The last week has been filled with all sorts of left/right punditry examining the issue of a Ron Paul presidency. Now, for the record, I am not a Ron Paul booster, I like some of the things he has to say, but I think from a purely Libertarian perspective Gary Johnson is far more appealing and interesting. That being said I find it interesting that both the conservatives and the progressives think Ron Paul and his ideas would be the worst thing that ever happened to the country. If nothing else that should get the people’s attention, and maybe get them realizing the stranglehold these two groups have on American politics really needs to come to an end.
The conservatives have been frothing themselves up over at the American Spectator about the horror that could come from a Paul presidency, mostly landing on the notion that as President he may not want to bomb the piss out of every tin-plated dictator anytime, anywhere, no questions asked or congressional approval needed. This goes to the point of Libertarians being isolationists and not fit to lead Empire America as the Neo-Con (which somehow in these screeds has become an anti-Semitic term?) “adults” see fit. Isolationists is of course used as a convenient debate stifling term, for to be an isolationist means you would have let the Nazis or the Commies take over the world. There is no room in their world for the fact that $700 Billion defense budgets are unsustainable, or that questioning the need, utility or cost effectiveness of certain military expenditures isn’t unpatriotic, it is common sense. If we pulled out of our bases in Europe do they honestly believe the Russians would come crashing across the borders? Who, what and more importantly where would we be fighting a massive land war that necessitates us keeping such a large military force at the ready? There are all sorts of hoots and hollers that if the U.S. retreats from its role as world policeman that the Chinese will step into the vacuum. So we must therefore maintain this massive military presence all around the world, drawing more and more of our budget (much of it borrowed from the Chinese), in order to counteract Chinese “influence” in the world? If we keep this up they will be able to easily spread their influence after we go bankrupt. What will we do then?
The progressive set has been asking itself if a Ron Paul who strongly believes in civil liberties, more so than Obama, would be a fair trade-off on other issues. The answer of course is a resounding no. They go on and on about the end of civil rights and abortion rights and the “kooky” ideas he has about the economy and the state. This whole line of questioning for progressives was a non-starter to begin with, for Paul’s position on civil liberties is interlinked and grounded in the unacceptable and dangerous propositions they continue to list, a Federal government whose power is actually limited. Progressives can not, outside of the realm of civil liberties, envision a limited government, for that does not allow for all the wonderful positive things government can do. It does not matter what Paul’s position is on any near and dear issue, the fact that he is not on team big government disqualifies him from any consideration. Progressives have been upset with Obama for not being “progressive“ enough, and some are calling for a primary challenge from the left. This more than anything should highlight their irrelevance. Pushing, against popular opinion for a greater and grander left-ward agenda resulted in the 2010 midterm outcome, and they don’t see or acknowledge that. If Obama were to stand up and run on bigger government, more and deeper regulation, unions for everyone and single payer healthcare you would have a situation in which even Michele Bachman could squeak out a win. There is no room for compromise in the hardcore progressive agenda, so even bringing up the “what ifs” of a Paul presidency doesn’t even rank as an academic exercise.
For the American people not thoroughly entrenched in either the conservative or progressive camps this should all be very enlightening. There is a lot of talk about gridlock and incivility in Washington, but each side of our perpetual dichotomy claims the solution is giving their side complete power, no talk of compromise or a change of direction. Understanding you can not, in a country this large and diverse, always get your way 100% of the time should be the starting point. Some of Paul’s positions are unique, some may even be “kooky”, but they certainly deserve some consideration. The weight of the office and the realities of the times always modify what presidents end up doing in office as compared to their campaign promises. Obama promised quite a bit, and progressives are unhappy about how little was actually delivered, and that is always the way things go. A Paul presidency, focused on rolling back elements of the state, would annoy both sides of the spectrum, and if they could convince the American people it was the wrong track, then he would face a backlash in his midterm elections, the same way Obama did. The reason Paul does well in polling is that he is preaching a different gospel, one in which government is not the be all and end all, and the reason so many of the other candidates are trying to skirt his line (while trying to maintain a toehold with the traditional conservatives) is that it is an appealing proposition to many people. Will he prevail in the primaries? Probably not. Could he be elected president? Why not? Continuing on with the fiction that you can perpetually patrol the world without thought to cost and rain down bombs without consequences should seem crazy in today’s environment. Beating the drum of Big Government, that it can and should perpetually grow and solve all problems of everyone everywhere (whether they want your help or not) should be the kooky proposition. The pundits want Paul to be ignored, because there is a chance that people might see through the relative insanity of the hardcore left/right and go in a different direction, which would be very, very bad for them. If we can minimize the impact of these ideologues on each side in selecting our candidates and our policies then the American people might actually be the better for the effort, and if nothing else it is good that we are talking about it for once.