Ron Paul – The most dangerous man in America?
As the Republican primary season enters into its crucial stages, it is easy to forget the role of its more improbable candidates. The two-horse race that has emerged between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich has, in many ways, eclipsed the memory of Rick Santorum’s shock win in Iowa, as well as the sure and steady campaign of Texan Congressman Ron Paul. Paul’s role for much of the early stages of the race was, like his campaign in 2008, to keep the other candidates honest, dismissed as he was for his eccentric, libertarian standpoint. But with the progression of the primary, Paul’s support base has grown. Mainly made up of a young, increasingly revolutionary element within the Republican Party – a community of college-educated bloggers and social media users – they are determined that their voice will be heard, in this instance through the election of the 76-year old former obstetrician.
With the growth of his personal movement, so have his previously dismissed views begun to enter the mainstream. Other candidates have far from ignored this recognition by the media of Paul as a genuine challenger for the Republican nomination, spending vast swathes of their campaign finances in an attempt to have Paul’s credibility disregarded along with previous rivals Bachmann, Perry and Cain. By now Paul’s campaign has, according to some commentators, reached its ceiling. Unable to rival the frontrunners for campaign funding, the crucial factor in any American presidential bid, Paul has perhaps, if only privately, conceded the race by now. But this does not mark the end of Paul’s campaign, with it being widely considered that the priority for Paul has always been, rather than personally securing the presidency, developing the impact of his libertarian cause. With a core of tremendously dedicated followers, and his son, the more pragmatic Kentuckian Senator Rand Paul, waiting in the wings, the eventual influence of Paul Sr’s campaign cannot be overlooked.
For some, Paul is a messiah, one of the last good men within an American political system that is broken and corrupt. Public approval of Congress has dropped to around 13%, and Paul appears to represent an element of politics that stands separate from this. At the very least, voters find his honesty and consistency refreshing; never deviating from the central, libertarian message that has been his ideological staple for more than 30 years. Young and disenchanted voters, especially, are attracted by his perpetual radicalism, and vow to shrink the role of federal government in the name of individual liberty. On paper, Paul appears an ideal candidate for this demographic, a genuine alternative to the perceived paternalism of the Obama administration that has failed to yield jobs or growth. For them, he represents a turning point for both American politics, and American society.
The issue with Paul, however, is that what many consider to be simply eccentricity in his views, others suggest leaves potential for utter chaos. In terms of foreign affairs, Paul’s explicit policy is to pull out of all foreign wars and entanglements, including the UN and NATO, and instigate a retreat into complete unilateralism. While the United States relinquishing its role of world police officer may be a selling point for some, the reality of America withdrawing completely from the world stage would be catastrophic. Diplomatically, economically and culturally, the rest of the world would suffer from America’s isolation, and, in all honesty the chances of the United States turning inward on this level are slim at best. Nonetheless, the authenticity of this policy is an indicator as to the extremism and danger in Paul’s ideology.
Economically, Paul promotes similarly outlandish policies. At the basis of his economic policy lies a vow to eliminate the Federal Reserve System, and an effective return to the gold standard. In such volatile economic times, Paul’s policies on the matter can only be described as reckless. He gains support in this area by advocating for de-regulation on the basis of freedom, but fails to appreciate that blame for the current global economic crisis can largely be attributed to lack of regulation in the banking and investment sectors. On the domestic front, Paul is no less dangerous than he is abroad.
Alarmingly, Paul’s radical policies have failed to garner significant support even from a Republican establishment that is already dominated by a staunchly conservative element. In the name of his libertarian ideology, he has publicly advocated for the repealing of the Patriot Act and an end to the war on drugs, much to the anger of his Republican peers. Within the Republican Party, Ron Paul is most often painted as an eccentric ideologue, and this further adds to the fear that his election would signal a removal from mainstream politics, and perhaps even the rise of the Libertarian Party under who’s banner Paul ran for President in 1988. Further bizarre policies, such as a promise to repeal the 1964 Civil Rights Act, paint the picture of a man more than willing to operate far outside the realm of conventional politics.
Aside from Paul’s official policies, however, lie the most disturbing aspects of his persona, revelations over his racist and homophobic opinions. In a series of newsletters released in Paul’s name between 1988 and 1994, articles denouncing Martin Luther King Jr as a paedophile and claiming that 95% of Washington DC’s black community were engaged in criminal activity were commonplace. Although Paul has claimed that he did not write the newsletters, even this raises the question, why was he allowing others to publish such articles in his name? Equally worrying is that a section of the support that Paul has garnered aligns with his perceived racism and anti-Semitism. No matter what his personal views may be, the controversy surrounding Paul would surely be detrimental to his role as potential Commander-in-Chief.
Even when we disregard Paul’s views, and claim that he is far too radical ever to be elected President, it is hard not to find his campaign worrying. At the age of 76, it is perhaps his legacy more than his chances of being elected that we should be more perturbed by. Maybe not Paul, but with this campaign as a springboard, an individual with even slightly altered versions of his views may be able to find themselves in the highest office of the world’s greatest superpower. Ron Paul is more cause than candidate, but that is not to say that the next Presidential contender with similarly radical views will be. While the successes of the Tea Party are clear from the 2010-midterm elections, Paul may have set in motion the mobilisation of a grassroots movement to rival them for the ear of the Republican establishment.
Posted on February 2, 2012, in Foreign Affairs, General, Looking Forward, US Politics and tagged america, Republican, Republican Party, Republican Primary, Ron Paul, US, US elections, US foreign policy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.