Monday, November 19, 2007

In Defense of David Bernstein

JH Huebert of throws a hissy fit (as has become all-too-frequent over there) about David Bernstein's post on GOP presidential candidates. Bernstein's post provides a rundown of which candidate various conservative/libertarian law professors support. Bernstein goes on to say that he personally has no strong preference for any particular candidate, though he finds Ron Paul to be a tempting "protest" vote. Bernstein points out that he voted for Paul in '88, but has is troubled by some of the groups his current campaign is appealing to, and thus can't support Paul.

In response, Huebert disavows any connection between Volokh Conspiracy and small "l" libertarianism (Huebert apparently being judge, jury, and executioner on this matter), and accuses Bernstein of "smearing" Ron Paul while giving only mild criticism of the other candidates. In a subsequent post, Huebert makes the following accusation:

Professor Bernstein's "description of the Paul coalition" is that it consists of "conspiracy theorists, southern secessionists, Nazis and fascists, anti-Semites
and racists." How bizarre for a law professor, of all people, to place the burden of proof on Ron Paul supporters to prove they are not Nazis. One would think that supporting Ron Paul's policies, which are the opposite of National Socialism, would at least suffice to shift the burden back to the Professor!

But this completely misrepresents Bernstein's sober argument, which is a far cry from the Mona Charen rant the other day. For the record, Bernstein's problem with the Paul campaign isn't that it consists of nothing but Nazis and conspiracy theorists. Indeed, he even acknowledges that the campaign has appeal to young libertarians in addition to the old, psychotic, conservative whackos and left-wing conspiracy theorists. As such, he does not "place the burden of proof" on supporters to prove they are not Nazis.

Instead, his problem with the campaign is that there are a disturbing number of such whackjobs who are vocally supporting Ron Paul, yet Paul has done very little to distance himself from them. As such, Bernstein distinguishes between the tone of Paul's 1988 Libertarian campaign, and his current campaign, which Bernstein sees as being more pacifist and (importantly) populist than libertarian.

Frankly, Bernstein's concerns are concerns that I have raised before; I just weigh them differently from Bernstein. But his point is one that I wish Ron Paul would take seriously.