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But peacenik liberals who come to the site expecting to commune with "Free Mumia!" soulmates are in for a shock. They'll find Raimondo dissing ANSWER – the Bay Area anti-war organization that held the big Civic Center peace rallies – calling it a collection of "eccentric commies" because of its affiliation with the Socialist Workers' World Party. And right-winger Pat Buchanan's syndicated anti-war column regularly appears on the site.
Garris, Raimondo, and Hunter don't care whether the writers they link to from their site are right- or left-wing; they care about their stances on war. "Didn't we found this country to get away from foreign quarrels, the intrigues of kings?" asks Raimondo. "So what is the rationale for intervention? I'd like to hear it. That we have to make the world safe for democracy? Didn't we do that in World War I? It didn't really work out that way. Or what about World War II, when we handed half of Europe to Stalin? Oh that was a great victory."
Viewing the state as a meddling and coercive force, libertarians oppose big government and foreign intervention and believe that individuals have a right to be left alone to make their own decisions. Garris and Raimondo like to point out that some of these ideals extend as far back as the Founding Fathers; the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, for instance, were written, in part, to safeguard individual liberty from an authoritarian state.
But libertarianism as a modern political movement got rolling in the late 1960s, when a young generation of peace-loving draft resisters, fed up with the two dominant parties that had supported the war, turned to pacifist libertarianism. That was when Garris, Raimondo, and Hunter got involved in the cause. In 1972, the newly formed Libertarian Party garnered enough supporters to get its own presidential candidate on the November ballot.
Libertarians' belief in extremely restricted government can wind up putting them on either the left or right side of current issues, depending. For instance, most libertarians believe drugs should be legalized, because criminalizing them is both expensive and an attack on civil liberties and personal choice. Under the same theory of limited government, they believe there should be no environmental regulations.
However, Garris, Raimondo, and their benefactor, Colin Hunter, consider themselves not just libertarians, but also so-called "Old Right" conservatives. In the 1980s, they dropped out of the Libertarian Party, and though they continued to hold libertarian ideals close to their hearts, they are now registered Republicans. They trace their brand of conservatism back to a group of Republican writer/activists in the 1930s and 1940s – among them, John T. Flynn and Garet Garrett – who vociferously spoke out against the big-government policies of Roosevelt's New Deal (to them it looked suspiciously like fascism) and opposed America's entry into World War II. Anti-intervention fell out of fashion for Republicans during the Cold War years, and now hardly anybody remembers a time when most Republicans weren't hawks. Garris, Raimondo, and Hunter like to think they are carrying forward the long-forgotten Old Right mantle.
They also see themselves at a watershed for libertarianism. As in the beginning days of America's involvement with Vietnam, neither Democrats nor Republicans are, on the whole, pacifist. Clinton bombed Iraq, and many Democrats in Congress voted to give Bush carte blanche to pre-emptively attack Iraq. The time is right, they believe, for a whole new generation to be turned on to the ideals of libertarianism, and the ideals of the Old Right. And the turning will happen at Antiwar.com, and through the writings of Raimondo, even if he is openly gay, which isn't usually appreciated by conservatives. Then again, as a libertarian, he believes the government should refrain from adopting laws that would prohibit discrimination against gays.
"I think gays should have the right to discriminate against straight people if they want. And I wouldn't want to be hired by someone who didn't accept me because I'm gay anyway!" Raimondo says.
Growing up in the 1960s in upstate New York, Raimondo created an identity for himself as a precocious right-winger. His middle-class, Archie Bunker-ish family didn't care about politics one way or another; it was Raimondo's own nerdy hobby. He dog-eared his high school library's subscription to the National Review and idolized its founder, William F. Buckley (whom Raimondo did not yet view as an evil neocon masquerading as a conservative libertarian). Raimondo joined the conservative youth movement group called the Young Americans for Freedom and volunteered for Barry Goldwater's 1968 presidential campaign.
Perhaps most attractive of all to Raimondo were the glamorous, egomaniacal heroes from the novels of Ayn Rand. Objectivism – Rand's personal philosophy – shares many concepts with libertarianism, including an every-man-for-himself hatred of state-funded services and a strong belief in a free market economy. Many early Randians, like Raimondo, went on to become libertarians (though later, the two camps would reject each other over minor differences).
When, at 16, Raimondo received a letter from Rand's lawyer, threatening to sue him because he'd "misrepresented the basic principles" of objectivism in a student newsletter, Raimondo ripped it up into tiny pieces. He sent the scraps back to the lawyer, with a note that said, "This is what I think of you and your threats."