Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Is Ron Paul Still a Viable Candidate?

I stepped into the political ring this year, and it’s been quite an education. I first went to the precinct caucus to provide a voice of reason against a very strong and very well organized Ron Paul contingent in my part of the state.  This ultimately led to my being selected to go first to the county and then to the state convention, where I would have a chance to run as a delegate for the National Republican convention if I wanted to go.  I don’t think I’ll do that, because I have other financial priorities at the moment.

But one of the effects of this activity is that I’ve learned that what the media is reporting is often very different from what’s actually happening.  The conventional wisdom right now is that Mitt Romney is the presumptive nominee for the Republican party.  He’s the anointed one by the mainstream media and the Republican party establishment.

But from my position in the trenches, I’m not seeing it.  For example, he won in the Washington state straw poll that was taken on the day of the caucus, and so Washington was declared for Mitt Romney.

Not so cotton-picking fast.  The Ron Paul and Santorum campaigns got organized before the county conventions, and with some cooperation from the grass roots that wasn’t authorized by the Gingrich campaign, these three campaigns unified to send proportional numbers of delegates to the state convention, almost completely shutting out the Romney delegates.  From what I hear, this wasn’t the only county where this happened.  Numerically Romney may still have more delegates at the state convention than the other campaigns, but hardly a plurality.  With the Santorum and Gingrich delegates now being basically free agents, the Not-Romney delegates far outnumber the Romney delegates.  I could easily see a scenario where Washington sends a delegation composed of Ron Paul and free agents to the national convention, completely shutting out Mittens.

The word to the media and to the Romney campaign is, therefore, don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.  There’s a ground swell of resentment among the conservatives of this nation, fueled by the TEA party, that’s sick and tired of the career, business as usual, establishment Republicans who vote the status quo in congress and don’t use their majority status to render the liberal democrats irrelevant. Conservatives on the grass roots level are tired of Republicans reaching across the aisle and then getting jerked off their feet. Bipartisanship to a Democrat means voting the Democrat agenda, nothing more.

So does Ron Paul have a chance?  Based on his campaign to date, I sincerely hope that answer is no.  Don’t get me wrong, I like what Ron Paul has to say on domestic policy, I really do.  We need the federal government to relinquish all powers that are not specifically enumerated in the constitution.  We need to get spending under control, and we need to abolish the federal reserve system.

But Ron Paul’s stated foreign policies are completely at odds with reality.  He seems to have no rational approach to evaluating the intent of foreign powers and how the actions of foreign powers affect the United States.  His statements about Domestic vs. Foreign energy production seem to be at odds with his stated endorsement of free trade.  His ideas about precipitously reducing the US military presence worldwide is ill-advised, does not reflect the very complex reality of world affairs, and could very easily result in millions of deaths where just the implied possibility of US intervention is a stabilizing influence in simmering regional conflicts.

The problem with Ron Paul is reflected in his followers, who mostly have a very libertarian bent.  Remember that Ron Paul was himself the Libertarian candidate for years, until he adopted the “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” attitude that got him elected to congress.  His problem is that his rigid adherence to principle makes him unable to provide a flexible, well-reasoned response to the realities of a given situation.  Given a Republican congress, this inflexibility would actually be an asset in correcting the course of the nation, but in international affairs, that flexibility will be taken advantage of by agents who do not have the best interests of the USA in their hearts.  A flexible, restrained, realistic approach to international affairs is essential to prevent a repeat of the bloody chaos of the twentieth century.  In this realm Ron Paul has demonstrated that he’s no historian, and no social scientist.

Based solely on the support of his ardent – almost religious – following, Ron Paul cannot win the nomination.  But given the very large pool of free agent delegates Ron Paul could force a brokered convention and could conceivably win the nomination if he played his cards right.  There’s a huge number of delegates already in place that would love nothing better than to poke a stick in the eye of the likes of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner and put them on notice that their moderate, RINO way of governing isn’t playing well in Peoria.  The problem that's causing these anti-establishment folks to lose sleep is the idea that a protest vote against the establishment selection of Romney could be too successful, and they end up accidentally nominating Ron Paul!

This doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  Ron Paul could re-ignite his campaign with the remaining undecided or recently disenchanted Santorum/Gingrich camps by stepping back from his foreign policy rhetoric, hiring John Bolton as his foreign policy advisor and potential Secretary of State and making the following concessions to the independent delegates:
  • The USA will continue to uphold ratified treaty obligations, including those that require American forces to be stationed overseas.
  • The USA will support the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and actively work to deny nuclear capability to unstable countries, i.e. Iran and presumptively North Korea.
  • The USA will continue to provide unwavering support to our closest ally in the Middle East, Israel.
  • The USA will continue to be an advocate for international law and the sovereignty of all nations.
  • The USA will continue to be an advocate of human rights around the world, and will work against all nations who play politics with hunger.
Ron Paul’s stated policy to bring the troops home from all over the world is a laudable one, but totally impractical in the short term.  In the long term this would be a very desirable goal.  But we’ve spent the last 70 years insinuating ourselves into world affairs, and have for better or worse been cast as the major player in many regions outside of North America.  A withdrawal from these stages would need to be well-planned and carried out over a period of years if not decades, to allow these regions the opportunity to adjust to a different balance of power without collapsing into chaos.  Chaos kills people and is bad for business.

If Ron Paul can re-brand himself on international policy; if he will publicly admit that he’s weak in this field and will hire and take the council of reputable experts, then he could very well squeak out a win.  And if this were to happen, I wouldn’t have a problem with that.  Hell, I would heartily endorse the man and raise a toast to his honor!

The lesson to the Ron Paul enthusiasts is that a half a loaf is better than none.  The Ron Paul camp consistently wants ALL of their agenda implemented, no exceptions, and have been unwilling to cooperate with people whose ideas do not match theirs.  They fail to recognize that this rigid idealism inevitably alienates them from people who share most of their values, and results in the candidate who least represents their positions from getting in power.  Very good case in point:  In the Washington state governors race between Christine Gregoire and Dino Rossi, the margin by which Gregoire won was very very tight.  So tight, in fact, that the number of votes cast for the libertarian candidate - that's the same group that will vote for Paul - was more than the number of votes that Rossi needed for a win. I fail to see how electing the liberal Gregoire does anything to promote the cause of the libertarians.  Quite the opposite.  One lesson we need to take from how the liberal agenda has been implemented is that incrementalism works.  The all or nothing mindset of the Libertarian, Ron Paul supporters is self-defeating and needs to be dispensed with.


  1. Good article. JM

  2. Well done,
    I especially like 'Mittens'

  3. 1. Do you really believe that the US military presence abroad contributes to the reduction in bloodshed?
    2. Is his rigid adherence to principle a vice you are pointing at or a virtue, along with his stressing the supremacy of Law, esp. The Bill of Rights?

    1. 1. Absolutely. US military presence overseas is not limited to Afghanistan and (formerly) Iraq. I was in the military during the cold war and have lived in three different countries besides the US. As I stated in the blog, US presence is a deterrent and a moderating factor in many regional conflicts. People point at the bloodshed in Vietnam and Iraq and criticize the US as being the cause of this. But as we saw in Cambodia, Rwanda, China, and most recently in the Sudan, these conflicts, as bloody as they are, have the potential to get a whole lot bloodier without the US presence. If the US had just pulled out of Iraq after toppling Saddam Hussein, the body count could easily have been ten times as bad had the country slid into full-blown civil war. Remember that most of the deaths in Iraq were Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence, and most of the US mission there was just getting between the warring factions.

      2. Rigid adherence to principle is a virtue, until it gets in the way of realistic solutions. We must remember that the law is an ass, and if applied too rigidly the results will be asinine. The Bill of Rights is a wonderful piece of legal protections, but it is too often abused. If they taught ethics today as they should but don't, you would know that rights imply responsibilities. The Bill of Rights assumes a corollary Bill of Responsibilities, but these are not enumerated, and consequently the Bill of Rights is interpreted without regard to the implicit responsibilities, and therefore becomes a joke.

      But when I speak of rigid adherence to principle with regard to Ron Paul, I'm mainly referring to his foreign policy, which seems divorced of historical perspective and full of pie in the sky wishful thinking about the motivations and objectives of foreign powers. A rational foreign policy must be realistic and honest, or it's doomed to disaster.