Matthew Bandyk believes that the theory that Republicans ought to take something of a libertarian turn in their search for a new direction is overblown. I don’t know why he thinks so. To be sure, there is a demand for big-government spending that can be found in polling, but the success of the tea parties and the attention that they received also seems to indicate a not-so-latent demand for government to pull back on the spending front–something that may well become amplified once the deficit numbers really begin to sink in. Additionally, while Bandyk appears to doubt that a turn from small-government thinking hurt the Republican party, can there really be any doubt that activists in the Republican base were turned off in the last two election cycles by big-government Republicanism–especially in the 2006 election cycle? Part of what is harming the Republican party these days is the disillusionment of the Republican base, and many of the members of the base are small-government activists who feel as if the party has abandoned their pet issue. Getting those people back would help tremendously in the revival of the Republican party, and a more libertarian turn to Republican politics would serve to re-energize the small-government base.
Oftentimes, of course, people forget that Barry Goldwater’s politics were quite libertarian in nature. And it was none other than Ronald Reagan who said that “[i]f you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.” The Republican party could do worse to follow the examples of the candidate whose campaign in 1964 helped pave the way towards a resurgent and mighty Republican coalition, one whose remnants ask to be reassembled, and one which continues to affect American politics even today.