Did Ron Paul Matter?

by Patrick Appel

In response to my thoughts on Gary Johnson and Ron Paul, Bernstein asks a couple important questions:

Really, what's striking about the Paul campaign is how little apparent success it had in affecting the Republican Party.  I'm not aware of any Republican nominees in 2010, at least not at the statewide level, who have adopted Paul's unorthodox stances on foreign policy.  It's true that some strains of Tea Partyism seem libertarian, but mostly it's just standard-issue GOP rhetoric, pushing tax cuts and unspecified spending cuts while in practice asking government to keep its hands off their Medicare, their farm subsidies, and certainly their defense contracts.  And, of course, Gary Johnson is going nowhere, at least for now.

If what Appel is saying is that rogue presidential campaigns do have the capacity for changing a political party, even if they don't actually win the nomination, then I entirely agree -- and it's a very important and good point.  But in this particular instance, I see no evidence that the real-life Republican party (or anyone else beyond a small but visible group of enthusiasts) are going to become libertarians any time soon.