James Leroy Wilson's one-man magazine.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Ron Paul Candidacy Good News, Bad News

I am both happy and concerned that Congressman Ron Paul, M.D. (R-TX) has decided to run for President of the United States as a Republican. The good news is that, finally, there is a major-party candidate for President who I agree with on most issues. The bad news is that, through no fault of his own, Ron Paul’s candidacy could backfire.

Ron Paul is about the only member of Congress willing to protect the Constitution and the sovereignty of the United States. As such, there are millions of Americans nationwide who feel that Ron Paul, and not their own Representative, actually represents them, speaks for them. And now they have a Presidential candidate worthy of their support. As a Congressman, Ron Paul has a record of winning elections third-party candidates usually lack, and has greater potential to reach major media outlets and garner influential support. More Americans will find themselves exposed to a consistent limited-government message they haven’t heard before, and embrace it.

But here’s the dilemma: from culturally left-leaning libertarians, to the Patriot Movement, to paleo-conservatives, advocates of small government are not doing well. They are, frankly, bad at politics, unable to organize or put together professional campaigns. They are fractious, sectarian. When ego clashes don’t get in the way, ideological purity tests do. Eccentrics and cranks in their ranks present a negative image. Yet supporters of these movements, from pro-choice atheists to pro-life conservative Christians, all view Ron Paul as their hero. They are Ron Paul’s base, and with friends like these, who needs enemies?

Compounding this problem, the mainstream media will probably ignore or derisively dismiss Paul’s chances. If the campaign fails to gain traction and draws just marginal support in the primaries, the media will have no reason to sit up and take notice. Paul’s message won’t get out, and the campaign will accomplish little. Activists could be devastated, and give up hope entirely.

And let’s suppose that Paul’s campaign is effective. That it pulls off a few surprises, and success will breed success. What happens then? The newspapers and news programs will be forced to take a closer look at Ron Paul. Based on their limited knowledge, based on school textbooks on history and economics, what will journalists conclude?

That Ron Paul wants to return America to the 19th century. They’ll suggest it in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. That his interpretation of the Constitution is antiquated, his views on money and the Federal Reserve eccentric, his non-interventionist foreign policy dangerous, his domestic agenda callous and even racist. Past and present associates of Paul will be found to have ties to “hate groups.” All nonsense, of course, but nuance is lost on most people. You’re either pro-life or pro-choice, and federalism has nothing to do with it. You’re either for “civil rights laws” or you’re a racist, and freedom of association has nothing to do with it. In this brain-dead age, Paul may not stand a chance.

With these dangers in mind, a Ron Paul candidacy is still more than welcome. Why not Ron Paul? Why not now? If pro-liberty politicians never run for President, we’ll never have a pro-liberty President. If the small-government wing of the GOP never asserts itself, the GOP will never support small government. And no libertarian or constitutionalist has the credentials Ron Paul has to lead this fight.

The fact is, the small-government message will always be demonized by the mainstream until it becomes mainstream. Someone has to take the lead, to run interference for the message so that it infects major institutions such as the Republican Party.

And the GOP may be ready for it. To be successful, it must distance itself from President Bush, his irresponsible spending, demented foreign policy, assaults on civil liberties, and sell-out of American sovereignty. In many ways, Ron Paul is the anti-Bush, and consistently opposing President’s agenda through his votes and speeches.

A Paul candidacy will put the Republican Party to the final test. If grassroots Republicans regret their loyalty to Bush and his Big Government Neoconservatism, supporting Paul and his Small Government Conservatism would be the ultimate act of repentance. But maybe they won’t. Maybe they replace Bush with another nominee promoting endless war, massive spending, and the furtherance of the Surveillance/Police State. If so, the GOP can say good-bye to the libertarian and paleoconservative vote, perhaps forever.

If Ron Paul was ever going to run for President, now is the time. 2012 will be too late - for him, and for his country. By running, Paul and his followers will never wonder what-might-have-been. For all the reasons for Paul to run, that may be the best of all.


  1. Aw, man! Only a few years ago I ditched my resitration as Republican. Now I can't vote for him in the primary. But I'll write him in on election day. Sorry, dad.

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