Justin Raimondo, long-time Chronicles columnist, vociferous anti-war activist, and a leading member of the paleolibertarian political movement, died June 27 at age 67 after a long battle with lung cancer.
An influential champion of anti-interventionist foreign policy within the Libertarian and Republican political parties, Raimondo lobbed broadsides at warmongers left, right, and center from his post as founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com. He was a close friend and collaborator of both the patriarch of conservative-libertarian thought, Murray Rothbard, and Patrick Buchanan, the doyen of Paleoconservatism.
“I have known Justin Raimondo since we stood together to oppose the rush to war against Iraq in 1991,” Buchanan said in an email. “In the three decades since, no man in America worked harder or did more to resist the interventionist impulses of the American establishment and the wars they produced than Justin and his Antiwar website.”
Raimondo was a compelling and seemingly contradictory figure. He was a gay-rights activist and unbeliever who at the same time cherished his Catholic roots and sympathized with cultural conservatives. He was an anti-war stalwart who once found common cause with those on the left and yet became a staunch defender of President Donald Trump. He was a key member of the paleolibertarian movement that grew around the John Randolph Club in the 1990’s, which found common cause in conservative cultural values and opposition to government intervention.
“Where is the left today? The left is talking about cultural issues, Cultural Marxism, this whole racial and sexual identity politics, and that was really the death of the anti-war movement,” Raimondo said in a 2014 interview with Mises Institute President Jeff Deist. “All the movement is on the right now. That’s where the growth of anti-interventionism is really taking place.”
Raimondo grew up in Yorktown Heights, New York, and was influenced by teachers at a nearby Jesuit seminary. They exposed him to the ideas of Western philosophy and St. Thomas Aquinas, which he wasn’t getting in the public school. He was a rebellious student often in trouble with his teachers and parents, who sent him to see New York psychiatrist Robert Soblen.
As Raimondo detailed in his 2018 Chronicles column “Cold War Comfort,” Soblen was actually a prominent Soviet spy, who ruled that Raimondo’s bad behavior was the result of his youthful religious belief and recommended that he be institutionalized—a fate he narrowly escaped.
Raimondo became a libertarian when there were only about a thousand people in the entire country who identified as such. After high school he moved to San Francisco and became involved in local politics, including the gay-rights movement as well as libertarian causes. The center of the libertarian movement at that time was the “Kochtopus” empire of various publications and think tanks started by Charles and David Koch, including the Cato Institute, based in San Francisco. In 1978, he joined the Koch-published Libertarian Review as an editorial assistant, which was his formal entry into the libertarian world.
Soon after joining the Koch empire, Raimondo and Antiwar.com co-founder Eric Garris started the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus, which pushed an anti-interventionist platform. This drew the attention of Murray Rothbard, who was fed up with the compromises made by the more centrist Libertarian Party faction that the Kochs supported. “We were getting paid by Charles and at the same time opposing him in the LP,” Garris said in an interview.
The differences eventually widened into a schism that by 1983 had sent both Raimondo and Rothbard out of the Libertarian Party and the Kochs’ orbit. Raimondo and Garris organized a libertarian faction within the Republican Party, planting seeds that would fruition into Ron Paul’s candidacy in the 2008 Republican primary.
Raimondo also supported Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaigns in 1992, 1996, and 2000, serving in 1996 as his campaign chairman in San Francisco. This stretch was one of the most productive periods of his life, during which he founded Antiwar.com and wrote two books, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (1993), and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (2000). He also participated at that time in the paleolibertarian movement that grew around the John Randolph Club, The Rockford Institute, and Chronicles.
Raimondo was a fantastic writer who was one of the first to explain who the neoconservatives were and how they had hijacked traditional conservatism. In addition to Chronicles and Antiwar.com, he wrote regularly for The American Conservative, Reason, the Huffington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Spectator. When asked to comment for this article about Raimondo’s influence, Patrick Buchanan said, “He was steeped in history, a splendid writer, a loyal friend with a fine sense of humor, and a brave man who endured his sufferings with great dignity. May God bless and keep him.”
Justin leaves behind his legal husband Yoshi and two sisters, Dale and Diane, and will be missed greatly.