Boaz notes that some 14% of the electorate may qualify (and that the number goes as high as 59% according to Zogby if you simply use a broad “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” test) and admonishes that this is enough to swing elections. An observation about swingers gleaned from Ramesh Ponnuru, though: as Boaz notes, libertarians were moving away from Bush in 2004 and toward McCain in 2008, but in each case the general public seemed to move in the opposite direction — so maybe self-interested politicians should flee the libertarian embrace.
It seems fair to say, though, that there are times when libertarians capture the zeitgeist and times when they don’t, with 2010 possibly being a time when libertarians, Republicans, and fed-up Tea Partying members of the general public are all on the same anti-government page. Boaz and Kirby hope that’s the case (and that Scott Brown’s elections is evidence) and that we’ve gotten past the point when, as they put it four years ago, “Social conservatives have evangelical churches, the Christian Coalition, and Focus on the Family…Liberals have unions…Libertarians [only] have think tanks.”
I think anytime the public is focused on government-as-a-whole, it’s good for libertarians and fiscal conservatives. Government, looked at with even the slightest awareness of economics, is manifestly a predatory and almost uniformly socially-destructive force, but in relatively comfortable times, people are lulled into paying attention to only their favorite bits of government — whether healthcare provision, welfare to favored groups, or trash collection — and forget that the entire institution is the most massive of net losses for us all, worth opposing on all fronts.
And if you want a glimpse of what a libertarian-led chunk of the electorate might look like in a televised town hall meeting responding to a presidential State of the Union address, look no farther than Fox Business Channel, this Wednesday starting at 8pm Eastern, hosted by John Stossel — during which, prior to and/or after Obama’s speech, you’ll likely see me weighing in from the audience (and speaking of weight, catch me defending Twinkies in the final minute of the regular Stossel broadcast the very next night, Thursday, shown at 8pm and again at 11pm, if you aren’t completely sick of my Audience Guy character by then).