More mildly amusing reportage from Paulista/desperate book shill/journalist Brian Doherty on the Rodney Dangerfield-level of respect the Paulite delegates are receiving at the sorta-kinda-still-on GOP convention in Tampa. Shockingly, an institution designed on the premise that everyone airs their disagreements in the nomination process and then comes together behind the eventual nominee is reacting poorly to people who participate in the process but then decide to take their ball and go home when the process doesn’t work out the way they wanted.
Then again, reading the tepid reactions to Gary Johnson’s appearance, it doesn’t quite sound like the Paul crowd has much interest in electing anyone not named “Ron Paul” to public office, regardless of party label attached. Maybe they should work on legalizing cloning to fix that problem.
Dr. No strikes another blow in the struggle for human liberty everywhere:
The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution Wednesday calling on China to end its crackdown on Tibet and release Tibetans imprisoned for “nonviolent” demonstrations.
The vote was 413–1. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who recently dropped out of the presidential race [sic], was the lone congressman voting against it.
The resolution passed just hours before runners were to carry the Olympic torch on a six-mile route around San Francisco Bay.
Would it kill the guy to even symbolically oppose repression beyond U.S. borders?
Well, if you thought Ron Paul truly believed in ending the “illegal war in Iraq” and going after the “war criminals” at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue… you thought wrong, since he’s one of the 167 House members who voted to drop fellow moonbat-courting presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich’s impeachment resolution against Dick Cheney into the memory hole. Maybe you can get your campaign contribution from Monday back, but somehow I doubt it.
More thoughts on the Cheney impeachment vote from Viking Pundit, who—like many others—focuses on the hypocrisy on the other side of the aisle. To quote the late, great Phil Hartman on NewsRadio: “A debate? How totally whack that would be, yo!”
Update: More on this theme from Prof. Karlson and Rick Moran.
Jim Babka, who if I recall correctly was once upon a time one of those Libertarian Party activists who turned my campaign contributions into about bupkiss, takes to the pages of Positive Liberty to advance the thesis that Ron Paul is the only Republican candidate who can win in November of next year. Commenter AMW presents the more compelling argument:
Alternative Hypothesis: Every politician represents a basket of goods to the voters, and while most voters can find at least one good in Dr. Paul’s basket that they approve strongly of, few can find enough to justify voting for him. The left may be anti-war, but I’m guessing they’ll prefer the candidate who advocates univeral [sic] healthcare, more spending on schools and a tough stance on the drug war, even if she’ll only make marginal changes to the Iraq strategy. And the knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers at Red State et al. would sooner trade in their AM talk-shows for NPR than give a “surrender monkey” like Paul the satisfaction of their vote, minimal government advocate or no.
I think the other thing that supporters of Paul are missing here is that not only are presidential candidates “baskets of goods,” they’re also strategic actors. The amount of daylight between the loophole-ridden Democratic withdrawal promises (arguably, every single American solider in Iraq is already engaged in one of counterterrorism actions, support of Iraqi forces, humanitarian projects, or stabilization operations—things that the leading Democrats all promise will continue) and the positions of the leading GOP contenders is already small, and given the progress—or lack thereof—in Iraq, any GOP—or Democratic—contender who secures the nomination can either take the tack of “the Iraqis are in control, so it’s time to bring troops home” or “the Iraqis have spent the last 9–12 months squabbling while the surge was giving them time to figure stuff out, and there’s no progress, so it’s time to bring troops home.”
2008 will be fought on energy policy, health care, trade, border security and immigration, and the foreign policy crisis of the week—which, dollars to donuts, won’t be Iraq by the time Labor Day 2008 rolls around. I have no doubt that whoever the eventual Republican nominee is will be far better positioned to capture the median voter on those issues than Paul is—America isn’t buying the Great Libertarian Offer, even when served with a side dose of Buchananite populism.
David Weigel at Hit and Run isn’t quite sure why Ron Paul attracts a lot of young supporters. Perhaps there’s a giant red flag here:
Jacob Bofferding, a student at Iowa State University, said he decided to work for Paul after seeing him on a televised debate.
“For Ron Paul to stand up there and say, ‘people hate us because we intervene in their lives’ and for (Rudy) Giuliani to say ‘that’s ridiculous,’ that blew my mind,” said Bofferding.
“Our imperialistic foreign policy is the biggest threat to this country, not groups of terrorists that have no state sponsor,” Bofferding said. “The first thing you have to do is stop subsidizing oppressive regimes in the Middle East.”
This is Noam Chomsky 101, and Chomsky has rock-star status among the perpetually-aggrieved college student community, despite being one of those people over 30 they’re not supposed to trust. That Paul (or Kucinich or Gravel on the left) would have a similar appeal saying the exact same things shouldn’t be much of a surprise.
If you believe Billy Hollis, not much, although his practical positions on trade and immigration policy might appeal to some trade unionist elements of the Democratic coalition.
Part II in the Ron Paul series.
Hit and Run links a New Republic profile of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, popular with the right’s equivalent of the Netroots but apparently not attracting as many fans from libertarian ranks. Michael Crowley explains why:
But libertarians are a fractious bunch, and some hardcore activists have mixed feelings about the man now carrying their banner. For instance, libertarian purists generally support a laissez-faire government attitude toward abortion and gay marriage, as well as “open border” immigration policies and unfettered free trade. Yet Paul opposes gay marriage, believes states should outlaw abortion, decries high immigration rates, and has called himself “sort of” a protectionist. (These divergences may be explained by Paul’s socially conservative East Texas district, which lies adjacent to Tom DeLay’s former district and which President Bush last carried with 67 percent of the vote. Being pro-choice simply doesn’t fly there.)
