It’s become commonplace to compare Bernie Sanders to Ron Paul based on the fact that they are two crotchety older white men who decided to run as outsiders within the two dominant parties. The result, as these analyses go, is that each damage the candidates who will eventually win the nomination before they get to the general election. That’s debatable.
In a piece for OZY today, I asked a different question:
But the better question might be this: Can Bernie Sanders do for socialism what Ron Paul did for libertarianism — which is to say, take it from the fringes and turn it into a politically viable stance? After all, Paul’s years on the national stage coincided with a sharp rise in the number of Americans identifying as libertarian or with libertarian values, according to an analysis by The New York Times. Paul himself garnered 1.2 million votes in the 2008 Republican Party presidential primaries, and nearly double that in 2012 — arguably because his sincerity appealed “to a broad cross section of people who felt they had been lied to during the Bush-Cheney years,” says Christopher Preble, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. Even if it hadn’t swept the country, libertarianism had at least overcome its reputation as an ideological sandbox where college boys played out their John Galt dreams.
Why did I ask that question? There seems to be a comparable historical moment. The isolationist libertarian message that Ron Paul offered was very appealing to Americans who were war-weary from Iraq and Afghanistan. And I wonder if there’s a similar dynamic at play with Bernie Sanders. Instead of foreign policy and libertarianism, it’s economics and socialism.
Read the rest at OZY.