Libertarians drifting back towards Republicans
Some of you may remember The Libertarian Vote, a Cato Institute study released back in 2006, which showed how libertarians and libertarian-leaning voters (fiscally conservative, socially liberal) were abandoning Republicans largely due to dramatically increased spending, the war in Iraq and increased intervention in individuals private lives.
During the 2008 president election, a couple of surveys, specifically Rasmussen, showed that libertarian voters were supporting Barack Obama over John McCain in the race between the “lesser of two evils.”
David Boaz, co-author of the study, points out that libertarian voters are leaving Obama in droves.
President Obama is exceeding all their fears on fiscal and economic issues. After promising a “net spending cut” during the campaign and denouncing “the most fiscally irresponsible administration in history,” he has sent federal spending and the deficit soaring into the stratosphere.
Meanwhile, he’s not delivering what some of his voters hoped for on social issues. No gay marriage, even as Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney, conservative superlawyer Ted Olson, and the legislature of crusty New Hampshire sign on.
No end to the drug war, even though he’s the third president in a row to have acknowledged using drugs. He even mocked a question about drug legalization at his online town hall. (“Dude, we elected that guy, what’s up with that?” is Reason editor Matt Welch’s summary of the blogosphere’s reaction.) No pullout from Iraq.
So once again fiscally conservative, socially liberal voters are starting to wonder if they made a bad bargain.
Independents who turned against the Republicans are likely to become equally disillusioned with Obama, and there’s already some evidence of that in the polls. Support for “smaller government with fewer services” has risen in the ABC News/Washington Post poll, and independents prefer it by 61 to 35 percent, a margin three times as large as a year ago. The number of people who see Obama as an “old-style tax and spend Democrat” has risen by 11 percentage points.
In a USA Today poll, a majority oppose Obama’s health care efforts and 59 percent say he’s spending too much. In another ABC/Washington Post poll, only 25 percent “strongly approve” of his health care plans, and 33 percent strongly disapprove. His honeymoon may turn out to be as passionate, yet brief, as Britney Spears’ Las Vegas marriage.
It’s hard out here for a fiscally conservative, socially liberal voter. But at least there’s always the other party to try again.
I know some of you are questioning why any libertarian would vote for Obama. My answer is George W. Bush. I don’t say that as a “Blame Bush” rub, I’m dead serious. Until just recently, I don’t think Republicans realized how much damage the Bush presidency did to their brand (some of the causes of the break with libertarians are noted in Boaz’s editorial).
So, it seems that Republicans have an opening with libertarian voters. Do they take advantage of it or do they drop the ball again?