Ron Paul’s Bitter Clingers

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Jonah has previously linked to a Steve Horwitz post explaining the Ron Paul newsletters as the result of a strategic decision by some libertarians to reach out to the Right. Michael Dougherty makes the same point here.

Horwitz is interested in vindicating libertarianism’s liberal heritage, so he only notes in passing that the strategy was a failure. But it’s worth noting why it was a failure: because it grossly misunderstood conservatives, including cultural conservatives. Very few conservatives in politics in the 1990s trafficked in the kind of bigotry in which Ron Paul engaged, and very few conservative voters responded positively to it. Assuming the Horwitz-Dougherty story is correct, essentially Ron Paul adopted the same view of non-liberal voters Barack Obama famously expressed during the 2008 campaign: They voted anti-liberal because they were bitterly clinging to bigotry (among other things). The difference is that Paul decided that it followed that he should pander to that bigotry.

But like Obama, Paul was wrong.