Why I cannot support Ron Paul


By Joe Campbell
December 11th, 2007

Ron Paul

[digg-reddit-me]John Derbyshire of the National Review came out in support of Ron Paul today – and he makes a persuasive case. The core of his argument is that a typical candidate will not be able to fix what is wrong:

Yet, more and more, I think we are heading for (or perhaps are in) some kind of systemic crisis, one that not even the meanest s.o.b. could do much about. A systemic crisis needs a systemic solution, and only Paul offers that, with his return to constitutional fundamentals…

If, however, you think that much of the underbrush that has grown up around our national institutions this past 40 years needs to by pulled up by the roots and burned, before it chokes the life out of our Republic, then Paul’s your man.

This is the only argument that could persuade me to support a Ron Paul, or even a Dennis Kucinich. 1 I too believe, along with Derbyshire, we are in the midst of a systematic crisis that has been developing since the presidency of Harry Truman at latest. I also believe that George W. Bush has accelerated this crisis immeasurably – to Bush’s credit. If it were not for the boundless arrogance and incompetence Bush has displayed repeatedly throughout his term, we wouldn’t have the same opportunity for reform that we have now. The many presidents who have made relatively responsible use of their power distracted the majority of Americans from the inherent systematic problems, and from the extra-constitutionality of the executive’s growing power. George W. Bush put these issues back on the agenda.

And it is the reality of George W. Bush, more than anything, that is fueling the candidacy of Ron Paul.

Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich are idealists rather than pragmatists. They have big ideas that inspire and they are uncompromising in their goals. Their dreams for America are pristine – and untouched by either politics or reality.2 But there is a simple reason that I cannot support a Ron Paul or a Dennis Kucinich – even if I believed that either one perfectly expressed where we need to end up as a nation, and even if I believed either Paul or Kucinich would be able to accomplish their goals and overcome the tremendous obstacles in their way. The simple reason is that radical3 change is rarely permanent and rarely good.

We are still dealing with the backlash from our first ideologically radical president, George W. Bush. By changing so much so fast Bush has created a backlash against everything he has done. This backlash looks a lot like Ron Paul – the opposite of Bush on many, many issues. If someone was able to merge the persons of Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, they would be able to create an almost perfect anti-Bush who opposed the current president on every issue and whose every inclination tended the opposite way of the current cowboy in chief. But this is not enough – in fact, this politics of negation is precisely the opposite of what will solve America’s problems.

What America needs today is a president who will focus on restoring the processes and institutions that make America safe and that preserve liberty and the American way of life. We need a president who will be pragmatic and gradually win the support of the people for the long-term process that it will be to restore the Constitution and the system of checks and balances. Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich do not seem to have a long-term strategy for their goals, even if their principles are correct – rather they claim they are just going to accomplish their objectives. ((I know Kucinich has detailed plans, and I’m sure that Ron Paul has thought about these issues as well; but they both seem to believe that the major impediment to radical change is their own election. Governing is not so easy of a proposition, especially with entrenched interests defending each and every aspect of the system.) I don’t think the world works this way. More, I believe, if either of these men were faced with having to implement their agendas, they would begin hedging so fast and so furiously, they would make Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton look principled. I don’t mean this as a slight to either man. I believe both are intelligent enough to realize how difficult it would be to dismantle the IRS or create a single-payer health care system; and when faced with the prospect of having to accomplish these goals, they would naturally hedge their promises if not their principles. Politics is the art of compromise – and a practice where ideals are hard to reconcile with power.

As I have said before: this is why I support Barack Obama. Because I believe he is principled, yet pragmatic. I see in him both the arrogance and ambition needed to run for president, and the humility to see that the tasks before him are far greater than he can accomplish by himself. He is a political figure who transcends traditional political boundaries. Most important, he believes that process is paramount and is willing to base his campaign on bringing people together to fix the many broken processes that form the bedrock of a robust democracy.

Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich are likely good men with admirable goals; and it is their unflinching idealism which attracts so many. But it is precisely this which would cause them to fail and to create a backlash of the same sort that Bush has created with his policies.

Perhaps this isn’t the most inspiring campaign slogan, but I think it’s appropriate:

Barack Obama: All the change we can handle, and judgment we can trust.

Political courage is not only measured by the worthiness of one’s ideals, but by the sum of one’s actions.
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  1. I don’t think anything could persuade me to support Mike Gravel who strikes me as a loon. []
  2. I know I exaggerate, and Kucinich certainly has made compromises. But they still leave his agenda far from possible. []
  3. Meaning extreme. []