Students for Liberty blog team member Cory Massimino recently wrote an article, “The Liberty Movement is Winning,” in which he highlights a shift in the public’s opinion of big government. He cites a Gallup poll, which shows that 72 percent of US Americans view big government as a bigger threat than big business or big labor. This poll does, as Massimino points out, signal a small victory for liberty and is an indicator of our progress as a movement. However, we must take a more exhaustive analysis of our movement and question what winning actually looks like.
A survey by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that when compared to the general population, libertarians are exceedingly more likely to be non-Hispanic white, male, and young. About 94 percent of all libertarians are non-Hispanic whites, more than two-thirds are men, and more than six in 10 are under the age of 50. From a religious perspective, libertarians are disproportionately represented by a high number of atheists and white mainline Protestants. There is very little religious diversity in the libertarian movement.
If we are truly winning, why is libertarianism limited to such a small segment of our society? A successful movement must incorporate a diverse array of voices, perspectives, and approaches to liberty. We must extend our message to groups who have historically been victims of the disastrous government policies Massimino speaks of, such as women, racial and ethnic communities, immigrant populations, and religious minorities.
In her autobiography, Assata Shakur points out that:
No movement can survive unless it is constantly growing and changing with the times. If it isn’t growing, it’s stagnant, and without the support of the people, no movement for liberation can exist, no matter how correct its analysis of the situation is. Unless you are addressing the issues people are concerned about and contributing positive direction, they’ll never support you. The first thing the enemy tries to do is isolate revolutionaries from the masses of people, making us horrible and hideous monsters so that our people will hate us.
We are revolutionaries for liberty, and we cannot be isolated from the masses of people: those who struggle with the injustices of the drug war; convicted felons who are relegated to second-class status; immigrants whose families are broken up due to deportation; and students who are doomed to be a statistic because of a poor educational system. To truly win and grow beyond the traditional libertarian demographic, we must embrace differences among groups of people and individuals based on ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, gender, language, religion, age, and sexual orientation. We must actively embrace those with a diversity of experiences, backgrounds, and life experiences.
Only then will victory actually be ours.
An earlier version of this article appeared on the Students for Liberty blog.