Reason.com recently ran an article in which Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan) claims that Americans are becoming more libertarian and Congress will eventually follow.
“Congress is delayed by five or 10 years,” said Amash. “But I'm hopeful some of that will start to change. The public is more libertarian, the public is saying we want people who are going to be independent and not bow to leadership in either of the major parties.”
Amash is poised to easily seize victory in his district after defeating the Republican establishment candidate, Brian Ellis. Amash acknowledges that despite relentless efforts by the establishment to keep the status quo, it is shrinking while those who support liberty and the Constitution are becoming more frequent. In fact, it was the Tea Party election landslide in 2010 which originally propelled Amash into office.
“It felt great to get a big win,” Amash told Reason in an interview. “The people of the district came out and said they like what I am offering, which is independent conservative representation, libertarian representation… My challenger was offering run of the mill, establishment big government Republicanism. People are tired of that.”
Is this really the case? According to a Gallup poll taken in January, a record high 42% of Americans identified themselves as independent, while Republican and Democrat identification both decreased.
The trend stems from Americans feeling disenfranchised by America's two-party system of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, especially in the case of millennials. As it turns out the newest generation, the millennial generation, cannot be cornered into the platform of just one political party or the other.
According to a Reason-Rupe survey revealed that millennials, despite having some big government leanings such as raising the minimum wage or guaranteeing a college education to everyone, they also support lower taxes, oppose many liberal nanny state policies, and support privatization of Social Security.
It goes to show that the youngest voting block not only cannot be labelled as being mainly “liberal” or “conservative,” they are, in fact, tired of the partisan barking between the two parties.
Having grown up during the Bush/Obama eras of big government, most younger voters, by two-thirds to be exact, doubt the government's ability to do most anything right. So where does this leave libertarianism in the eyes of the American public?
Public Religion Research Institute conducted a poll in October 2013 which revealed that 7 percent of Americans consider themselves consistent libertarians, while 15 percent lean libertarian.
However in 2014, Pew Research Center ran a poll which documented that now 11 percent of Americans considered themselves libertarian and understand what it means.
It would be pertinent to note that even though some may not know what “libertarian” means, it does not translate into a lack of support for libertarian leaning policies, as proven by the previously mentioned polls.
Where has this rise of libertarianism come from? A New York Times article which asks “Has the 'Libertarian Moment' finally come?” seeks to answer this question with interviews with 1990s MTV host and outspoken libertarian activist, Lisa “Kennedy” Montgomery, and Reason editor-in-chief, Nick Gillespie.
Both credited the former Texas Congressman Ron Paul for igniting the fire of libertarianism in today's politics, but placed the continued success and growth of the brand on the shoulders of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Lisa Kennedy put it best:
“Let’s say Ron Paul is Nirvana,” said Kennedy, the television personality and former MTV host, by way of explaining the sort of politician who excites libertarians like herself. “Like, the coolest, most amazing thing to come along in years, and the songs are nebulous but somehow meaningful, and the lead singer kills himself to preserve the band’s legacy.
“Then Rand Paul — he’s Pearl Jam. Comes from the same place, the songs are really catchy, can really pack the stadiums, though it’s not quite Nirvana."
Justin Amash even credits Senator Paul for his effort and effectiveness in shifting the status quo conversations of Washington, D.C.
“There's no doubt that Rand Paul has a more libertarian perspective than senators from years past and there's no doubt that it's broadly appealing to the public,” said Amash. “You're seeing widespread support for Rand Paul and a lot of other presidential candidates or prospective presidential candidates are going to adopt many of his positions with the hopes of expanding their base.”
Without question, Senator Paul has been able to court more positive attention to himself from some of the more unlikely places that a Republican would attempt to, from his work with Sen. Cory Booker on drug sentencing reform to his outspoken stance on police militarization in light of the Ferguson riots.
These new brands of libertarian leaning Republicanism have given the American people a new taste of politics, which has had a large effect on the outlook of parties and policy.
As it seems, libertarianism has begun to take hold in the United States, which in turn is attracting people who feel afflicted by politics as usual. Is there a rise of libertarians? So far, the results have been pointing to a very convincing “yes.”