Part One Where we are
The other night Sue (my wife) and I were watching the news which at the time was dominated by the riots caused by the Koran "burning" in Afghanistan.
Sue turned to me and said something that I had been thinking for some time "So why are we not supposed to support Ron Paul?"
A good question, who any longer wants our troops in Afghanistan? According to polls not too many of us do and in this. like much else, we are coming to embrace Ron Paul's view (sort of) on the "conflict."
However the answer to the question, "why are we not supposed to support Ron Paul?" , is more nuanced. Simply put when it comes to some of his foreign policy positions Ron Paul is a nut job.
Ron Paul like many people who are obsessed with a certain ideology tend to see things in the extreme. They see the worst of motives in those that oppose them. Rather than believing that his opposition on the right have a differing vision on the solution to problems, he ascribes dark motives to his foes and ignores the very real concerns that they are attempting to address. In this respect he often times employs the tactics of Obama and the left, creating straw men arguments to slay foes who might otherwise give his views fair hearing.
Nowhere has this failure of Paul to confront reality been more pronounced than his unwillingness to face up to the threat to our national security posed by radical Islamist. He ascribes all blame to US foreign policy while ignoring the theological underpinning of the problem which will result in a continuance of the conflict irregardless of our policies. As the 9-11 Commission so aptly observed they are at war with us even if we are not at war with them. This state of "war" has little to do with our foreign policy, rather it is driven by a religious belief that the west, primarily the United States, are infidels and the enemy and must either be subjugated or destroyed.
Paul simply ignores this truth and ascribes all fault to the United States' "imperialism" which in itself is a demonstrably false narrative more in tune with far left anti American liberalism than Constitutional conservatism.
The shame of this is that much of what Paul advocates as a solution to our foreign policy ills are not only arguably acceptable policy prescriptions, but also gaining in acceptance, Furthermore there is an entire wing of the Republican Party and a huge segment of Independents who though not entirely in line with Paul's foreign policy prescriptions are at least receptive to them.
An example of this policy melding, if you will, would be Rick Perry's suggestion while he was a candidate that foreign aid needs to be zeroed out and allocated based on other nation's support for our national interest and policies. Paul's position is that there should be no foreign aid at all, a position which has not only constitutional backing but makes some practical and certainly fiscal sense as well.
Perry's position could be seen as a stepping stone from our current insane foreign aid policies moving towards Paul's position, or it could be seen as a compromise between the two. A compromise if you will between the neo-cons and the libertarians.
There in lies the seeds of the failure of Paulian libertaranism, the inability to compromise even when in doing so it leads to an incremental move towards your ultimate goal. This incremental strategy is what has allowed the left and the progressives to move the nation so far away from the libertarian nation that Paul and his followers claim to want to return to. Yet they seem unwilling to reverse this march with anything less than total capitulation of not only their ideological foes but those who are ideologically oriented and inclined to support them.
When it comes to domestic policy, on nearly every ideological front, on nearly every policy issue Paul and his libertarian followers are leading the way. More and more conservatives and independents are "seeing the light" and moving towards their views. Whether it be monetary policy, the Tenth Amendment, or the downsizing of government, nearly everyone in the grass roots right agrees with the Libertarians. Even on many of the social issues such as gay marriage and drug legalization most on the right are willing to allow these type issues to be decided by the states as long as the Federal Government stays out of them. Which is the Constitutional argument.
On so many issues libertarians and grass roots (the majority) of conservatives not only have common ground they are walking the same path. The only thing that stands in the way of a true partnership is in fact Ron Paul himself.
Ron Paul's extreme views on American foreign policy as stated above not only turn off many who would be willing to come to his side, but worse they draw into his following a segment of political thought which is antithetical to most of the rest of Paul's agenda. This following is closer to the OWS Movement than the Tea Party Movement and despite attempts to find common ground between these two movements by some they are worlds apart and can not and will not be merged. About the only real thing the two movements have in common is their opposition to TARP, but the motivation for that opposition is diametrical opposed to one another.
Paul's failure to address this, but rather, in some ways to endorse the OWS views is another reason for his inability to gain traction on the right where his ideological constituency of Constitutional conservatives should be.
It would seem that the libertarian movement, given Paul's failure to create a natural coalition due to his intransigence on key issues, would doom it to return to the fringe of political thought and power in the United States. Although this is possible , it is not likely for several reasons, not least of these being that the GOP establishment is not only not giving the grass roots constitutional conservatives a reason to support the Republicans, they seem to be marginalizing this dynamic and core constituency of the party. Indeed the Republican establishment seems intent on driving this foundational segment of their party away.
More on this in part two.