James Kirchick, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, columnist at Tablet magazine, and correspondent for The Daily Beast, is the author of The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age (2017). He is writing a history of gay Washington, D.C. (January 2018)
Though Ron Paul is often described as an orthodox libertarian, his ideology is more accurately described as paleolibertarian, which shares the limited government principles of traditional libertarianism but places a heavier emphasis on conservative social values, white racial resentment, and isolationist nationalism. It is, in many ways, a forerunner of today’s alt-right. The appeal of Paul and Trump to many Americans is not so much their specific policy ideas as their anti-establishment temperament and rhetoric, and, more specifically, a feverish anti-elitism that inevitably leads to conspiracy-mongering.