The International Writers Magazine: Reality Check + Readers Responses
The Ron Paul Factor
Iowa & the Soul of the Grand Old Party
Soon the nation will learn where the Republican Party stands. In less than three weeks, the Iowa Caucus will begin the painstaking selection of a presidential candidate. This is when polls, punditry and prognostication become fact. So...who represents the party now? Conservative? Moderate? Religious Right? Washington Lifer? Libertarian?
Who will be the figurehead, the titular leader of the New Conservative movement, so in vogue only one short year ago?
Twelve months on, where does the Grand Old Party find its voice?
In 2010, it was anti-big-government, no-tax-under-any-circumstances, anti-union, anti-entitlements, anti-Obama. By January of this year, Republicans were taking half of the legislative branch and turning the United States Senate into a stalemate. Feels like only yesterday the Liberal Revolution of 2008 and its president was all-but finished.
Oh, it was a serious beat down; not only of Democrats, but old-line, establishment Republicans, who had to make way for several and varied first-timers, anti-politicians -- motivated citizens with no ties or obligations to the "way things are done" Washington milieu. There was no telling where this could lead?
The hope was that it would lead to a purer form of politics. Where the Left lost its way after putting so much social, political and youthful hope in Barack Obama, the Right would rise from the ashes of Bush/Cheney/Delay spendthrift, scandal-addled, war-mongering mania to a hard-line fiscal razing of the system.
Gay bashing, Muslim-phobia, myopic jingoism was out and "Read our lips -- No New Taxes" was in. Jesus, there was even talk from Republicans about reducing the national debt or bust.
What a merry time of misrule it was.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum...or Paul Ryan, we hardly knew ye.
After the party's successful exploitation of the original TEA Party, which has since split into more disparate factions than the birth of Christianity, predictable backlashes ensued. Public unions in Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Maine, Arizona and Alaska fought against the tide of reduced entitlements and abolished collective bargaining rights. Then the federal government nearly shutdown, as the no-compromise freshman engaged in a suddenly catastrophic deficit pogrom. And then there was Occupy Wall St., which, much like the TEA Party, ignored ridicule, fickle media infatuation and harsh criticism to remain a viable voice of conscience.
So it's reasonable to assume two things: Republicans will either stick to their guns and stay the course of conservative purity or abandon ship and select a dyed-in-the-wool national candidate to surf the middle, seduce independents and take on what is sure to be a multi-million dollar Obama Machine the likes of which has rarely been seen in the modern political landscape.
Of course, as stated, Iowa will kick-start this process, but can hardly be considered a reliable barometer for the Republican Primary. Many weird things happen in Iowa, much of it difficult to recount here without a smattering of hem and a fair amount of hawing. However, it is a vote and it counts, unlike the bullshit that appears nightly on cable news. And right now, if polls be trusted, the resurrection of one of Washington's most reviled demagogues, Newt Gingrich, leads the ever-vacillating Mitt Romney Mach II by ten percentage points with perennial Libertarian, Ron Paul right beside him.
Gingrich has no money and no party support. The national conservative press and former colleagues regularly shove each other out of the way to eviscerate him. Yet, he appears to be the only-man-standing in a four-month round-robin competition for Anyone But Romney. For reasons that we'll dissect in the coming weeks neither Romney nor Gingrich represent a scintilla of pure conservatism. In many crucial ways, these are Limo Liberals at best and in reality Big Government Dinosaurs. Their record of voting, supporting and lobbying for progressive causes and Keynesian economic strategies are well documented.
Ron Paul, however, is the interesting candidate.
He is certainly interesting for his Barry Goldwater approach -- the pre-William F. Buckley, Jerry Falwell, Ronald Reagan conservative. If nothing else he is ideologically pure; a political doppelganger of the TEA Party faithful, many of which, if under random doses of sodium pentathol would have to admit Gingrich and Romney are closer to Barack Obama than anything they sent to congress last year. While the two frontrunners have changed positions on key conservative tenets daily, Paul has been spouting his unflinching rhetoric for decades.
