Ron Paul: The Andrew Johnson Candidate

Ron Paul likes to brag that he often votes alone (or nearly alone) in Congress. I suppose the spin that he’d like for you to put on this is that he alone in Congress stays true to his principles. I suppose that is one way to look at it, if you ignore the number of times he lards up appropriations bills with pork for his district before casting a meaningless dissenting vote against the entire bill. The other – and I would suggest, more appropriate – way to look at it is that Ron Paul is spectacularly bad at persuading members of Congress to do anything. For decades now, Ron Paul has absolutely failed to persuade members of Congress to his way of thinking, or to establish any meaningful caucus or voting bloc to advance his ideals. We have sufficient data now to predict that he would be just as spectacularly bad as President. From Day One, Paul would presumably be opposed in almost everything he attempted by nearly unified chambers of Congress.

“Well,” retorts the Paulinista, “Personally I think it would be a good thing if Congress and the President were at loggerheads for four years. Gridlock is good for reducing the size of government!” To a certain point, this is true. However, it is absolutely vital to the success of every President – especially one committed to reducing the size and scope of the Federal government – that he is able to ensure that at least one-third of either chamber is either committed to his program or at the very least to the principle of attrition through gridlock. Gridlock worked to reduce spending under Clinton because refusing to spend was a way to punish Clinton. If you assume that Paul as President will be completely different from Paul as Congressman and will actually want to cut spending, a completely different set of priorities arises.

All of this, though, is somewhat beside the point. At no point during his tenure did Bill Clinton summarily lose the loyalty of 2/3 of both chambers of Congress. History teaches us, through the administration of Andrew Johnson, that when a President is not able to either persuade or command the loyalty of even 1/3 of either branch of Congress, Congress will just take over and run roughshod over the President in ways that are undesirable to the goals of the President and the country at large. If Congress gets the message that President Paul can or should be completely ignored during the budget process due to intransigence or fanaticism, and the Democrats sense that the Congressional Republicans have no loyalty to Paul (as they clearly do not), then the new budget process on Capitol Hill becomes a budget drafted by Reid and Pelosi with sufficient lard to buy off fence-sitting Republicans. In other words, a fairly significant chance exists that spending under President Paul would go up rather than down. To say nothing of Congressional attempts to undercut Paul’s incoherent and nonsensical foreign policy.

One can only guess at the brand impact four years of this spectacle will have on the GOP. If history is any indicator, we may well be headed for decades like the 1910s or the 1930s where the Democrats control the White House and roughly 3/4ths of each chamber of Congress. Given the precarious situation in which the country finds itself, I would not be optimistic that America would survive as an exceptional nation. Maybe for some portion of Paul supporters this would be a feature, not a bug, but for the rest of us, it ought to lead to a serious pause.

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