Libertarians for Ricky (To Lose)!

As a whole, libertarians are not renowned for tactical thinking. Right is right and wrong is wrong, and pretty much everyone willing to compromise on a routine basis is contributing to the perpetual rule of the Slavedrivers of Collectivism.

So it was interesting to read the Cato Institute’s John Samples making the case that a Rick Santorum nomination would be quite good for the Cause.

It’s not that Samples is fond of Ricky. Au contraire:

By his own account, Santorum is anti-libertarian, describing the philosophy as “radical individualism” and a source of cultural decay. He opposes moral pluralism in favor of a society and government that recognizes and acts on Christian virtues. Santorum speaks of free markets, but his cultural commitments are bound to require limits on economic liberty. He also indulges in an economic populism that implies protectionist policies that favor the manufacturing sector. Like many Republicans these days, Santorum also seeks salvation for the Middle East through American military power.

So why would it be good for Santorum, a sturdy advocate for the mysticism of both mind and muscle, to carry the GOP flag against Obama? Easy: he’d descredit his ideology!

Since the early 1990s, Christian conservatives have formed an ever larger portion of the GOP. In Santorum, they would have what they have long sought: a candidate embodying their commitments to a politics of faith. Neoconservatives would also have a candidate committed to transforming the world through foreign policy and military action. The Obama-Santorum race would be more than just a struggle for power between two men. It would be a referendum on ideas and policies that have dominated the GOP for more than decade….

A ten-point Republican loss in a year when economic weakness suggested a close race would be a political disaster not just for the candidate and his party but also for the ideas they embody. Rick Santorum could be the George McGovern of his party.

Such a disaster might open the door for a different kind of GOP along lines indicated earlier, a party of free markets, moral pluralism, and realism in foreign affairs.

This is what Marxists used to call “dialectical thinking.” Ricky would “heighten the contradictions” in the current system and blow up the GOP, presumably making it supine for Ron Paul or his successor (likely his son).

I doubt too many libertarians will be convinced by Samples to start thumping the tubs for Ricky, but if I were one of his backers, I’d keep an eye out for Fifth Columnists.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.