David Harsanyi

If only it stopped there. Paul isn't a traditional conservative. His obsession with long-decided monetary policy and isolationism are not his only half-baked crusades. Paul's newsletters of the '80s and '90s were filled with anti-Semitic and racist rants, proving his slumming in the ugliest corners of conspiracyland today is no mistake.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of Paul is that thousands of intellectually curious young people will have read his silly books, including "End the Fed," as serious manifestoes. Though you wouldn't know it by listening to Paul or reading his words, libertarians do have genuine ideas that conservatives might embrace.

A serious libertarian, David Boaz at the Cato Institute, found that 14 percent of American voters could be classified as libertarian. "Other surveys," he points out, "find a larger number of people who hold views that are neither consistently liberal nor conservative but are best described as libertarian."

Seeing as the two top concerns at CPAC were "reducing size of federal government" (35 percent) followed by "reducing government spending," it is obvious the message of individual freedom and small government has resonance. But accepting Ron Paul as the leader of this -- or, actually, any -- charge is a mistake for both parties.

David Harsanyi

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist and the author of "The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy." Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.