Being Right: Not My Republican



Alan He

Four years ago, Texas Congressman Ron Paul was an obscure figure with little name recognition. Today he is an icon with one of the most loyal grassroots followings of any politician. Recently, his loyal supporters propelled him to a close second place finish be­hind Michelle Bachmann in the symbolic Iowa Ames Straw Poll, effectively ending third place finisher Tim Pawlenty’s run for president.

Over the course of four years or even the three decades since he was first elected, Paul’s beliefs haven’t changed, although America has since experienced the great reces­sion. Paul has become well known, mainly through the sheer force of his libertarian ideas and convictions, which have resonated with many disenfranchised young people in an era of bailouts and wars. He first got into politics in the 1970s because that is when President Nixon took the U.S. off the gold stan­dard, and he has been advocating for its reinstatement ever since. He has pushed the notion that the Feder­al Reserve should be audited and that Fed Chief Ben Bernanke should be fired.

The last idea has gained steam among Republicans. In the last Republican debate, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney both said they would fire the Bush appointee. Unlike the vast majority of Republicans, Paul opposed the 1991 Gulf War, the 1999 Kosovo Intervention, the 2003 War in Iraq and now he advocates for withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan. In the same Republican debate, Jon Huntsman argued that it was time for the United States to exit Afghanistan, while Rick Perry de­cried American military adventurism. As his supporters will tell you, Ron Paul has been consistent and years ahead of the pack.

While such consistency and honesty deserves our respect, it doesn’t necessarily make for good politics or policy.

From a political angle, Paul’s libertarian ideals would be a huge liability against the Democrats’s spin ma­chine. The same right-leaning libertarian philosophy that says drugs and marijuana should be legal, which probably appeals to his college supporters, also leads to other more troubling conclusions.

In May, he suggested in an interview with Chris Matthews that he wouldn’t have voted for the land­mark 1964 Civil Rights Act because of the “property rights element.” Other hypothetical political mine­fields include any issues where property rights are impinged, i.e. the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was a stumbling block for Paul’s son, Senator Rand Paul. Furthermore, despite Ron Paul’s obvious charisma, he is not particularly articulate when compared to other national politicians.

To a certain extent this is because he says what he actually is thinking and actually gets into policy details, as opposed to providing well-rehearsed sound bites. Conse­quentially, during primary debates he often comes off as rambling, jumping from one point to another with an awkward pause. Frankly, he lacks the necessary political polish required on the national stage that his primary opponents and son Rand pos­sess. Furthermore, doctrinarian consistency, or, in other words, inflexibility in making national policy is no virtue, nor does it ensure good outcomes.

For Republicans who believe that America is the shining city on a hill and a beacon of freedom for the world, Ron Paul is not the candidate for us. Under a Paul Administration, America would not have participated in protecting hundreds of thousands of ethnic mi­norities in Kosovo, and it would have watched idly while Muammar Qaddafi slaughtered the inhabitants of Benghazi.

As his supporters tout, Paul’s rigid noninterventionist doctrine would have saved American blood and treasure in Iraq, but it also would have doomed the hundreds of thousands of people who were saved in American-led humanitarian interventions. These two scenarios, both good and bad, are inextricably linked. Ron Paul is a refreshing po­litical figure with ideas that deserve to be heard on a national stage and considered. We should laud him for his honesty and steadfastness, but that doesn’t mitigate the fact that he is wrong, and consistently wrong, on too many important issues.

Contact Alan He at [email protected]