So what does Paul’s cashing-out mean for the “Libertarian Moment,” a “comfort with and demand for increasingly individualized and personalized options and experiences in every aspect of our lives”? Conservative Republicans who have long derided libertarians are gloating and so are liberal Democrats.
Such folks are mistaking a battle for the war, however, and short-term political fluctuations for long-term trends that will force them to adapt to a world in which people expect less from political parties and governments and force change. Confience in virtually all aspects of government, from Congress to the president to the judiciary to the police, are below historical averages and still heading south. Party identification is at or near historic lows for both the Democrats (just 29 percent cop to the label, according to Gallup) and Republicans (26 percent), and it’s far from clear that we’ve touched bottom on that trend. There will come a time when the current system grinds to a halt.
To be sure, it’s no great boon to have the major-party guy most closely associated with libertarianism bail out before the election season’s second primary. It underscores that if the Republican Party is really serious about broadening its tent to people other than xenophobic billionaires who throw twit-fits at cable news hosts and intra-party rivals, it really has a long way to go.
Or, to put it another way, it shows that Rand Paul has a long way to go in changing his party’s culture and platform so that it becomes more serious about actually reducing the size, scope, and spending of the federal government. Talk is cheap, especially when the national debt is bigger than the economy itself.