There were drinks in the lobby beforehand. But maybe that wasn't the reason why a hotel conference room packed to the brim with college libertarians was so hyped up Wednesday night at a Young Americans for Liberty convention. Their legislative heroes — the now affectionately named "wacko-bird" caucus of Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas — were there, in the flesh.
And man, did the room erupt like a college football stadium when the three of them — two middle-aged white lawyers and a doctor — entered the room.
These are the libertarians. Or at least that's how they largely present themselves. They are the tea-party-backed politicians who believe passionately in both the freedom from National Security Agency spying and the freedom from paying for government programs. And lately their beliefs and actions have been making more mainstream Republican conservatives — such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — say things to reporters like "this strain of libertarianism that's going through parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought." That was Christie, who was right in the assertion that libertarian sentiment is growing in the party. At least when it comes to national security, Pew Research recently found that the number of Republicans concerned about civil liberties jumped 18 percent in recent years.