Ryan Sager’s analysis of the Libertarian West is similarly unpersuasive. First, this region of the country is hardly immune to the appeals of unlibertarian economic populism and even social conservatism. Second, if the Interior West’s Democratic shift is attributable to disaffected libertarians rather than demographic changes favorable to liberalism, why are the same trends evident in non-libertarian Virginia? Thirdly, why did Bob Barr see his strongest poll numbers before John McCain picked icky religious conservative Sarah Palin rather than after disaffected libertarians had no one to vote for?
Without saying so, Sager breaks a lot of American politics down between sophisticated secular individualists and boorish, Bible-thumping rednecks. Not only is this a cartoonish oversimplification, but it also defines libertarianism down quite a bit. Why is a Democrat who supports gay marriage along with higher marginal tax rates, taxpayer funding of abortion, the Medicare prescription drug benefit, and some form of national health insurance but opposes Social Security privatization more libertarian than a Republican who opposes gay marriage but favors lower taxes, reduced spending, and free-market Social Security reform?
Certainly, there are Michael Gerson-style social conservatives who embrace big government on steroids. There are also big-government liberals who advocate an interventionist foreign policy and are useless on civil liberties. The latter usually end up being Democratic presidential candidates, hardly preferable to the first.