Ron Paul is often described as a crank. Even folks like Ross Douthat who write basically sympathetic columns about the congressman from Texas say things like, “Paul, for all his crankishness, is the kind of conservative that Tea Partiers want to believe themselves to be: Deeply principled, impressively consistent, a foe of big government in nearly all its forms (the Department of Defense very much included.) Gingrich, on the other hand, is the kind of conservative that liberals believe most Tea Partiers to be — not a genuine ‘don’t tread on me’ libertarian, but a partisan Republican whose unstinting support for George W. Bush’s deficit spending morphed into hand-wringing horror of ‘socialism’ once a Democrat captured the Oval Office.”
Gingrich is awful and Paul is principled but Paul is still a crank. Just an honorable crank. Indeed, it’s his principles that land him in the crank category so often. Or so the refrain goes time and time again.
Conor Friedersdorf argues that the attempt by the mainstream media – including the rightwing media – to marginalize and ignore Dr. Paul won’t make the candidate disappear. And indeed, his polling is surprisingly strong in Iowa and New Hampshire and elsewhere. Conor writes:
There is nothing inherently wrong with factoring electability into the candidate one votes for in a primary, or backing a candidate who is less conservative on domestic policy because one agrees with his foreign policy views. But these are the sorts of tradeoffs and compromises that many Tea Partiers have spent a lot of time disparaging when other people were making them. A vote against Paul requires either cognitive dissonance — never in short supply in politics — or a fundamental rethinking of the whole theory of politics that so recently drove the Tea Party movement.
Andrew Sullivan, in endorsing Ron Paul, argues:
I am, like many others these days, politically homeless. A moderate, restrained limited government conservatism that seeks to amend, not to revolt, to reform, not to revolutionize, is unavailable. I’m a Tory who has come to see universal healthcare as a moral necessity that requires some minimal government support, who wants government support for a flailing recovery now, but serious austerity once we recover. I favor massive private and public investment in non-carbon energy, because I am a conservative who does not believe our materialism trumps the need for conserving our divine inheritance. I back marriage equality and marijuana legalization as Burkean adjustments to a changing society. I see a role for government where Paul doesn’t.
But Paul’s libertarianism may be the next best thing available in the GOP. It would ensure real pressure to make real cuts in entitlements and defense; it would extricate America from the religious wars of the Middle East, where we do not belong. It would challenge the statist, liberal and progressive delusion that for every problem there is a solution, let alone a solution devised by government. As part of offering the world a decent, tolerant conservatism, these instincts are welcome. As an antidote – and a very strong one – to the fiscal recklessness and lawless belligerence of Bush-Cheney, it is hard to beat. The Tea Party, for all their flaws, are right about spending and the crony capitalism it foments. So is Paul.
A lot of people have argued recently that the newfound libertarianism in the GOP is what’s corrupting it, turning it from a more moderate party into the Tea Party. The Paul Ryan budget, the obstructionism, the starving of the beast – this new hardline GOP has lost all its compassion. I’ve read too many accounts of this nature to recall where to link.
But this is wrongheaded. The real corruption of the GOP has nothing to do with libertarianism or small government. Republicans have become the party of war. The Democrats aren’t much better, true, but the Republicans have really taken war to a whole new level. In their support for the war on terror and Israel Republicans and some of their more hawkish allies on the left could quite easily propel us into a war with Iran.
Then there’s the war on drugs, torture, the NDAA and the potential indefinite detention of US citizens – not to mention the assassination of US citizens under this administration (and supported by many on the left and the right.) Hawks in the current GOP run-off will likely one-up Obama who has, in some ways at least, one-upped his predecessor.
I disagree plenty with Ron Paul. I’m not a paleo-libertarian by any measure. I think a market economy requires a welfare state simply in order to create a sustainable system. Without safety nets you set the stage for revolution. But I tend to agree with Paul on many of the symptoms of our national woe. My inner Austrian tempers my liberalism and makes me something of a bleeding-heart libertarian (and by this I really do mean bleeding-heart) and I do think a limited government is the best sort of government. One that does very little to constrain the economy or lock people up for nonviolent offenses. One that utilizes its monopoly on violence as little as possible.
When we say “limited government” we often draw different lines in different sandboxes.
I have lost faith in Obama. Yes, I think that some things in the healthcare reform legislation and financial legislation do some real good for some people. But I see a very poor trade in electing folks who give you corporate healthcare legislation in exchange for dubious, never-ending war powers.
What it comes down to for me is not spending or taxes or anything like that at all. I want peace. I want to elect whichever candidate is most likely to lead us in a peaceful direction – toward peaceful commerce and a vastly downsized military abroad. I want a candidate who will honestly and frankly assess the abuses of liberty here at home, because without our basic rights intact, how can we trust anything our government does?
For me it is hardly about left vs. right anymore or the various second-tier policy differences Democrats and Republicans may have. Yes, I care about jobs, about taxes, about healthcare and public education. Yes, on many of these issues I’m far to the left of Ron Paul. But I care more about peace.
I understand that non-interventionism is crankish and all that, but it’s a good idea and it’s time to give it a shot.