On the Electability of Ron Paul

As a thick snow falls upon Seattle, melting upon contact, I’m amazed by the results of the LibertyPAC moneybomb. Over 400K in one day is quite the accomplishment, and with the CPAC strawpoll victory less than two weeks old, it seems ever more undisputable that Ron Paul and his message of freedom are a real force in American politics. 

Ron Paul’s grassroots supporters have plenty of ethusiasm and have shown that they can organize successfully within the Republican Party — but nevertheless Dr. Paul and the liberty movement have their detractors.  These detractors comes from all walks of the Republican Party, and even from the typical conservative base. Not to defend any of these detractors, many of whom are only marginally electable themselves (and unprincipled to boot!), but the same way Republicans have made an error in marginalizing libertarian opinions, we will make an error in ignoring the opinions of the conservative majority. 

Ron Paul is the most principled candidate out there, and if there is one man who would make radical changes to America, it would be him.  However, if we’re talking politics here (which we are), Ron Paul is unelectable. Many of us are former conservatives (I know I am), maybe even former neoconservatives, who have realized the importance of embracing liberty in all its forms. Former lovers of Reagan, and defenders of George W. Bush, we ditched the war effort and staunch social conservatism for the revolutionary classical liberalism that makes us the Young Americans for Liberty.  However, it looks like most of the party didn’t get the memo. 

The Republican base just isn't ready for some ideas

Most people who willingly voted for and stood behind the Bush Adminstration for eight years, who were already adults who considered themselves mature and knowledgeable in politics, are not going to pull a full 180 and become libertarians any time soon. The Tea Party Movement knows how to take conservatives and neoconservatives and use them for conservative/libertarian causes, tweaking the rhetoric of Republican figures like Ronald Reagan and focusing on particular issues to use the great Republican base to bring fiscal conservatism back onto the map. Republican voters, for the most part, have been on board for tax cuts, spending cuts, and stopping government intrusions like Obamacare. They’ve been split and hesistant on ideas like ending the PATRIOT Act, forgetting the whole marriage ammendment, and exploring a less heavy-handed approach to foreign affairs. Yet when presented with legalization of drugs, withdrawing the vast majority of our troops and bases overseas, and dismantling our generous entitlements programs, the conservative and neoconservative bases have thrown a regular hissy fit. 

When I talk to my conservative parents, typical middle-class Republicans, their hair bristles at the idea of a candidate who will attempt to dismantle the entire American system as we know it, while legalizing weed and ending the War on Terror at the same time. Isn’t this why they fought against the hippies in the 60s and 70s? Well, sure, but trust me, read some Hayek and you’ll understand that maybe the Republican platform you’ve been following for decades has been wrong all along! 

At best, libertarians have somewhere between 10-20% of the American voting base. So unfortunately for us, we have to form a coalition if we want to get anywhere in American politics. So far we’ve taken the Republican route, coming in droves to events like CPAC, but even with our growing numbers and enthusiam, we’re going to have to make some political concessions if we want the Republican machine on our side. We need to look toward more moderate, presentable candidates like Rand Paul for the near future. A candidate like Rand Paul may not have the experience and principled extremism of Ron Paul or Gary Johnson (he won’t call Dick Cheney a war criminal, and he won’t legalize the bud), but candidates like him will bring a principled small government conservatism to the table, a platform that will be popular with everyone right-of-center.

Progress comes in steps. Right now we’re auditing the Federal Reserve, we have naive but demonstrably better Republican politicians in power now than those of the last adminstration, and Ron Paul’s liberty ideals have more coverage in the media than ever before. With enough effort and activism, the liberty movement can really make some footholds in the American landscape, and eventually a true liberty candidate might be on the ballot, and actually win the presidency. 

In Seattle, we’re pretty much constantly insulated by a cover of clouds. Some find the constant cloud cover stifling, while many a Seattle native will insist that the cover feels protective — if not comforting. In this same way, liberalism insulates and dominates the entire cityscape, and a libertarian like me is immediately marginalized as fringe and extreme. It is only when in the company of fellow libertarians that I tend to be pegged as a moderate or pragmatist. Despite my personal love and admiration for Ron Paul, I will not be holding my breath for his 2012 campaign. 

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