Has the libertarian moment finally arrived? Robert Draper asks that question in the Sunday New York Times Magazine. His answer: Yes! Young voters are leaning libertarian, he says, and a Rand Paul presidential candidacy could energize those voters for the GOP.
Spoiler alert: Draper’s wrong, emphatically wrong. Young voters are not libertarian, nor even trending libertarian. Neither, for that matter, are older voters. The “libertarian moment” is not an event in American culture. It’s a phase in internal Republican Party factionalism. Libertarianism is not pushing Republicans forward to a more electable future. It’s pushing them sideways to the extremist margins.
Every serious study of the political attitudes of voters under 30 has discovered them to be the most pro-government age group since the cohort that directly experienced the Great Depression. Young voters are more likely than their elders to believe that government should intervene in the economy to create jobs. They support government aid to education and healthcare more than any other age group. Their voting behavior tracks their values: Under-30s massively voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.
It’s demography that explains the shift in ideology.
Nonwhite voters favor government intervention in the economy much more than white voters do. That’s true at every age, both over-60 and under-30. But there are many more nonwhites among under-30s than among over-60s, so their preferences exert more sway over the group as a whole.