Libertarians are blowing the opportunity of the century

That’s why the Libertarians have been wasting so much effort in this election trying to appeal to disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters by railing against social conservatives and the military-industrial complex and a whole bunch of other lefty bogey-men. They cling to the illusion that they can convert a bunch of utopian socialists to libertarianism, if only they make clear that they’re opposed to religious nuts discriminating against gays, and that they don’t like guns. That, and the part about being allowed to smoke pot.

Meanwhile, they’re letting the political opportunity of a century pass them by. A sizeable chunk of the Republican Party is there for the taking. They may not agree with the Libertarians on everything, but they would be open to a ticket that can emphasize areas of agreement on a few core issues, while presenting themselves as the sane and normal alternative in this insane election year. You know how, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king? This is the year when just being minimally acceptable is enough to snap up millions of grateful voters. It could also be done without having to compromise actual pro-liberty principles, for example, by actually defending religious liberty and Second Amendment rights.

Even on foreign policy, a candidate who presented himself as skeptical about overseas intervention but not eager to blame America first—the kind of balancing act Rand Paul has been working on—could, in this year, seem a reasonable alternative even to the hawks.

This is an opportunity that any sensible, pro-free-market libertarian should be able to run away with. But in a year when Republicans have chosen a candidate who is indifferent to their own party’s ideological roots, Libertarians have allowed themselves to be held back by their ideological history. They just have not been able to bring themselves to change course to meet the requirements of this unprecedented political moment.