Libertarians Questioning Paul’s Connection To Extremist Right

While Paul supporters see him as a threat to the status quo, I’ve seen his campaign as more of a threat to libertarian ideas. Confusing Paul’s social conservativism with libertarianism reinforces the view that libertarians are just Republicans who have tried marijuana. Unfortunately, while I would hope that libertarians might have some influence on the authoritarian trends in the Republican Party, the reverse has occurred. The association between libertarians and the Repubican Party has influenced libertarian thought to the point that libertarianism to be closer to traditional conservative views. The one difference is that in the past conservatives like Barry Goldwater opposed the religious right while Paul embraces many of their views in his rejection of secularism and separation of church and state.

Paul’s campaign presents additional problems to the reputation of libertarians by the association with far right extremist groups. While Paul’s supporters naively cry that this is “guilt by association” this association is far too often fueled by Paul’s own actions. Simply returning the contribution from Don Black would have gone a long way towards restoring Paul’s credibility. Any serious candidate would have done so, and Paul’s failure to return the donation at very least shows that his campaign is not ready for prime time. At worst it suggests some affinity for the views expressed by such groups.

Sometimes when diverse groups support a candidate it is a sign of broad appeal, however when both libertarians and neo-Nazis claim Paul as their preferred candidate at least one of these groups must be badly mistaken. The tactics used by many Paul supporters who habitually spam blogs which say anything negative about him further compounds the problem. The comments by Paul’s supporters far too often are characterized by total lack of respect for opposing viewpoints, racism, and belief in conspiracy theories. Any disagreement with Paul, and anything short of one hundred percent approval of his actions, is treated as a sign of either idiocy or evil motives by his supporters.

I’ve recently half-jokingly suggested that it might be in the best interests of libertarians if a publication such as Reason were to distance themselves from Paul. I’m finding an increasing number of libertarians who have expressed similar views, or least frustrations with aspects of Paul’s campaign. Liberty Papers has frequently noted such concerns and and summarizes them in a post today. Freedom Democrats expresses concern with Paul’s “association with the cultural right.” Other blogs are also discussing this subject.

Publius Endures writes:

The fact is, if Paul and his core supporters continue to refuse to distance themselves from the Stormfront, neo-Nazi, and conspiracy theorists, the Paul campaign will have a net negative effect on the libertarian movement in this country. If, however, he and his core supporters DO make a bona fide effort to distance themselves from this crowd, the Paul campaign has tremendous potential to advance the libertarian movement more than any other event since Atlas Shrugged. But in order for this to happen, Paul and his core supporters must acknowledge that the prominence of the nutcases poses a legitimate problem that must be dealt with.

Ron Bernstein writes:

Ron Paul is a tempting protest vote, and I did support him in 1988 when he ran as a Libertarian, but he strikes me as running less of a “libertarian” campaign than a pacifist, populist campaign that does have some appeal to young and idealistic libertarians, but has too much appeal to the old, paranoid, and racist pseudo-conservatives. There seems to be a right-wing version of the Popular Front mentality among many Paul supporters: just like it was okay for Social Democrats to ally with Stalinists for “Progressive” ends in the old days, it’s okay to ally with 9/11 and various other conspiracy theorists, southern secessionists, Nazis and fascists, anti-Semites and racists, against the common enemy of the modern “welfare-warfare” state. Count me out!

It is encouraging to see that more people are recognizing this problem.

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4 Comments

  1. 1
    PK says:

    I think it’s a mistake to think that a political campaign has some duty to screen the people who send it money. It should take money from anyone unless it was illegally obtained. The money is used for the purpose of promoting Dr. Paul’s ideas, not the ideas of the donor. If a communist sends money to a capitalist candidate, the candidate should use that money to promote capitalism rather than send it back to the communist to help him promote communism.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    It is common for candidates to return money contributed by people with views such as Don Blacks and any other candidate would do so.

    “The money is used for the purpose of promoting Dr. Paul’s ideas, not the ideas of the donor.”

    Ironically in a way this might not be true. I’ve heard speculation that Black might have donated the money for the publicity, considering how many hits there are to posts on the contribution around the internet.

  3. 3
    Francine says:

    Let me get this straight.

    Republican/Conservatives “Leaders”: Ron Paul is too Liberal and/or Left-Libertarian.

    Democrat/Liberal “Leaders”: Ron Paul is too Conservative and/or Right-Libertarian.

    Libertarian/left-libertarian, right-libertarian, neo-libertarian(oxymoronic label) “Leaders”: Ron Paul is too Conservative and/or Liberal.

    So to summarize, according to these self-appointed political elitists i shouldn’t support Ron Paul because he is too Conservative or Liberal or Libertarian and/or not Conservative or Liberal or Libertarian enough.

    Huh?

    And they wonder why Paul supporters ignore the talking heads…

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Francine,

    While I don’t agree with you with regards to supporting Paul, I otherwise agree with you about the labels meaning very little. I’ve written on the problems with labels many times in the past.

    Forget whether Paul is too conservative or whether or not he is a libertarian. All that really matters is whether you agree or disagree on the issues. I cannot support Paul because of his positions on abortion rights and his views on separation of church and state. I would call this being conservative as Paul echoes the views of conservatives both on opposing abortion rights and in promoting a revisionist history denying the goal of the founding fathers to create a secular society with separation of church and state. However what is meaningful the issues where we disagree, not how they are labeled.

    I noted in the comments to another similar post the vast differences in people labeled libertarian. The comments included many Paul supporters as well as comments from Eric Dondero, a former Paul aide who calls himself a libertarian despite supporting the war and the Patriot Act. He also backs Rudy Giuliani. Bill Maher calls himself a libertarian but supports John Edwards. For different reasons I find Edwards and Giuliani to be among the least libertarian candidates running. Besides all these variations, I also think back to the libertarians I knew back in the days before the Libertarian Party who would not consider any of these people libertarians. Throw in a Murray Rothbard type anarcho-capitalist and we have quite a variety of beliefs which are all labeled libertarian.

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