Rand Paul's Latest Enemies? Other Libertarians.

Ed Reinke / AP

Poor Rand Paul. First he clobbers the establishment favorite, Trey Grayson, in Kentucky's GOP Senate primary. So far, so good. But then he tells Rachel Maddow that the U.S. was wrong to prohibit business owners from discriminating against people because of their race, and suddenly, he's under fire from every direction: the press, the Dems, even other Republicans. Pretty soon, Paul is ducking national interviews and hiring a new campaign manager. And that's all before the end of his first week as nominee.

You'd think, amid all the hubbub, that Paul could count on the support at least one set of allies: his fellow libertarians. After all, Paul's strict adherence to libertarian doctrine--many libertarians have long opposed the section of the Civil Rights Act that outlaws discrimination in 'public accommodations'--is what got him into such hot water in the first place. But no such luck. According to a new Associated Press report, the Libertarian Party of Kentucky's Vice Chair Joshua Koch is now saying that Paul has betrayed the party's values--and that he and his compatriots are actively searching for a candidate to run against the Bowling Green ophthalmologist in the general election.

So what did Paul do wrong, according to Koch and Co.? Where to begin. He has promised to support abortion bans. He opposes same-sex marriage. He doesn't want to legalize drugs. And even though he is no fan of foreign wars, he has refused to call for U.S. troops to leave Iraq and Afghanistan. In short, Paul veered just close enough to Republican orthodoxy--and just far enough away from textbook, theoretical libertarianism--to actually win a Republican primary. He has behaved, in other words, like an inhabitant of the real world. Or, as Koch puts it: "He had gone from being an outsider candidate to a Tea Party candidate to an establishment candidate in the past nine months. It's a complete identity crisis. I've never seen anything like it."

If the Libertarian Party wants to make a statement by blocking the election of the most libertarian-friendly national politician in America--a man, in the words of Jonathan Chait, who is "so wedded to libertarian principle that he endured two days of disastrous national publicity rather than admit that the government has a right to ban private segregation"--then by all means, go right ahead. But they should probably stop wondering why the rest of the country doesn't want them in charge while they're at it.