Is It a Rothbardian Moment? Populists Win in Arizona GOP Primary
The Republicans for National Renewal (RNR) held a promotional event in Phoenix, Arizona for the holiday season last year after an extensive lineup was sponsored on social media. At the time, they had little to no bragging rights as they fought an uphill battle against election integrity.
During the late hours of night in August 2022, it was clear that two themes were stated with confidence: Conservatives were out, and populists were in. The election results proved that the political landscape has been malleable, however there had been a lack of momentum from conservatives.
Like Murray Rothbard, others were estimating what the future ideological divide could be. Sam Francis was infamous for naming names, yet his most academic profile was the philosophical foundation that aligned with Rothbard. He asked:
“Should we be Lockians, Hobbesians, or Burkeans: natural rightsers, or traditionalists, or utilitarians? On political frameworks, should we be monarchists, check-and-balance federalists, or radical decentralists? Hamiltonians or Jeffersonians?”
These were the questions rarely asked outside of Mises conferences, but one man has been making them relevant again. Peter Thiel provides a backstory that only Rothbard seemed interested in years prior. When public gatherings like RNR were organized, a refreshing dialogue had a visible impact on the audience and sounded similar to Francis’s pitch. He said:
The strategy of the Right should be to enhance the polarization of Middle Americans from the incumbent regime, not to build coalitions with the regime's defenders and beneficiaries" (p. 230).
This was the place where the August election started its trajectory. It may have looked like a smaller competitor to the concurring Turning Point USA conference just down the street. In terms of finances, this would certainly be accurate. Another notable presence were the youth groups disaffected by the Republican organizations. Years ago, there were a handful of college opportunities that provided proper networking opportunities. Today, the groups are more distinct beyond the vague patriotism heard in conservative media. If donors like Thiel remain regulars in this populist faction, the financial gap may not be an obstacle moving forward.
As the title suggests, the event was a referendum on the GOP’s direction and not a carbon copy of the party platform. Many of the speakers consisted of Republicans, although not in the conventional sense. Blake Masters, backed by Thiel, delivered a speech on his prominent one income policy reverting to a human centered economy. Two more Arizona regulars, Kari Lake, and Wendy Rodgers shared dissident views on branching away from the party in favor of the Trumpian model over its neoconservative counterpart.
All the Rothbardian staples were present. They argued that the renewal within the GOP started with Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign in 1992 and succeeded with Donald Trump. A list of the greatest hits were shared from the declining standard of living to unapologetic nationalism. According to Newsweek, this was part of a broader trend among Generation Z seeing where the wind is blowing and seizing the opportunity.
The culture wars were waging once more at the forefront of the event. Economic concerns, championed by the conservative establishment, took a back seat as social topics surfaced above everything else. The usual suspects were under the gun including Big Tech, unregulated capitalism, and feckless Republicans. The alliance binding all these Trumpian senators and influencers contributed to the “working-class realignment.” Based on the guest list, a coalition of grassroots conservatives were underway and anticipating the midterms with revitalized enthusiasm.
It was also a safe haven for the often-neglected paleo libertarians of the Mises Institute. Books from Hans-Hermann Hoppe and others were scattered throughout the greeting tables. Tho Bishop appeared as the main representative, opening one of the first serious speeches of the night. The tone resembles what Murray Rothbard referred to as “Right Wing Populism” and claimed to be the only strategic way to win elections in the long run. After a lengthy celebration in August, many have speculated that this trend isn’t exclusive to the state of Arizona.
For all their flaws, Generation Z is reaching an impasse, and many are hedging their bets on college organizations as the way forward for the GOP. But, if they’re wrong, Rothbard’s prominent words may be palatable among the new generation of populists.