Liberaltarian Drift

Will Wilkinson on the OKCupid data:

Conservative conceptions of American identity are ad hoc, opportunistic, and evolving, but they are conservative conceptions in large part because they deny that they are in fact contingent or historically conditioned. That’s how they go on meeting the needs of Americans who long for rootedness, continuity, and a sense that their political commitments are based on transcendent, fixed moral truths, and the authority of tradition. But, I’d argue, those aren’t the primary ideological needs of those with libertarian inclinations.

I think there is good evidence that those inclined to favor libertarian policies are closer temperamentally to liberals than conservatives. But the vogue of socialism in the 20th century split the ranks of temperamentally liberal Americans. (Some thought democratic socialism was the fulfillment of liberalism, while others thought steps in that direction would take us down the road to serfdom.) During the Cold War-era especially, the conservative imaginary highlighted libertarian elements of American tradition and identity in a way that was especially attractive to libertarians. Because anti-leftism is a core element of this conservative conception of American identity, older libertarians raised on fusionism sometimes have a hard time telling the difference between loving liberty and hating the left.

However, since libertarian personalities are close to liberal personalities, and since young folks with a libertarian cast of mind have little or no memory of the threat of socialism at home and communism abroad, there is little in the right-wing politics of traditional American identity that resonates with them. The party of liberal-minded Americans, the Democratic Party, just feels more like home, despite its often pointedly un-libertarian economic policy.

[H/t: Alan Koenig]