A little known congressman from Texas became a folk hero American politics for his conviction when he debated with the hawkish Rudy Giuliani, defending his own brand of anti-imperialism. When the supposed common sense would had said that his campaign was over, his results in 2008 showed the possibility of a libertarian future. He was reaching beyond the base of reliably antiwar voters like progressive and radical activists. He counted among his supporters pro-lifers, gun rights advocates and militias. Independents like soccer moms and small business owners also were interested.
Brian Doherty argued in the Ron Paul counter convention of 2012 that the most probable thing would be for his fans to become what Pat Robertson fans were in the eighties after they failed to nominate their candidate: they become part of the GOP. Indeed the religious right is part of the GOP that the establishment can’t ignore but the analogy wasn’t complete. While there are some arguments about how the religious right had become a powerful force they haven’t be able to elect a candidate of their own.
In a GOP when the most likely future is having Donald Trump as nominee is there a future for Libertarian Republicans? People initially were thinking that Rand Paul was just a younger Paul but his moderation has made angry the most hardcore fans of his father. With a big government Republican like Trump, the future is not a bright as one day it was supposed to be when everybody think Rand Paul was a sure thing for 2016. Certainly Trump has mocked the establishment in a way Ron Paul couldn’t despite being fairly more anti-establishment than the reality celebrity. But some Ron Paul supporters are now backing Trump and others Bernie Sanders. Could someone make any conclusion of these? Certainly not all Ron Paul supporters were libertarians but most were anti-establishment that’s why supporting Sanders or Trump make some sense.
The problem for Libertarian Republicans is that in that leaving the GOP would maybe not be a wise choice. The natural place to go would be the Libertarian Party, which has plenty of problems of their own. Despite being the largest third party, it has never garnered beyond 1 percent of the vote. I don’t necessarily think that third parties are a lost cause. But looking at the contenders of the LP nomination, I don’t think they are the ones to be capable of challenging the system. Gary Johnson is the libertarian version of Jon Hunstman, interesting but not exciting. John McAfee is the kind of eccentric candidate that is almost a cliché. While Austin Petersen tries to make his youth his selling point, ignoring the fact that most successful libertarian Ron Paul was a happy grandfather when he became popular.
But for libertarians stay in the GOP could be hurtful process, I don’t think many hardcore rothbardians would be able to go to vote for Trump so they would be distancing themselves from the party for a little while. The future will depend on whether Trump wins or loses. I honestly think that despite that Hillary Clinton is terrible she would be able to beat Trump. Clinton is probably one of the most intelligent politicians out where, she knows how to play beyond its base, like speaking about releasing classified information of UFOs, she knows there is a public for that. Trump probably would try to sound more populist to gain the independent vote but these is problematic since a lot of independent voters are minorities angered with him over his positions on immigration.
They may still be some light in the tunnel. A new generation of GOP politicians are more libertarian like Justin Amash, Mike Lee and Raul Labrador. Amash on some issues is a reminding of the radicalism of Ron Paul but with more smooth style. In a loss of Trump, libertarians should argue that libertarian conservativism is the only way to attract more people for a party dependent in a declining demographic.
But libertarians could go beyond politics, anarcho-capitalism appears to be radical option for libertarians angry about the current electoral climate. There are also left-libertarians that try to merge a support for free market and social justice. The growth of Bitcoin and the sharing economy may be a powerful driving force but there is also the Free State Project in New Hampshire.
Libertarians may learn an important lesson from Donald Trump. For a long time libertarians had argue over what are the correct ideas, but they hadn’t focused much on the candidates. Ron Paul was able to become a visible candidate because of his conviction. It is time for libertarians to realize that an individualist movement needs individuals that could promote libertarian ideals.