I have been an enthusiastic supporter of the Ron Paul campaign for President. Although the rational portion of my brain told me that Dr. Paul was not going to secure the Republican nomination, despite his rather unprecedented fundraising, I thought it was important to support his candidacy with my vote and with my campaign contributions.
Anyone who has spent more than five minutes discussing politics with me knows that I am essentially a Goldwater-Reagan Republican. My views would certainly be classified, generally, as right of center and while I hold some opinions that are more traditionally conservative, the over arching principle that guides my politics is fundamentally libertarian. I believe, as Locke and Jefferson so eloquently maintained, that each of us is endowed by our Creator with basic, inalienable rights and that, as Jefferson said, “to secure our rights is the only reason to tolerate government at all.” Government exists to protect our liberty from both foreign and domestic threats and the purpose of our Constitution is to set strict limits for our government so that it cannot become, in itself, a threat to our personal liberty. Although those who would empower and have empowered our federal government to live beyond its Constitutional means often have the best of intentions: trying to make our streets safer by banning certain types of gun ownership, forcing those who have earned a lot of money to help those with less, protecting us from hurting ourselves with addictive drugs, stopping “catastrophic” climate change, protecting us from violent criminals, or protecting us from foreign threats and terrorists; the end result is always the same for any of these government programs – the expansion of the government sector of the economy, the expansion of the role of government in our lives, the expansion of the power and authority of the federal government, and the resultant slow withering away of our privacy and property rights.
Sadly, however, we have witnessed an alarming expansion of federal government over the last 7 years by my own party, the very party of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. Poor President Reagan’s body didn’t even have the chance to grow cold before his own party had set it spinning in his grave. Under the “leadership” of Republicans, agricultural subsidies have grown; while negotiating free trade agreements with Latin American countries, tariffs were placed on European steel; the Attorney General of the United States attempted to use controlled substances laws (in and of themselves of dubious Constitutionality) to subvert the right of the state of Oregon to regulate medical practice in that state and to overrule the overwhelming wish of a majority of Californians to allow medical use of marijuana; free political speech has been restricted by new campaign finance laws, which ultimately have not reduced to influence of moneyed interests in our campaigns; the Congress of the United States waded into a state law issue in Florida over legal medical decision making; the federal government’s role in education has been expanded to the degree that the federal government, not state and local school boards, are the final arbiters of educational success; an incredibly large and expensive new health care entitlement has been created which will saddle our country with more debt for generations to come; and the government has listened to private telephone conversations without first obtaining proper warrants to do so.
As I watched debates, I found that almost none of the candidates (although McCain did decry overt pork barrel spending and earmarks) spoke to this fundamental misdirection of the Republican party and the Conservative agenda. The movement that brought Ronald Reagan to the White House in 1980; lowered our taxes; won the Cold War; promoted free trade; and in the 1990’s took control of Congress to reform welfare, balance the budget, pass a line-item veto, reject an anti-terrorism bill (1994-5) that threatened civil liberties, and decry nation-building as foreign policy was being systematically unraveled by the very same party that spearheaded it and no one in the party one seemed to notice or care. Or almost no one. The one candidate that consistently spoke about how the Republican party had lost its way and needed to return to its principles of limited government was Ron Paul. The more I watched the debates, the more I would turn to my wife and say, “Ron Paul is the only one of them that makes any sense.” Congressman Paul’s presence in the campaign was important addition to the debate over the direction of our country and to provide a voice championing the principles of limited government, which used to be the cornerstone of the Republican agenda.
Then, of course, there is the war. My dissatisfaction with the Bush 43 administration really began in earnest 5 years ago with the unprovoked U.S. invasion of Iraq (prior to that I made excuses for the President’s blatantly left-of-center domestic policies). This blatant act of imperialism forced me to confront the dichotomy of my views – that I supported minimal government at home, but activist government abroad. And of course almost everyone who has run for President in the last two election cycles has been, on some level, a supporter of the war. Only Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama, and Howard Dean have had the courage to challenge the assumptions that led to the invasion in the first place. All of the others, Democrat and Republican alike, voted for the war. The other Democrats, and John McCain, have all criticized management of the war and the intelligence failures that led up to the war, but none have questioned the premise that if Saddam Hussein really did have stock piles of WMD and the invasion had been handled more competently, that this would have been a justifiable use of pre-emptive military force. And of course, amongst the candidates who were opposed to the Iraq war from the beginning, only two (Kucinich and Paul) had to put their political credibility on the line by voting against the war in Congress and only one is a Republican who shares my views on other issues. I thought it was critically important to have some voice questioning the policy assumptions that led us into this war in the debate on the Republican side. It needed to be made clear that support for invading Iraq and conservatism are not the same thing. There are good conservatives who supported invading Iraq and there are equally conservative people who did not. I have consistently viewed the invasion of Iraq as immoral and unnecessary, so of course my candidate was Ron Paul.
What I fervently hope is that the Ron Paul Presidential campaign is the beginning of a movement. Dr. Paul lacks the personal charisma and communications skills of an effective national politician (like Reagan), but just on the strength of his message alone he was able to garner an incredible amount of support. He had over 250,000 donors and raised an unprecedented sum for a lower tier candidate. He drew large crowds and speaking engagements. In the early contests (before Romney dropped out) he consistently garnered about 10% of the vote – usually beating Giulani – and in some of the western states on Super Tuesday got over 20%. That demonstrates a fairly solid nucleus of disaffected conservatives. Hopefully he has consolidated a base that can be built upon in the future by a candidate with better communication skills. I hope this is the beginning of a resurgent limited government movement. I really hope that the movement is able to transform the Republican party – the way Goldwater and Reagan did – but if the neocons have too much of a stranglehold on the party establishment, then I hope this turns into a viable third-party movement.
The underlying importance of this is inescapable. The size of our government needs to be reduced because our freedom and prosperity depend upon it. The value of our dollar is plummeting, prices are rising, and we simply cannot afford to continue to pay for both largesse in government domestic programs and policing the world overseas. Such massive spending will saddle future generations with debt, produce government borrowing that further inflates prices and devalues the dollar, and grant the federal government more power to exert its will on the citizenry.