Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ron Paul's Success Pushes Republican Party in a More Libertarian, More Isolationist Direction

After the election last month, I wrote an open letter to my Libertarian friends arguing that the third-party strategy was not working and suggested if the party adherents were to become involved in the Republican Party (the party to which most Libertarians lean) they would immediately become an impact player influencing policy and election outcomes.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul
That letter undoubtedly irritated many of my Libertarian friends.  I have a lot of respect for Libertarians, especially their consistent dedication to a philosophy I share at least 80% of the time.  Libertarians make up some of the brightest minds in politics today and while the party organization is small, they are very well-organized and bring an enthusiasm that neither party can match.  The problem though is the two party system is so firmly ingrained in voters' minds that Libertarians start every election giving the two major candidates a huge lead.  Libertarians, and their small government, pro-liberty ideas, are left on the sidelines after every election.

My suggestion of being a small case libertarian within the Republican Party, is rejected by most libertarians.  Libertarians believe the leadership as well as the party's policies, is impervious to change and that the route to change is the third party strategy.  Yet the tea party became a major player on the state and national political scene not by being a third party but by working within the GOP to effect change and to nominate candidates.

While Libertarians insist their third party strategy is the best, their favorite Libertarian, Ron Paul, is proving them wrong.  Ron Paul used his libertarian philosophy to get elected as a Republican congressman from Texas.  Although a marginal presidential candidate in 2008, he is today one of the top three candidates in the race for the GOP nomination. 

Peter Beinert who writes for the political blog "The Daily Beast" has penned an article that sums up my thoughts about the impact of Ron Paul on GOP politics:
We haven’t even said goodbye to 2011, but I want to be first in line with my person of the year prediction for 2012: Ron Paul. I don’t think Paul is going to win the presidency, or even win the Republican nomination. But he’s going to come close enough to change the GOP forever. 
Even after World War II, Mr. Republican—Robert Taft—opposed the creation of NATO and called the Korean War unconstitutional. Dwight Eisenhower worked feverishly to scale back the Truman-era defense spending that he feared would bankrupt America and rob it of its civil liberties. Even conservative luminaries like William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater who embraced the global anti-communist struggle made it clear that they were doing so with a heavy heart. Global military commitments, they explained, represented a tragic departure from small government conservatism, a departure justified only by the uniquely satanic nature of the Soviet threat. 
The cold war lasted half a century, but isolationism never left the conservative DNA. And when the Soviet Union collapsed, some of America’s most prominent conservative intellectuals—people like Irving Kristol, Jeane Kirkpatrick and Pat Buchanan—argued that the GOP should become the party of Coolidge and Taft once again. The Republican Congress of the 1990s bitterly opposed Bill Clinton’s wars in the Balkans, and Buchanan, running on an isolationist platform, briefly led the GOP presidential field in 1996. Even the pre-9/11 Bush administration was so hostile to increased military spending that the Weekly Standard called on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign.
Given this history, it’s entirely predictable that in the wake of two disillusioning wars, a diminishing al Qaeda threat and mounting debt, someone like Ron Paul would come along. In Washington, Republican elites are enmeshed in a defense-industrial complex with a commercial interest in America’s global military footprint. But listen to Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh and see how often you hear them demanding that America keep fighting in Afghanistan, or even attack Iran. According to a November CBS News poll, as many Republicans said the U.S. should decrease its troop presence in Afghanistan as said America should increase it or keep it the same. In the same survey, only 22 percent of Republicans called Iran’s nuclear program “a threat that requires military action now” compared to more than fifty percent who said it “can be contained with diplomacy.” Almost three-quarters of Republicans said the U.S. should not try to change dictatorships to democracies. 
Since the Iowa caucuses generally reward organization and passion, I suspect Paul will win them easily. That would likely propel him to a strong showing in libertarian New Hampshire. Somehow, I think Romney and the Republican establishment will find a way to defeat him in the vicious and expensive struggle that follows. But the dominant storyline at the Republican convention will be figuring out how to appease Paul sufficiently to ensure that he doesn’t launch a third party bid. And in so doing, the GOP will legitimize its isolationist wing in a way it hasn’t since 9/11.
In truth, the modern Republican Party has always been a house divided, pulled between its desire to crusade against evil abroad and its fear that that crusade will empower the evil of big government at home. In 2012, I suspect, Ron Paul will expose that division in a way it has not been exposed in a long time. And Republicans will not soon paper it over again.
The Beinert article focuses on foreign policy, saying what I've always said...there are a lot more isolationist-leaning Republicans out there than is reflected by the interventionist GOP presidential contenders who make up the rest of the field.  But Paul will influence more than Republican foreign policy positions.  On a whole host of domestic issues, including things like civil forfeiture, the war on drugs, same sex marriage, you are seeing Republican voters support more libertarian, pro-freedom positions. Ron Paul is tapping into that growing segment within the GOP.

When Ron Paul loses the GOP nomination, which is likely, a lot of Libertarians are going to suggest that is proof that working within the party does not work.  Balderdash.  Ron Paul's success in becoming a top tier GOP presidential candidate makes him an impact player within the GOP.  Ron Paul is a trail blazer for a more libertarian, more isolationist Republican Party.  As a libertarian Republican, Ron Paul will have done more for the libertarian cause than all the candidates who ever ran for office as a Libertarian.


Nicolas Martin said...

The most obvious and important reasons that Paul succeeds where candidates of the Libertarian Party fail are that his message remains faithful to principle and he isn't afraid to address controversial issues, such as drug decriminalization. By contrast, LP candidates dodge controversy and present a calculatingly bland and false version of libertarianism.


I agree, Nicholas.

I love it that the wise kind grandfather takes on drug decriminalization with conviction and facts.

I love it that Dr. Paul boldly declares that we cannot afford the immoral, unconstitutional wars.

Most of all I love it that Ron Paul has common sense, is philosophically and morally grounded, and that he never waivers from his principles.

You cannot say that about any of the other candidates.

Hoosiers are needed in Iowa for the Caucus to give 2 minute speeches on Jan 3. Please contact me if you want to go. It is a six hour drive and car pooling can be arranged.

patriot paul said...

Ogden has a valid point

patriot paul said...

We also witness GOP & Libertarian flippers who seem to have an identity crisis because they can't make up their mind when to be more principled or more pragmatic. Witness GOP Bob Barr who became the LP nominee for President last cycle but just endorsed Newt Gingrich (oh, those evil republicans!). And Gary Johnson, former GOP governor just withdrew his GOP candidacy for President and declared himself a Presidential candidate under the Libertarian Party. (and just to show how odd, he kept paying his dues to the LP while running as a GOP. Conflict anyone?) Plus we have the local Ed Coleman who switched in midstream and got voted out). These people need to know who they are before making themselves look silly and loosing traction. How can you trust these flip-floppers?

Nicolas Martin said...

And by the way, "isolationist" is an insult. Non-interventionist is the neutral term. Paul is not in any way for "isolation." He is a free trade internationalist who opposes meddling in the political affairs of other countries.