Ron Paul Deserves Credit, His Supporters Deserve Time / Confessions of a former Ronulan
A liberal will seek to undermine the authority and significance of the Constitution by pointing to the 3/5ths compromise as if the document embraced slavery, a moderate will acknowledge the document’s weakness but maintain its authority and significance on the whole, and a conservative will see that the compromise, as distasteful as the words themselves may be, is responsible for ending slavery in America. If there were no compromise, there would have been no union; if there were no union there would never have been a war to preserve the union, and to make all men free.
In 1939 a group of people published a book called Alcoholics Anonymous. The book provided a solution to the previously untreatable condition of Alcoholism. The success of the program quickly garnered much press, notoriety, and attention from philanthropists. The word of a solution thus spread very quickly. Yet, it wasn’t long before battles over prestige and money threatened to tear the fledgling society apart. It was decided then that AA would be self supported, would use attraction rather than promotion, and would remain anonymous at the level of press, radio, and film. In other words, media attention was necessary to communicate the solution to the suffering, but media attention then became a destructive force that had to be jettisoned.
I confess that In the 2008 primary I passionately supported Ron Paul. I had bumper stickers, yard signs, campaign materials on hand, and maxed out donations.
As a long-time conservative Republican, and casual political junkie I was very disheartened by the field of candidates and the direction of the Republican Party. By way of example, being very pro-life, I was very disheartened by the early apparent establishment push for Rudi Giuliani, and as a person with common sense, I was disheartened that the majority of our candidates apparently believed in man-made global warming. My faith in the “establishment” of the Republican Party was pretty close to an all time low. Deeper than just frustration, it was a real feeling of betrayal.
Then I found Ron Paul. What attracted me to his campaign was his unwavering call for freedom, and adherence to the Constitution. His focus on these two themes appeared radical yet classical, genuine and not political, refreshingly patriotic and anti-establishment. As to his stance on the issues, there was much to like:
– Not only was he pro-life, he had repeatedly introduced very solid pro-life legislation.
– He was strong on the 10th amendment and reducing the size of the federal government
– He was so strong on spending and taxes, it was a little bit scary
– He was strong on ed choice
– He was strong on the right to bear arms
When I say a bit scary as to spending and taxes, I mean it. I didn’t really believe we could have zero income tax. I didn’t really believe we could reduce spending to the degree he was talking about. But, I also believed that if someone that zealous about spending and taxes ever got into the White House, after compromise with the house and senate, they may actually be able to reduce spending to appropriate and realistic levels. With the rest of the field, actually reducing spending and the size of government at all seemed unlikely, earmarks was about as far as anyone else seemed willing to go. His unrealistic passion was more appealing to me than what I saw as lip service from many of the others. After all, the second best fiscal guy in the field had created state run healthcare with individual mandates.
There were some issues not to like as well.
– Some of the social issues
– Legalization of drugs
– I’m sure my more focused RS friends can ad exponentially to this list, but my point is only that I never fully embraced every position RP took.
There were also some issues that were impossible to accept on faith, but were plausible enough to at least reserve judgment on.
– Complete withdraw from the UN, and perhaps other treaties
– Returning to a Gold Standard
– Doing away completely with the Federal Reserve
– Bringing all of our troops home immediately, and closing our bases around the world
Avoiding an in-depth analysis of each issue, suffice it to say that this last set of policy positions all contain appealing elements in a simple world, In fact I’m still pretty OK with bugging out of the U.N. Yet, all of these issues also all have a degree of complexity that makes them unrealistic at best and foolhardy at worst. The point here is that I believe the typical RP supporter at least recognizes that their educators, the media, and a majority of politicians, lie to them on a regular basis. The apparent a-political nature and rhetoric of Ron Paul can break through that reflexive distrust. A RP supporter begins to trust him and becomes more open to consider the plausibility of some of his more complex and severe positions. It doesn’t make them stupid because they believe we could return to the gold standard, or do away with the Federal Reserve. These are complex subjects.
Now, fast forward to today and my biggest disappointment in Ron Paul is that he would even consider running for President again. In that statement is my recognition that:
1. He will never win the nomination, and he will never win a general election as an independent or libertarian.
2. I recognize many of his policy positions as foolhardy.
3. His running can have a damaging affect on the party, and on the conservative movement.
4. My ego still fights to justify my good opinion of him.
Understanding number 4 is critical in uniting RP supporters with mainstream conservatism. We must recognize that passionate RP supporters are potentially new to politics, they don’t trust anyone for good reason, and their egos are now attached to their opinion of RP. While my opinion of RP has changed in that I see his weaknesses, his bad policy positions, and I do not want him for President, I still respect him for his convictions and accomplishments, and I want to continue to respect him. So his failings do not bother me even though I now recognize them, nearly as much as the fact that he may run again. If he does run, I believe it will be knowing full well that that he can do no good for the conservative movement as a candidate. I will lose respect for him, and my ego will take a blow for respecting him in the first place.
