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The Hunt For Liberaltarian Candidates

At Democracy in America, E.G. asks this question in response to the New York Times article on declining support for Democrats among the young*:

Why don’t we see more candidates who are socially liberal and fiscally conservative? It’s a huge and largely untapped political market.

I’m not so sure that it is such a huge market. For one thing, social liberals have needed political organization and candidates representing their “issues” far less than social conservatives insofar as popular culture and social norms have gradually been liberalizing without that much encouragement from political leaders. On the whole, there aren’t very many fiscally conservative candidates because there is no significant political constituency interested in an electoral message that tells people that they have to pay for the government services they receive. If they can delay paying for the services, or avoid paying for them all together, the consumer culture people have grown accustomed to over the last thirty years leads them to think that this is what they should do. Despite what Tea Party activists and their sympathizers may tell you, fiscal conservatism is absolutely not a vote-winner, and in many parts of the country social liberalism isn’t going to make candidates very popular, either. There are relatively few places in the U.S. where the combining these two fairly unpopular stances is not politically folly. Even if there were a “huge and largely untapped market” of socially liberal/fiscally conservative voters, it is probably not concentrated enough in that many districts or states to create the demand for candidates tailored to these voters. This is a rough impression, but that’s my guess at why there aren’t very many of these candidates.

* The article is odd not only for its reliance on old polling data, as E.G. mentions, but also because it completely fails to mention that the Pew data was part of its report on Millennials. The report was arguing that Millennials were relatively more pro-Democratic and continued to be generally supportive of the administration’s agenda despite the more dramatic shift in public opinion among other cohorts against the Democrats. I did have to laugh at one student’s remark that he thought the Republicans “cared” more.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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