GOP ’23: How libertarians interpret and interact with the Republican Party

Libertarian writers Shikha Dalmia and Katherine Mangu-Ward join Detroit Today to discuss how the ideology fits into America’s political landscape.

Shikha Dalmia sits at a table and speaks into a microphone in front of the WDET logo

Shikha Dalmia in the WDET live studio on Dec. 4, 2017.


Thus far on Detroit Today’s “GOP 23: Where the Party At?” series, we’ve discussed how conservativism is misaligned with Donald Trump, what Michigan Republican representatives want and the policies Republicans hope to enact if they hold enough power in office.

But there’s another, sometimes ignored, faction in our politics that often aligns itself with Republicans. Libertarians support free markets and free thinking, and play a significant role in our politics, though often as spoiler. That may be due to our political structure — America is unique in only having two competitive parties competing for power.

But none of that means Americans don’t hold libertarian beliefs and that their coalitions don’t impact our politics. Think about the libertarian policy victories over the decades: gay marriage under the Obama administration, tax cuts under the Trump administration and weed legalization across the country.

“At this point, I think the Republican Party has abandoned most of the places where libertarians once overlapped with it.” — Katherine Mangu-Ward, editor

Listen: What libertarians make of the modern Republican Party.



Shikha Dalmia is a visiting fellow with George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, where she started a program to study the rise of right-wing populist authoritarianism around the world and in America. Her Substack is “The Unpopulist.” She says libertarians have long been allied with Republicans in their efforts to lower taxes and maximize individual freedoms.

“Ronald Reagan very famously described conservativism, in his time, as a three-legged stool, and each leg consisted of one faction, and it consisted of foreign policy, religious and traditional conservatives and libertarians who were into fiscal discipline and free markets,” says Dalmia.

Katherine Mangu-Ward is the editor in chief of Reason, the magazine of “free minds and free markets.” She says libertarians are more distinct from modern Republicans today than in the past.

“At this point, I think the Republican Party has abandoned most of the places where libertarians once overlapped with it,” says Mangu-Ward.

Trusted, accurate, up-to-date.

WDET strives to make our journalism accessible to everyone. As a public media institution, we maintain our journalistic integrity through independent support from readers like you. If you value WDET as your source of news, music and conversation, please make a gift today.

Donate today »


  • Detroit Today

    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.

  • Sam Corey

    Sam Corey is a producer for Detroit Today on 101.9 WDET, which includes finding and preparing interesting stories for radio. He enjoys salsa dancing — and actual salsa.