December 14, 2011
In Sunday's News Leader, my friend and colleague Matthew Poteat warned about candidate Ron Paul (R-TX) pushing the Republican Party in what he (Matthew) believes to be a dangerous, libertarian direction. His statement that Rep. Paul "won't win the Republican nomination" elicited an avalanche of hostile comments from Ron Paul supporters across the country. Some of those supporters are absolutely certain that Ron Paul will win! Yikes. Clearly, those people are well organized, if not always well disciplined. I felt compelled to weigh in, with my usual "fair and balanced" approach:
I have a fair amount of sympathy for Ron Paul and agree with parts of his agenda, and I don't think Prof. Poteat gave a fair treatment of either the candidate or his philosophy. Hayek, von Mises, and the Austrian School deserve more intellectual respect than they usually get. On the other hand, I have big reservations about Ron Paul's occasional off-the-wall comments and his lack of executive experience (like BHO). I don't see why the GOP should "worry" about him, however. I would not write him (or anyone) off this early in the campaign. Anything can happen in the primaries, as Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Obama all proved. I'm surprised none of the commenters mentioned Gary Johnson, the libertarian ex-governor of New Mexico. He may not have the passionate supporters that Ron Paul has mobilized, but he would a greater chance of appealing to a majority of voters, if he could only get media attention. What worries me, as a thoroughly disenchanted Republican, is not the candidate himself, but rather the virulent nature of the movement he has spawned. The caustic or even menacing tone of many of the commenters on this article is not likely to win new converts to the cause of liberty.
I think the trouble comes from confusing libertarian thought with the libertarian Party or with libertarian political action, which tends toward anarchism sometimes. Indeed, the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War were also called libertarios.
Now here's a real surprise: old-school British conservative Andrew Sullivan has endorsed libertarian Ron Paul, in an article on The Daily Beast. Frankly, I have not been following Sullivan very much for the past year or so; too much of what he has written in recent years has had a bitter, angry tone. Apparently, the Ron Paul candidacy has given him a more upbeat outlook on politics in the U.S.A. Here is the (excerpted) core of his rationale, which resonates pretty strongly with me:
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.
But Paul's libertarianism may be the next best thing available in the GOP.
I regard this primary campaign as the beginning of a process to save conservatism from itself.
Talk about a noble crusade! "To dream the impossible dream..." Hat tip to Bruce Bartlett on Facebook. My comment on Bruce's page:
Ron Paul is flawed in many ways, and would be prone to saying something impolitic that would doom his chances in the general election, IF he were nominated somehow, but we live in extremely uncertain times, and anything can happen. Someone like him with a long-standing, consistent record that clearly points to where this country went astray just might work some magic. He has a passionate base of supporters which Gary Johnson lacks. I'm a little surprised that a classical conservative like Sullivan would endorse a firebrand iconoclastic candidate like Ron Paul, but that too may be a sign of the desperate times we're in.
When you look at the Republican field of candidates, diversity of thought is not the first quality that stands out. Cut taxes? Me too! Support Israel? Me too!! Repeal Obamacare? Me too!!! Fortunately, there is an alternative candidate who is not afraid to say what he really thinks about the issues, which is why he has less than a zero chance of winning the nomination: former Utah governor Jon Huntsman. For example, Huntsman has said that he is open-minded about global warming, whereas the orthodox GOP position is that there is no such problem. See the Washington Post (article from September). As I mentioned Nov. 21, Huntsman's policy proposals are more moderate than I would prefer. (See his Web site, jon2012.com.) He may be the last of the "RINO's," a political species that is fast heading toward extinction. But, hey, somebody's got to do it!
Most Republicans of a libertarian inclination (such as moi) look with favor on former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson as a presidential candidate. To my surprise, there is a group of "Libertarian Republicans for Huntsman"; see www.unitedliberty.org. Hat tip to Doug Mataconis.
But it may be too late: Johnson is hinting that he will run for president as a Libertarian. He declared "The party left me. ... The Republican Party hung me out to dry. See the Miami Herald.
On the general topic of libertarianism, the CATO Institute has a new program aimed at collegiate education: learnliberty.org.
Speaking in Le Mars, Iowa, on Tuesday, Rick Santorum asked "If hunger is a problem in America, then why do we have an obesity problem among the people who we say have a hunger problem?" See lemarssentinel.com; hat tip to Clifford Garstang. It's one of the only times I have agreed with Rick Santorum during this campaign. Usually I am repulsed by his narrow-minded, theocratic social conservative agenda. The point Santorum raised reminds me of the line in Elton John's song "The Bitch Is Back."
Times are changing, now the poor get fat
But the fever's gonna catch you when the bitch gets back
On Nov. 28 I wrote, "But the first thing that needs to be done is get everyone who is already here illegally registered, as a prerequisite to any future chance at getting long-term legalized status." Obviously, I did not mean that such people should be "illegally registered" (which makes no sense), but rather that there should be registration of all people who are here illegally.
I saw this bumper sticker on a car at the Green Valley Book Fair last week, making me wonder if the "grassroots" faction of the GOP has gone completely berserk:
Then I realized there was also an Obama 2012 sticker on the same car. Very funny.
* The title of this post is an allusion in fond memory of the late, great standup comedian Rodney Dangerfield.