All that being preface – how does it relate to the title that “Ron Paul Deserves Credit” and that “His Supporters Deserve Time.” As to the first, I think that RS’ers should not go so overboard in criticizing Ron Paul that they deny his contributions. Considering my thought process, coming to support RP was as much about being driven away from the party standard bearer’s as it was being drawn to RP. It was the 2008 version of the Mitch Daniel’s truce (as an aside, beautifully rebutted by Rush yesterday), which seemed to be coming from all corners. So when people on RS already frustrated by RP and already aware of his policy problems came at him so harshly, it was easy to put them in the “neo-con” category and write them off. The blocking out of legitimate criticism will be more pronounced if RP is given zero credit. Among other things;
Ron Paul should be given some credit for;
The tea party movement, and thus the current ascendency of the conservative movement,
Bringing more youth and e-savvy youth into the conservative movement,
Inspiring creative and successful fund raising ideas.
The fact is that I am not the only one who purchased the Federalist Papers and started thinking more about the Constitution many months before Rick Santelli’s rant. Ron Paul was talking about the Constitution before it was cool to talk about the Constitution. He prepared a large base of people for the coming of the tea party movement. I wouldn’t exactly call him John the Baptist, but his “Liberty Campaign” unquestionably set the stage for the tea party.
The fact is that Ron Paul somehow dragged young people away from the leftist education machine they had been required to live in for 12 to 16 years and gave them to the Republican Party. To actually have enough Republican’s with the tech savvy to game the internet to win every straw poll, is an accomplishment.
The fact is that the money bomb, the LLC form of fundraising, and some the ads made by Paul supporters in their basements were some of the best and most original political messaging tools since Willie Horton.
Yet I am praying RP has the sense not to muck things up by running again, for all the reasons I stated above.
But I am also praying we don’t have to alienate and fight with those on our own side for a year and a half. And I believe many of them are like I was. Conservatives. There may be a few whose reason-d’être is anti-war, or pro-legalization, but I doubt they make more than 10%-15%. Telling a RP supporter he is just an antiwar leftist is like telling a Tea Party member he’s Astroturf. It’s just not true, and as soon as we start telling obvious lies, then we lose credibility for the less obvious truths that RP supporters need to learn. Same goes for lumping all Ron Paul supporters together as one homogenous group of stupid people deserving of hate and derision. “All RP supporters are stupid because they think all non RP supporters are neo-cons.” It’s like the two wrongs make a right theory and it simply isn’t productive.
I am not necessarily suggesting a friendly approach to RP. Harsh may be necessary. But, let’s be honest about what he has done. Let’s remember that people don’t trust the establishment for good reason, they are excited about politics perhaps for the first time, and the message of freedom and the Constitution is resonating with them.
If we beat them down, if we deny any positive impact of RP, they are going to react badly and possibly be even more entrenched in their wrong-thinking. If on the other hand, we give them just a little bit of credit by acknowledging RP’s contributions, acknowledging their passion for conservative values, and give them a little bit of time by saying – hey we know your passionate, but if you wanna stick around you’ve just got to take it easy, then they might just come around a lot quicker.
For the RP supporters reading this, you’ve got to understand what you are walking into here at RS. This is a community of by and large very conservative individuals. Most of them do not support RP and for good reasons other than being a neo-con. Many of them have experienced unreasonable knee-jerk attacks from RP supporters who think anyone who doesn’t love RP is the antichrist. Nearly all of them have also heard every form of substantive argument in favor or RP, and they are not going to change their minds – for good reason. So if you get a defensive response, consider this history. If you are new, consider that you are a guest here. You don’t get come into someone’s home for the first time, put your feet on the coffee table, pick your nose, and fart. Watch for a little while, read for a little while. Three simple rules could save you a lot of headache, perhaps allow you to get something positive out of RS, and maybe even give something positive back.
1. If you like RP primarily because he wants to legalize pot and/or because of he’s dead on that “blowback” caused 9/11, then you really don’t belong here. Go sell RP to the kos kids or huffpo.
2. Never assume anything else about a writer at RS who doesn’t like RP, other than that they don’t like RP.
3. Understand to an absolute certainty that coming on RS and promoting RP in an aggressive manner WILL NOT benefit RP’s chances of becoming a presidential nominee in any way. It will have the opposite effect.
A corollary to # 2 is that promoting RP in non-aggressive respectful way will also not improve RP’s chances of becoming the nominee, but you might be able to stick around and learn something.
A second corollary is that keeping quiet and reading diaries and comments related to what you think you want to say may save you the time of having to say it in the first place, having the dual benefits of learning something without having to look foolish while doing so.