You haven't turned to me for analysis of the New Hampshire primaries. I'll direct you instead to an excellent piece about one of the Republican candidates, Congressman Ron Paul. The article is by one of my regular correspondents, Jamie Kirchick of The New Republic, and can be read here. You will immediately infer from the many hundreds of comments it has already attracted that the candidate's supporters are exercised by it.
The peculiarly American phenomenon of libertarianism was once described as "liberalism at wit's end". The phrase was coined by a political scientist called Stephen Newman, in an excellent book of that title. Newman's intention was to defend liberal politics from what he termed "a caricature of the Lockean original". Invoking Hannah Arendt's writings, Newman argued that the libertarian stress on private interests overlooked our common interest in equal liberty. It's from that omission that the appalling consequences of libertarian doctrine, consistently applied, would arise.
But the libertarian movement has heterogeneous constituents. These include the reasonable and often (on social issues) astute libertarians of Reason magazine, as well as the doctrinaire free-market and anti-interventionist Cato Institute. But at the furthest end of libertarianism are some very murky currents indeed. Jamie has done well not only to identify these but also to locate Ron Paul's position within "a strain of right-wing libertarianism that views the Civil War as a catastrophic turning point in American history--the moment when a tyrannical federal government established its supremacy over the states".
Do read the whole thing. When I first came across Paul around a decade ago, I thought of him as merely a crank and an anachronism. His politics are worse than that, and he merits the coverage that TNR has given him.
UPDATE: Nick Gillespie of Reason magazine is clearly shaken by this material and his response is to the credit of the "soft" wing of the libertarian movement:
"As someone who has written and commented widely and generally sympathetically about Ron Paul, I've got to say that The New Republic article detailing tons of racist and homophobic comments from Paul newsletters is really stunning. As former reason intern Dan Koffler documents here, there is no shortage of truly odious material that is simply jaw-dropping.
"I don't think that Ron Paul wrote this stuff but that really doesn't matter--the newsletters carried his name after all.... It is hugely disappointing that he produced a cache of such garbage."
Gillespie also reproduces Congressman Paul's response to Jamie Kirchick's TNR article. You can read it here, on Paul's official site. You may disagree, but I consider that a statement concluding "for over a decade, I have publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name" is both damning and evasive.
UPDATE II: Andrew Sullivan, whose support for what he sees as Congressman Paul's honourable non-conformism has astonished me, rightly describes the old newsletters issued in Paul's name as "full of truly appalling bigotry". But Andrew is too generous in allowing Paul an escape route by "clearly explain[ing] and disown[ing] these ugly, vile, despicable tracts from the past". For what it's worth, I accept Paul's explanation that the ugly sentiments in his publications were penned by hands other than his own. What is culpable is that Paul has plainly never been exercised by those views' having been issued in his name. The best construction you can put on this is that he felt there were more important issues at stake. (There is a revealing remark in Paul's feeble statement today that the story is "being resurrected for obvious political reasons on the day of the New Hampshire primary". So he distances himself from the sentiments issued in his name over decades in order to neutralise those "political reasons" and not on any more principled grounds.)
I'm a strong believer in the freedom to express bigoted opinions. But those who take advantage of that democratic right have no business complaining when their comments are taken seriously. Ron Paul's campaign has been mortally wounded; like so many politicians before him, he blames the messenger. The problem is in the candidate, who never merited Andrew's support and whose protracted political demise I anticipate with unseemly enthusiasm.