A September 1 post on the Facebook page of The Capitalism Institute reads: “I fully understand the hatred of Romney by libertarians who believe he’s a liberal in sheep’s clothing. That’s perfectly understandable. What I don’t understand is the notion that Rand Paul has somehow become an enemy of the liberty movement in the eyes of many because he endorsed Romney. Murray Rothbard once endorsed George Bush, Sr. Ayn Rand once endorsed Nixon.”
Yet I see Rand Paul’s endorsement of Mitt Romney as qualitatively different from the endorsements by either Ayn Rand or Murray Rothbard in previous election cycles. I think Ayn Rand unfortunately fell into the “lesser of two evils” trap when endorsing Nixon.
In particular, the following statement of Ayn Rand’s (quoted from this article by ARI Watch) is interesting: “If there were some campaign organization called ‘Anti-Nixonites for Nixon,’ it would name my position. The worst thing said about Nixon is that he cannot be trusted, which is true: he cannot be trusted to save this country. But one thing is certain: McGovern can destroy it.”
Rothbard’s endorsement of Bush, Sr., was also grudging. Rothbard wrote this: “Yes, gulp, I’m down to the grim, realistic choice: Which of two sets of bozos is going to rule us in 1993-1997? No one has been more critical of George Bush than I, but yes, dammit, I am working my way back to the President.”
If Rand Paul had explicitly stated that he was an “Anti-Romneyite for Romney” or stated that no one has been more critical of Romney than he – then I would have had more respect for his approach to this matter. At present, though, his comments after his endorsement of Romney have not at all highlighted Romney’s weaknesses or areas where Romney and Rand Paul disagreed. If Rand Paul had merely endorsed Romney to support “the lesser evil” in his mind, then I would still not share his opinion, but his mistake would be understandable. His actual endorsement of Romney, however, was not so grudging or reserved. Furthermore, he may have seen some (as of yet unrealized) personal political advantage from it, whereas neither Ayn Rand nor Rothbard had any personal political ambitions.
Additionally, since 1972 and even 1992, the two major political parties have come far closer together, to the point where Obama and Romney are virtually indistinguishable in their policy stances, even though they try to augment minutiae through volatile (and often outright deceptive) campaign rhetoric. Therefore, the contrasts that Ayn Rand drew between Nixon and McGovern – and those that Rothbard drew between Bush, Sr., and Clinton – cannot be drawn between Romney and Obama. Voting for either party can no longer help “save” the country from the other (if it ever could, which I also doubt), because the same perils would befall us either way.