But Ron Paul is most interesting because the caucus landscape is his canvas -- reporters from every circle have all agreed he's had more one-on-one connections with them and the people of Iowa (both integral newsmakers and ordinary voters) than any of the six or seven Republicans left standing in this race. Moreover, Paul has an Iowa ground organization far and wide, the kind of grassroots measure Obama conducted when Hillary Clinton was busy measuring drapes for the Oval Office.
Now, there is very little one can say that is crazier than Ron Paul is a clear bet to be the Republican nominee for president in 2012, but that is not the issue. The issue in Iowa, the only game in town on January 3, will tell us where the wind may blow for the Republican Party. Is the TEA Party yesterday's news, used and tossed to the curb to allow an "electable" candidate to emerge? Remember the "un-electable" Michelle Bachman took the straw poll here in the summer and vaulted to conservative darling for as long as she could keep her mouth shut, which ended abruptly when she told the Today Show that the MPV vaccine causes mental retardation.
Say Paul, who has made no secret of his extremely controversial stands on legalizing drugs, wiping out any kind of government regulations, gutting the Military Industrial Complex, tearing asunder federal safety nets, and eradicating a bevy of government agencies, wins in Iowa. Does that mean there is a chink in the armor of those in the party who have spent the better part of three years trying to make Obama a one-term president? And if the establishment, so cushy with TEA Party hardliners a year ago when it suited them, turn their back on these results and the subsequent press, bump in polls, and political gravitas it provides a true conservative like Ron Paul, then what fills that vacuum; a true Independent candidate?
Who then stops attention hounds like Donald Trump or Sarah Palin from screaming about trading in principles for hollow victory or an unenthusiastic showing to usher in four more years of Obama? Who then stops crazies like Ann Coulter or stalwarts like George Will from pounding the party on grab-ass or disunity?
Yes, Ron Paul in Iowa might have small legs in the battle, but the war will be waged in a different mindset if he wins.
© James Campion December 16th 2011
READERS RESPONSES 12.31.11
Three days to go before the Republican Primaries and the response for THE RON PAUL FACTOR -- Issue: 12/21/11 challenges any this space has received in nearly 15 years. Here are the highlights:
The way the campaign carnivals have danced their way onto the media stage these last elections, it becomes ever more apparent that either "side" of the plutocracy wouldn't lose any sleep if their respective opponent won. They'd get the same spending, same bills, same placing at the Federal Reserve's trough, same lobby knockers, same wars, same bailouts, same dissolution of civil liberties - all despite the protest of the people. America has a history of being caught up in a left/right paradigm. There has increasingly been recognition that there is another paradigm - and a more important one - in place: Authoritarianism vs. libertarianism. Those on the Hill share the former, whether from the left or right. Those who vote share the latter, whether from the left, middle, or right. Ron Paul is bringing this to light. And we are responding. The insiders are pissed and their agenda is threatened. Freedom is popular.
Thanks for the article. Albeit some of your "facts" exaggerate/misrepresent Paul's views [ie., "legalizing drugs" (he wants to remove the illegal federal jurisdiction over them)], the spirit of your words rings true: his walk matches his talk.... for 30 years. We haven't had an opportunity like that in a LONG time. I think America has gotten so used to what a politician is they have forgotten what a Statesman is.
I will no longer vote for the lesser of two evils (both are Keynesians) ever again. If Paul loses the GOP nomination, the GOP loses my vote. I will write Ron Paul's name in.
To say that Ron Paul wants to tear asunder the safety nets in the federal government (paraphrased) is missing the point. He wants to make the necessity for them so small that they can be adequately handled by the states. Katrina alone has proved that Washington does not belong in the compassion business. If we as a nation would adopt Dr. Paul's vision of a strong, gold-or-silver-backed currency, and quit spending ourselves into oblivion on foreign aid and foreign wars/entanglements, a stable dollar, and a steady economy without booms and busts would emerge. That would in turn bring America's industry home, growing jobs so that there would be way fewer people who need a bureaucratic network to 'look out for them'. Our tax rate could safely fall through the floor because the money wouldn't be needed. How liberating.
