I’ve always argue that the last thing libertarians who want to achieve political success should ever do is position themselves as just another branch of “free market conservatives” preaching bourgeois economics. The failure Rand Paul indicates that, for better or worse, I was probably right. Case in point:
“Libertarians, however, can take heart from the fact that political sentiment is moving their way in some areas. Gay rights, drug decriminalization, increasing outrage over heavy-handed police tactics, growing concern over an unjust legal system, disgust over crony capitalism, and opposition to military deployments abroad all suggest that libertarian arguments can have political force. But just because people buy libertarian arguments when it comes to civil liberties or foreign policy does not mean they are more likely to buy them on taxes, spending, or regulation. If they were, then Bernie Sanders Democrats would be Rand Paul Republicans.”
The thing is “civil liberties and foreign policy” is what matters about libertarianism. We’ve got conventional Republicans for the other stuff.
The libertarian moment in American politics—foretold just last year in the New York Times Magazine—is like the horizon; always retreating as we advance upon it.
The political events of 2015 are a brutal reminder about how far this country is from embracing libertarianism and how alien those ideas are even to the purported shock troops of the freedom movement. While libertarianism’s opponents can take heart, its champions are setting their cause back by pretending that all is well.
The collapse of the Rand Paul campaign speaks volumes. In a 15-person field, Paul is the only candidate who looks even remotely libertarian (social tolerance, foreign policy restraint, and limited government). He started the campaign with decent name recognition, a seat in the United States Senate, lavish media attention, a serious will to win, and a battle-tested, national political operation inherited from his father, Ron.