Writing at CNN.com's Opinion section, Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch talks about the awkward position that Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has put the Republican Party in after his strong second-place showing so far in the primary season. Sample:
In both 2000 and 2008, the top two GOP delegate-winners ran on explicitly anti-libertarian platforms. As John McCain wrote in his campaign memoir "Worth the Fighting For," "I welcomed a greater, if still limited, role for government in national problems, anathema to the 'leave us alone' libertarian philosophy that dominated Republican debates in the 1990s. So did George W. Bush, I must add, who challenged libertarian orthodoxy with his appeal for a 'compassionate conservatism.'"
The mix of compassionate conservatism, with its emphasis on domestic spending initiatives such as No Child Left Behind and the Medicare Part D, and neo-conservatism, with its emphasis on interventionist foreign policy, produced results that were both predictable and predictably repellent to libertarians: A 60% increase in federal nondefense spending under Bush, and a federal government that recognized no corner of the globe or hospital room as off-limits to American police power. [...]
What are poor Republicans to do? Many of them hate Ron Paul's ideas on foreign policy, roll their eyes at his talk about the Federal Reserve, deem him to be several fries short of a Happy Meal, and -- correctly -- see his constitutional radicalism as a threat to both the philosophies behind compassionate conservatism and neo-conservatism, and to the practical gravy train of bipartisan big government. But he's the only Republican game in town when it comes to drawing in the independents and young voters they need.