What the Rise of Libertarians Means for Politics

At CPAC, a Rand Paul revolution? (Washington Post)
At CPAC, a Rand Paul revolution? (Washington Post)

During the 2012 Republican primaries, young Ron Paul supporters received national attention that far outweighed their influence on the party’s eventual presidential pick. NPR quoted a Georgetown graduate student who said about millennials, “This is the most libertarian generation that has ever existed. I just think it’s taking a little bit longer for people to realize … but in 10 or 20 years, once our age group starts to have more of an influence in society, we’re going to see very significant shifts in what’s happening.”

We’re only two years removed from his prediction, but it’s clear that libertarians are becoming a vocal faction within Republican ranks. In the annual straw poll that takes place at the Conservative Political Action Committee, Rand Paul took first place, winning 31 percent of the vote despite the fact there were 24 other people on the ballot. Paul also won the straw poll in 2013.

The pollster who has run the straw poll since CPAC’s founding says nearly half of the weekend’s voters were 18 to 25. Eighteen to 25 year olds are also the demographic least likely to vote, so the populace of CPAC might not match up perfectly with the populace that will pick the 2016 presidential candidate. As Molly Ball pointed out in her CPAC recap, “Though CPAC draws right-wingers of all stripes, from Oliver North to Santorum to a guy on stilts in a Ronald Reagan costume, it is increasingly dominated by libertarians, a combined result of their passionate engagement in movement politics and the discount rates the conference offers to college students.” Republicans may be subsidizing their young libertarian members, but they aren’t quite listening to them yet.

But, as that grad student said in 2012, 10 or 20 years from now, libertarians will likely be the Republicans to watch if current trends hold. Here are a few ways to look at the the libertarian crowd in 2014, as the group tries to expand their influence within the Republican Party.

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SOURCE: JAIME FULLER 
The Washington Post

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