Ron Paul vs. the Neocons

As I've said several times, my candidate for president is Congressman Ron Paul. It was really not a difficult decision: he is the only candidate in either party who is both a) pro-life and b) non-interventionist in foreign policy. I disagree with him on some issues, but on balance he is the closest to my ideal. I readily admit that he has little chance of getting the GOP nomination. Nevertheless, I think he serves a useful role in bringing a different perspective to the debates.

Lately Dr. Paul has come under attack from several sources in the neoconservative camp. First, via Rod Dreher, came the news that the Redstate blog had banned all discussion of Ron Paul by new users. The Redstate people allege that Ron Paul followers are mainly liberals who wish to upset the GOP applecart. I haven't met any such people myself. Maybe they exist, but I doubt they constitute anything close to a majority of Ron Paul's backing. His support is strongest among libertarians and libertarian-leaning conservatives.

Even so, the meme that Ron Paul is anti-American and all his followers are wackos continued to proliferate. FrontPage magazine went so far as to spread a vile hoax earlier this month. Supposedly, Ron Paul was scheduled to address a rally, sponsored by assorted leftist groups, called "American Fascist Awareness Week." In fact, no such event exists or is planned by anyone. FrontPage has yet to issue a correction, as far as I can tell.

Neocon prof Donald Douglas, who in his aptly named American Power blog is usually open to calm and reasonable debate with ideological opponents, also has a bee in his bonnet lately. The target: libertarians in general and Ron Paul in particular. Beginning here and in more depth here, he argues that Paul supporters are "whacked-out loons whose Bush-hatred knows no bounds" and points out a variety of leftists who have said kind things about Paul. His logic, such as it is, goes like this:

1. Assorted leftists and nutcases say they like Ron Paul.
2. Ron Paul has not sufficiently denounced all these leftists and nutcases.
3. Therefore, Ron Paul is himself a leftist and a nutcase.
4. Anyone who likes Ron Paul is also a leftist and a nutcase.

Donald apparently thinks those who fail to immediately accept this guilt-by-association principle are either stupid or un-American, and are certainly not True Republicans. Perhaps this is why he sees no need to address the actual policy positions and governing philosophy that are attracting people to Ron Paul in the first place.

To Donald it is intuitively obvious that everything Ron Paul says is lunacy. For example, in a comment responding to me he gave out this link in which Paul explains his opposition to the Iraq War congressional authorization. Many people won't agree with it, but it is at least a thoughtful explanation of Paul's position. Not to Donald; he calls it an "anti-war rant."

I don't mean to pick on Donald here; he's not the only one saying this. Discussing anything calmly with neocons is often frustrating because they feel they must crush every opponent and have little interest in finding common ground. That's fine when talking about sports, but in a party primary campaign it's stupid. Here's why.

Whatever else Ron Paul supporters may be, they are at least mildly interested in supporting the GOP. Insulting and ridiculing people who would like to be your allies is not the way to win the general election. Politics is all about persuasion. If you want to win, you must persuade people to see things your way. Neocons see no need to persuade because they are utterly convinced that they, and only they, possess the right answer to every question. Daniel Larison had a great response to RedState's action.

The symbolism of this move is terrible for RedState. It says to all those enthusiastic Paul backers that there is no point trying to talk to most Republicans, and after this I would be hard pressed to contradict such a view. It also puts the lie to the oft-repeated myth that the conservative coalition is brimming with intellectual diversity and thrives off of energetic and spirited debate, when it has been clear for some time that a great many Republicans have wanted Paul himself gone from the debates. Were I tempted to participate in a RedState forum, this move would cure me of that temptation very quickly. This is a move that represents a stagnating movement that is shedding supporters and gradually breaking to pieces on account of its own ideological rigidity and brittleness.

Larison is right. The abysmal slate of top-tier Republican presidential candidates isn't exciting anyone. The best campaign slogan they can come up with is "I'm not Hillary." Along comes Ron Paul, who has practically no chance of winning but brings passion, energy, ideas, enthusiasm, and a surprising amount of money to the party. Most important, he has behind him people who in the past would never have considered voting Republican. Are there a lot of them? Not really, but in an election that may be won or lost by 1% in key states, every vote is critical.

A rational party leadership would welcome these new people and get to work trying to re-channel them so that some, at least, will vote for the GOP candidate next November. Unfortunately, no such effort is in place. Ron Paul supporters don't even get the favor of being ignored. They are, instead, met with epithets about how crazy they are. Yes, some of them are a little crazy, but crazy people get to vote, too. That's democracy. Get used to it.

2008 is shaping up to be a year in which the GOP cannot afford to tell people, "We don't want your vote." Yet that is what the party leaders are doing to Ron Paul supporters. It's one of the reasons George W. Bush will probably hand over the White House to a liberal Democrat. The only consolation is it really won't make much difference. Clinton II will be a lot like Bush II.


Anonymous said...

You are so Correct.......

Geek said...

Great post! I wrote something similar addressing many of the same points (although not a Paul supporter myself).

I think your last three paragraphs hit the nail on the head. Given the razor thin margins of 2004 and 2006, the last thing the GOP would want is the big tent to get smaller (although libertarians like me have left in droves and aren't coming back).