As a result, Paul’s candidacy leaves some of his erstwhile libertarian fans cold—particularly the intellectuals who congregate in Washington outfits like the CATO Institute or Reason magazine. “He comes from a more right-wing populist approach,” explains Brian Doherty, a California-based Reason editor and author of Radicals for Capitalism, a history of the libertarian movement. “Culturally, he strikes a lot of the more cosmopolitan libertarians as a yokel.” (Doherty himself is a Paul admirer.)
And, while some libertarians criticize Paul from the left on social issues, others are swiping at him from the right over the war. “Will Libertarianism Survive Ron Paul?” asked one article on the America’s Future Foundation website, before continuing, “Paul’s prominence threatens to make his blame-America instincts the defining characteristic of libertarianism in the public imagination. If libertarianism becomes inextricably associated with radical pacifism, will young people with classically liberal instincts be discouraged from serious political engagement?”
The question facing this libertarian-minded voter who’s likely to vote in the GOP presidential primary: if I wasn’t inclined to vote for Pat Buchanan, why would I vote for Ron Paul, given that on almost all the issues that matter their positions are virtually indistinguishable?
So, I have this job interview… and the university in question decides to use a car service instead of having a department member shuttle me to/from the airport, which a perfectly rational decision on their part—and probably better for candidates’ sanity anyway, but nobody asked us what we think of being interrogated by a search committee member just minutes after enduring airline hell. But I digress.
Anyway, I arrive at the airport and get in the guy’s van, and I get to spend an hour listening to the guy’s treatise on the global monetary system (his issues with debasing the currency, fiat money, the whole nine yards). He drops me off and I go on my merry way. Same guy picks me up after the interview and, in the course of the airport journey, asks me if I’ve thought about 2008 and I try to steer the conversation to about the driest, most academic discussion of front-loading known to man. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work—and at this point, the driver tells me in no uncertain terms that the only candidate for 2008 who’s a “real American” is Ron Paul (his distinct lack of popularity—like the low prices of gold and silver the previous day—being attributed to The Man keeping him down).
Stephen Green has caused quite a stir with his two posts on the schism between “doctrinaire” and “pragmatic” libertarians over the conflict in Iraq and the broader War on Terror. The schism is really nothing new, and at some levels is analogous to the “anarchist/minarchist” split in the movement; it all basically boils down to a question of “how much of a statist can you be and still call yourself a libertarian?” Martin Devon of Patio Pundit describes it thusly:
I often hear Libertarians lament that the two party systems prevents them from being able to take power and implement their vision. Hogwash. That’s the same thing you hear from the Greens, the Ross Perots and Jesse Venturas. Feh. The Republican and Democrat parties have dominated the political landscape because they’ve done the difficult work of translating a guiding philosophy into votes. In order to that they’ve had to cut some corners and make some unholy alliances. Libertarians could do the same thing.
As many bloggers have commented, there is a segment of the American population who believe in the “leave me alone” school. In order to make them happy you just have to leave them alone—on guns, on gays, on regulation, on religion. These sentiments draw considerable support from both red states and blue states, and therefore Libertarians could amass power by taking over the leadership of either the Democrats or the Republicans.
The truth is that they already have, but when they compromise enough to win power Libertarians are too pure to recognize one of their own. What do you think Arnold the Governator is? He’s a Libertarian who has traded some purity for power.
Now, as someone who himself has left the Libertarian Party for many of the same reasons that Stephen and others are repelled by it, I don’t know that I can offer any constructive advice. In a lot of ways, the party is trapped by the dominant narrative created for it by the media: full of weird people who have turned themselves blue or have strange views on prison rehabilitation and meet with potential voters in pizza parlors. That alone makes the “Ron Paul” strategy a compelling one. In other ways—although Martin discounts it—the party is trapped by electoral rules designed to favor the existing parties and agenda-setting effects by the press that stop libertarians from advancing their message through unpaid media. The LP has spent decades building a grassroots organization, the net impact of which on American politics has been approximately zero—by contrast, the small amount of media attention Ralph Nader garnered for the Greens in 2000 allowed them to build a comparably strong party organization in mere months.
But “Ron Paulism” isn’t all that effective either. Neither major party’s leading presidential contenders come close to sharing libertarian values—the Republicans treat their alleged principles of limited and small government as bargaining chips to be traded for support from the hard right, while the Democrats sit around whining about a PATRIOT Act that virtually all of them voted in favor of for cynical electoral reasons. The desperation associated with being in the “electoral wilderness” has brought Democrats closer to socialism, not libertarianism, and there’s no reason to believe a few years out of the White House will make Republicans genuinely turn to libertarian ideas either—they, like the Democrats, are far too wedded to the concept of The State as a credible moral actor, the only difference being that they’d use it to advance different moral ends. I don’t know what the solution is, but it isn’t going to come from John F. Kerry or George W. Bush.
Update: Gary Farber thinks Eric Raymond’s piece takes the slippery slope argument a tad too far.