Too bad Rand Paul didn't run as a libertarian

Most of all, what I missed was something nobody seems eager to talk about this election: the need to scale back the entitlement state. This is the only way to reduce government spending radically and make a dent in our $19 trillion debt. It would have been good to have a libertarian champion to stake out the most radical views on the welfare state and middle-class entitlements, to keep bringing them up whether anybody wanted to talk about them or not, and to put all the other candidates on the spot about what they’re really willing to do to rein in government spending.

But you can see how Paul ended up where he did. A lot of these positions would be unpopular, even among Republicans. (Listen to them scramble to reassure voters they aren’t going to do anything about Social Security.) On most of these issues, it is still earlier than you think. It would be nice to have an active voice in this election trying to push the Overton Window — the range of socially acceptable viewpoints — farther toward small government and free markets, but it’s not necessarily the approach that will win someone the nomination.

Yet there’s a certain irony here. Paul’s whole approach was to be the more reasonable version of Ron Paul, to be the libertarian whose style is less radical and whose views are closer to the mainstream of the Right. In theory, this was going to make it possible for him to win more votes. But it turns out that a reasonable version of Ron Paul is way less interesting and exciting than the old, unreasonable version. In the end, it actually got fewer votes.