Ron Paul is the only interesting candidate to me because he is the only one not steeped in an aura of deceit and corruption. I admit held hope for Obama and progressive federal government ideologies while Obama was rising to power, only to have the administration spit in our faces.
This administration made me believe whole-heartedly in small government at the federal level not because I think helping folks out is bad but because I think they are utterly and totally corrupt. Pushing forward Wall St. ideals, pushing forward the ideals of government contractors, and the military industrial complex, and promising fairness, equality and justice while signing bill's that undermine those promises.
The only way out, from the grips of the Goldman Sachs, Lockgreed, Northgrope et al. stranglehold on our country is to eliminate their funding. That means cutting drastically at the federal level.
The more I think about this the more sense it seems to make. Me, you, normal people can change things on a local level, even on a state level. We have influence and power in our respective local governments; we don't compete with billion dollar multi-nationals. At the federal level it's an utter joke.
Even if you are a progressive this is where you should aim. If you don't believe in trickle down economics, why do you believe in trickle down government? Movements should go from the ground up not be legislated downward.
Ron Paul said that our policies in the Middle East would make us the target of terrorists as far back as 1998, and he was ignored. Ron Paul called the housing collapse and recession in 2007 while the rest of the field and the mainstream media laughed at him. Ron Paul said that our rights are being eroded, and NDAA was signed by Obama yesterday making US citizens subject to detention in Gitmo.
Ron's latest tirade is that the war drums are beating for Iran and that we are headed for yet another perpetual war. Neocons and big government loves Ron Paul, because they are so intent on proving him right.
They're afraid of Paul, because he'll end the wars, and repeal unconstitutional legislation like the Patriot Act. It is vehemently clear that he is a threat to the status quo, and they will attempt to eliminate him, even if they use incorrect information.
I've been waiting decades for a libertarian (big or small L) candidate to get a shot. Newt Romney can't get my vote.
Ron Paul will get the Independent Vote, Anti-War Vote, Youth Vote, Conservative Democrat Vote, Military Vote, and Disgruntled with Obama Vote. Dr. Paul will get at least 7 to 9 percent more than the polls are showing. He is the only candidate that is 'Electable!' He will win Iowa!
The respect that modern politicians are able to draw from the voters has been falling for years; it's a long time since we had a government who represented the people. We have politicians taking more kickbacks than some African despot, we have a govt. controlled by lobby groups...bought and paid for...
People are sick of the dishonesty, the lack of principles, the flagrant corruption that stares at us every day ... and then there's Ron Paul; principled, strong political beliefs, no dishonesty, no corruptibility in this man...despite being ignored in the media ...then mocked and derided...then marginalized and also attacked his support keeps growing.
When you take notice of this man and listen to his arguments, when you look at his track record, you commit to him...Ron Paul doesn't have supporters, he has devotee's. His message is honest and pure and unique in this race. He is the only politician who we all know will not misuse power to feather his nest. He is also the only politician who will not bow down to money. Finally, he is the only politician who would not sacrifice his beliefs and ethics for a quick convenient fix. When the pressure is on every other candidate, they'll be swayed by a variety of power groups because they don't stand for anything.
What are folks really afraid of? Even if Ron Paul wins the presidency, the country will NEVER go back to the strict interpretation of the Constitution that he wants. A Fixed News contributor notes that "a vote for Ron Paul strikes more as a vote for peace than a vote for any of the things his critics say he believes". This is true. The contributor also notes that "[he] could honestly care less about Paul's monetary policy ideas at this point (though I do disagree with them) and I think he's plain wrong on immigration but he's still the best candidate on the war on terror, the war on drugs, and the possible war on Iran. That's enough for me." This is also true. A Ron Paul presidency will be very good for foreign policy. But people shouldn't be afraid that he's going to completely shut down federal authority over a whole host of things. Even if he chooses to close down some government agencies, Congress will not let him take away a bunch of federal authority, which constitutionally are controlled by Congress and not the Executive. If he refuses to act, he could be impeached for refusing to implement the law. I'm an Obama supporter, but Ron Paul would be a not so bad alternative. Ron Paul can come again in 2016, he sure will get my vote then
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