Paul's no libertarian, says the libertarian-leaning
I've long looked at Paul's litany of woes and concluded that he's some different breed. He pushes way, way hard on the immigration button, and in a way that libertarians philosophically would not and do not. He's constantly pushing the gold standard, which is amusing but actually little more than populist drivel disguised as an economic theory. His compromise position on gay rights/gay marriage is actually a little to the left of Obama in theory (Obama position is that marriage is between man and woman, with a carve out for civil unions), but in practice means there's a core of states that won't recognize such rights for decades and will be able to operate in a blatantly discriminatory manner regarding private marriage contracts for all that time, a position which is hardly libertarian (either get the state out of the way entirely or at worst, since marriage recognition isn't going anywhere, involve the state in a less arbitrary way would be the libertarian position). And he's admitted to a quasi-libertarian opposition to the CRA64 bill, which I myself wrote on and concluded that there are legitimate libertarian grounds to object to a specific portion of that bill (property rights and free association), but that these rights were already being systematically denied by state governments and their codified law by enforcing bans in the opposite direction (forcing businesses to segregate services), meaning the bill should be viewed on balance as expanding freedoms rather than abolishing a considerable and meaningful freedom.
All of these are misgivings about the Paul campaign I and other libertarians have observed over the years. It's a reason that I tend toward Gary Johnson instead, who espouses the same opposition to broad foreign entanglements, supports large cuts to the size and scope of the federal government, opposes the drug war and war on terror abuses of civil liberties and, in Johnson's case, has executive experience to show for all of these issues to boot.
What all this looks like is more like Constitutionalism or Federalism at the end of the day for Paul, and something like a pragmatic utilitarian view for Johnson (which tends toward the libertarian in its analysis). The problem is more to do with how civil liberties freaks like me get their support translated come election time. Paul or Johnson are not going to be the GOP nominee, so that's out. The names floated by the Libertarian party itself are a bit of a joke. They've tended to go nuttier and more populist after trying to mainstream it a bit too much with Barr in 2008. The names and policies listed as "Libertarian" on the Ohio ballot in 2010 were completely disheartening for example after having a promising, and amusing, gubernatorial candidate the previous cycle. And all the while Obama has been a complete and utter failure on most of these issues.
These sorts of things should be the central analysis for the determining the Presidency; civil liberties infringements or protections can often come through the format of executive policy and established regulations rather than requiring a good deal of Congressional support and foreign policy is the one arena where Presidents have extremely wide leashes in ways that enacting their domestic agendas do not. And yet I too see a progressive-center left that for the most part would rather swallow hard and vote Obama than support a Johnson or Paul candidacy (they completely ignore the former and the latter is shamed and ridiculed as the "libertarian", when he in fact is far less so than he appears).
Derided as nuts and cranks, libertarians are to be cast out of a now strange alliance that a few years ago we were potentially naturally aligned with (opposing the Bush-Cheney excesses and flawed engagement in Iraq, occupation of Afghanistan, and also being relatively favourable toward Democratic domestic policies like immigration reforms and expansion of gay rights, etc.) Of course, libertarians still voted mostly for McCain rather than Obama, because libertarians, like progressives, don't actually care very much about these issues. Focusing entirely on federal tax policy apparently matters more than supporting free markets and free societies. It does not lend toward the idea that running with these issues matters politically even though it matters a great deal in reality. One should conclude that party loyalties matter far too much still to the left-leaning figures who write and discuss these issues and that punitive votes for candidates who do not support these issues are not forthcoming. This has long been a problem for Democratic politicians and the pro-choice crowd (Democrats will usually get their votes largely because GOP politicians are conceived of as "worse" and not because they actually support pro-choice policies. Equal rights for gays has only recently turned toward actual support).
Apparently it's a problem for defending more explicit rights in the Constitution as well. It's easy enough if you're worried about tax laws to elect GOP politicians to the House and Senate and block attempts to raise taxes. It's not that easy to get a GOP candidate for President who will actually shrink government and support the defence of civil liberties, and we don't have a Democratic politician already in office doing one or the other. People should be able to tell the difference in powers appointed and vote accordingly. They don't (Presidents often get blamed for state or even local and property taxes rising).
I continue to believe this all means we should not encourage more people to vote.