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Opening Arguments

Mainstream libertarianism?

I'd like to believe this isn't just wishful thinking, but given the electorate's growing appetite for government serices, that's hard to do:

Led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), libertarians hope to become a dominant wing of the GOP by tapping into a potent mix of war weariness, economic anxiety and frustration with federal overreach in the fifth year of Barack Obama’s presidency.

The country’s continuing fixation on fiscal issues, especially spending and debt, allows them to emphasize areas of agreement with conservative allies who are looking for ways to connect with Republicans who aren’t passionate about abortion or same-sex marriage. A Democratic administration ensures consensus on the right that states should get as much power as possible.

[. . . ]

Paul and his allies see the re-examination of their ideas as a return to the Republican tradition. The party nominated Barry Goldwater in 1964, who was by any modern conception one of them. Ronald Reagan proclaimed in a 1975 interview that “libertarianism is the heart and soul of conservatism.” But small-government westerners were not enough to forge a winning coalition, so the former California governor cozied up to Southern evangelicals ahead of 1980.

"Libertarian became a bad word in Republican circles when it became a political party associated with libertine ideas – meaning you can do whatever you want, you’re not grounded in moral behavior or adherence to certain traditions,” said Jesse Benton, who chaired Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign and managed Rand Paul’s 2010 Senate race. “Republicans value individual liberty, and that means cost-limited constitutional government and respect for individual empowerment rather than an empowered state. In many ways, as libertarianism expands in the party, we’re getting back to its basics.”

If "frustration with federal overreach" had gotten to the point where libertarianism would be accepted as the dominant wing of a political party, Barack Obama would not have won a second term. But perhaps the tipping point will come sometime in the next four years. Heaven knows, Obama will give it his best shot.