policies, coupled with a burgeoning anti-establishment fervor on the right, may create a perfect storm for libertarians to not only seize the GOP, but to diminish its opposition.