Posted to The Daily Beast
March 20, 2015
By Olivia Nuzzi
On a Saturday afternoon in mid-January, Brett H. Pojunis, the chairman of the Nevada Libertarian Party, stood outside his office on Flamingo Road in Las Vegas, ashing a cigarette and dissing Rand Paul. “We’re the Libertarian Party,” he told me, dramatically stretching out the word in his New York accent. Paul, a member of the Republican Party, was in town for a visit ahead of formally launching his bid for the White House, and Pojunis didn’t particularly care.
“Libertarian,” he said, is now just “a buzzword” for Republicans like the Kentucky senator. If Paul was really so libertarian, Pojunis had some advice for him: “Well, OK then—join the Libertarian Party!”
Pojunis led me inside past some staffers hunched over a computer trying to select a new party logo. “Is this too swastika-y?” he asked, pointing to an image closely resembling the Nazi insignia. We walked past a room cluttered with memorabilia from Baywatch, the 1990s TV show featuring bikini-clad lifeguards, and Pojunis explained that it was the personal office of Michael Burke, the creator of the show and a possible Libertarian Party candidate. “He literally has a key to the Playboy Mansion,” Pojunis said.
Anecdotally, when I’ve talked to Libertarians who identify as Paul supporters—particularly those who campaigned for his father, former congressman and two-time presidential candidate Ron Paul—they acknowledge the reality that Rand Paul may be the best ambassador to the mainstream political world they will ever get. In other words, the senator is not the ideal libertarian (an oxymoronic phrase, given the amount of infighting among libertarians about what exactly that is), but he comes close enough, and certainly closer than any other likely presidential candidate.
But Pojunis and his aides said those Paul supporters were fools. Libertarians who back Paul, he said, are “getting all the downside of compromise and none of the upside.”
Two months ago, there was little reason to think that Nevada’s Libertarian Party, which is considered slightly off the rails even among fellow libertarians, represented anyone other than its own 12,000 members. But some of Paul’srecent foreign policy pronouncements have some libertarians, especially those who gravitated to his father for his steadfast opposition to the war in Iraq and George W. Bush’s hyper-hawkishness, sounding like Pojunis and his fellow Nevada radicals.
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