Hit and Run links a New Republic profile of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, popular with the right’s equivalent of the Netroots but apparently not attracting as many fans from libertarian ranks. Michael Crowley explains why:
But libertarians are a fractious bunch, and some hardcore activists have mixed feelings about the man now carrying their banner. For instance, libertarian purists generally support a laissez-faire government attitude toward abortion and gay marriage, as well as “open border” immigration policies and unfettered free trade. Yet Paul opposes gay marriage, believes states should outlaw abortion, decries high immigration rates, and has called himself “sort of” a protectionist. (These divergences may be explained by Paul’s socially conservative East Texas district, which lies adjacent to Tom DeLay’s former district and which President Bush last carried with 67 percent of the vote. Being pro-choice simply doesn’t fly there.)
As a result, Paul’s candidacy leaves some of his erstwhile libertarian fans cold—particularly the intellectuals who congregate in Washington outfits like the CATO Institute or Reason magazine. “He comes from a more right-wing populist approach,” explains Brian Doherty, a California-based Reason editor and author of Radicals for Capitalism, a history of the libertarian movement. “Culturally, he strikes a lot of the more cosmopolitan libertarians as a yokel.” (Doherty himself is a Paul admirer.)
And, while some libertarians criticize Paul from the left on social issues, others are swiping at him from the right over the war. “Will Libertarianism Survive Ron Paul?” asked one article on the America’s Future Foundation website, before continuing, “Paul’s prominence threatens to make his blame-America instincts the defining characteristic of libertarianism in the public imagination. If libertarianism becomes inextricably associated with radical pacifism, will young people with classically liberal instincts be discouraged from serious political engagement?”
The question facing this libertarian-minded voter who’s likely to vote in the GOP presidential primary: if I wasn’t inclined to vote for Pat Buchanan, why would I vote for Ron Paul, given that on almost all the issues that matter their positions are virtually indistinguishable?