“The question is not whether the libertarian moment is over but whether libertarians can agree on a single national candidate,” says Lawson Bader, the president of the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute. “The answer is probably “no,” and if Rand Paul can’t unite all the different strands of the movement, I am not convinced anybody else can right now. More importantly, the Republican primary has been ‘Trumped,’ upending everyone’s previous understanding of political alliances.”
In this read, there is no libertarian “moment” to lose. De-coupled from Paul, the causes of the movement – social liberalism, then a distrust-fueled dismantling of government – is humming right along. No Republican candidate, with the chaotic exception of Donald Trump, is proposing a state as large and “compassionate” as the last Republican president did. (As Peter Suderman points out in Reason, the Trump fog has been thick enough to blot out libertarian-ish policy rollouts from people like Rick Perry.) It’s really only on foreign policy that the libertarians have been quieted.
“I still think the growing aversion to intervention will reassert itself reasonably soon,” says David Boaz, vice president of the Cato Institute. (Like Reason, it gets support from the Kochs.) “We’re definitely riding a libertarian wave on issues like marijuana and gay marriage. Not to mention gun control, which has gone nowhere despite a big push.”