Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Near Impossibility of President Ron Paul

Now the rest of the GOP field has peaked too early, people are adopting that predictable position - through nothing more meaningful than a crude process of elimination - that maybe the Republican nomination is Ron Paul's for the taking. This I doubt; what I find even more doubtful is that Paul would be a credible contender in a straight contest with Obama.

Before I explain why, let me explain my own thoughts on Paul. Yeah, he's dead right on some things - and I've been very impressed with his reasoned and non-bellicose approach to foreign policy, which is a great thing coming from a (nominal) Republican. I have little time, though, for his anti-abortion stance or for his apparent god-bothering. But hey ho. No candidate is perfect, and he's the best of a truly atrocious bunch. So while I wouldn't go so far as to say I want him to win - such passion over a deeply predictable contest that I will not be able to vote in strikes me as utterly pointless - but I suppose I would prefer him to. So why am I so dismissive of his chances?

Well, quite simply (and really rather obviously) what I want does not impact on reality in any meaningful way. Reality does not conform to my wishes. And the reality is that the deck is stacked against Paul to a massive extent. He is unlikely to win the nomination for his party, since even if he does win some early upset victories then the Republican establishment will intervene in favour of a much more mainstream and middle of the road candidate. I reckon there will be a replay of the 2004 Democrat primary campaign, where the genuinely interesting (although possibly a little barmy) Howard Dean was swiftly marginalised by the much more pedestrian yet mainstream John Kerry. The nomination will probably be Romney's; he's a safe pair of hands who will not damage the party too much even as he hands victory to Obama.

But suppose Paul did get the nomination - what then? Well, Obama would crush him. The Democrat electioneering machine would spend all of its time telling the American people that Paul is some sort of dangerous radical who would leave innocent people to get ill and die without health insurance. Hell, they could even outflank on the issue of security. Yeah, those charges might be false, but so what? Since when have presidential elections been about taking the high road? The Obama campaign would do everything they possible could to make Paul into a Goldwater for the new millennium, while simultaneously painting their guy to be solid, dependable and statesmanlike for the cameras.

Perhaps a truly great communicator could make libertarian ideals appeal to the American masses; the problem is that great communicator is not Ron Paul. Sure, he manages to avoid sticking his foot in his mouth most of the time, but that is not enough to win enough Americans over to what is potentially a radical realignment of the nature of government and state in their country. Plus, he's up against Obama, whose pompous speaking style manages to add gravitas to even the most anodyne and meaningless of pronouncements. Again, yeah, you can argue that this is unfair, but it is also reality. A Ron Paul presidential campaign might be enough to provoke a misled American people into handing a reluctant landslide to Obama.

Paul's best hope for next year is that his stance and policies in some way influence the Republican programme; in other words, that the long process of explaining his version of libertarianism begins. Then the next time a libertarian runs for the Republican nomination, these ideas are more mainstream and people are more likely to understand them and get behind them. It could be enough to get a Republican libertarian nominee in 2016 or 2020. It will certainly help to wrest control of that party away from the Christian fundamentalist path that Bush Junior put it on. But President Paul remains deeply unlikely to the point where it is basically an impossibility. It might comfort some libertarians on both sides of the Atlantic to pretend otherwise, but unfortunately it remains a pipe dream that helps them to escape from a political reality that remains stubbornly immune to the penetration of libertarian ideals into the political mainstream.

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At 9:45 am , Blogger Roger Thornhill said...

What if Paul is anti-abortion?

Does that invalidate him as a Libertarian?

Some would say the opposite.

But that is not the point - Paul wants to remove the Federal Govt from the entire argument for or against. That is Libertarian. If it becomes a state-by-state matter it will be moot anyway, with people crossing state lines at will.

If he is religious, again, if he keeps it to himself and does not try to use State power to further his personal views, then again, what is the problem.

If he has done so, I would be interested to hear of it.

At 11:34 am , Blogger The Nameless Libertarian said...

It is worth noting that I have not claimed Paul is not a libertarian because he does not share my views on abortion pof the invisible sky fairy. All I've said is that I have little time for them...

But since you're only commenting on those two areas, I'm going to assume that you agree with the overall thrust of the post arguing that Paul has no chance of becoming President...

At 1:45 pm , Anonymous Jim said...

Its all part of the Long March. It would matter little if Ron Paul were to become the Republican candidate and were obliterated by Obama. It would mean the seeds of libertarianism were sown across the US during the campaign. The reversal of the 'unstoppable' growth of the State will not be achieved by one man, or be done in less than 25 years. Communism was an obvious bust after about 1960, as the East fell behind economically, but it took another 30 years for the fault lines to shift, and the Eastern Bloc to collapse from within.

The State has been expanding in Western nations for decades, and its only recently that the effects are beginning to be felt. I would guess that it will take another 20 years for the dam to burst.

In the meantime people like Ron Paul are the stepping stones to the eventual destination. Support them, but do not expect to win - yet.

At 3:00 pm , Blogger James Higham said...

With Paul not a chance, then the horrible prospect of Obama getting a second term is possible.

At 5:08 pm , Blogger The Nameless Libertarian said...

Obama will almost certainly be re-elected, and the failure of the Republican party to find a credible alternative over the past three years is, to a large extent, the reason.

At 5:37 pm , Anonymous Ian R Thorpe said...

I have a politically independent conservative with a small c American friend who tells me there is a strong possibility of a late starter once Paul disposes of Romney and Gingrich hangs himself.

I wonder would it be worth placing a small bet on Jeb Bush?


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