Debunking Domenech (a.k.a. There Is No Libertarian Moment, Part 280)

by Henry Olsen

Yesterday Ben Domenech, editor of The Federalist and author of The Transom, took me to task for a recent NRO post entitled “There Is No Libertarian Moment, Part 279″.  In that piece I showed that advocates of the libertarian-moment thesis who argue there are a large bunch of socially liberal, fiscally conservative ”Silicon Valley entrepreneurs” just waiting to vote for Republicans and a smaller state if social conservatism is pushed out of the way are simply wrong. Domenech contends that “the idea of a libertarian moment has virtually nothing to do with such a coastal claim.” Instead, he contends, the evidence for a libertarian moment exists in “the heartland” where “armies of volunteers built up by the Pauls over successive elections in Iowa, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Michigan, and so on” are “helping social conservatives understand, over the course of multiple campaigns, that it was all right for them to accept more libertarian ideas.” To quote George Will, well.

If “the libertarian moment” isn’t about trying to redeem the young, educated worker from the grips of Obamism, then Domenech ought to tell the libertarians that. David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, has made exactly that argument frequently, perhaps most fully in his study (co-authored with David Kirby), “The Libertarian Vote in the Age of Obama.” Boaz contended that the key swing voters were fiscally conservative and socially liberal, and were found disproportionately among young voters. Just three weeks ago, Cato invited me to give a response to Edward Hudgins, who argued in his new book The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win? that appealing to socially liberal, fiscally conservative Silicon Valley entrepreneurs was the GOP’s path to victory. And, of course, who can overlook Rand Paul, the libertarian white knight himself, who said last year at the Reagan Library that Republicans need to “change current perceptions” to win in “California and other bluish states.” Indeed, Paul’s entire speech was dedicated to the proposition that Republicans need to reach out to new constituencies – African Americans, Latinos, the young — to win again nationally, and his appearances and speeches since then indicate he is putting his plan into action. If Rand Paul, the executive VP of Cato, and the director of advocacy of the Atlas Society are unrepresentative of libertarian thought, oops, my bad.

If Ben’s so into the heartland, perhaps he should try listening to the classic country-rock group the Everly Brothers. “Wishin’ won’t make it so.” 

— Henry Olsen is a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.