I am not a fan of the three or four time Presidential candidate, Ron Paul. My opinions about the ideology of Ron Paul are well-documented, as are my opinions of many (not all) of his followers. But despite my lack of appreciation for the eccentric ex-Congressman, I also do not look favorably upon gloating or grave-dancing. Ron Paul’s embarrassing results in the most recent Presidential election do not tempt me towards smugness as much as they do provide illumination upon something I have been meaning to write about for a long time. Ron Paul’s political funeral has come and gone – he will not be a part of the political scene in our country any longer, and a decent argument exists that he has never really been a part of our political scene. But based on the level of misunderstanding that I think exists out there about what I really believe regarding the Ron Paul hysteria, I wanted to offer my own political eulogy, if you will, and hopefully clarify a few things as we bid the Congressman goodbye.
Despite some insinuations to the contrary, I really do not dislike all Ron Paul fans. Many of his followers, if you will, were well-meaning and principled folks. His followers were duped, mind you, but they were victims, not accomplices. They wanted a limited government advocate who believes in the principles of the founding; what they got was a conspiracist who hinged his candidacy to some of the most extremist elements in our society.
Ron Paul’s views on foreign policy are wrong, but they are not wrong merely in the same way that a typical paleo-conservative gets national defense wrong. Bob Novak was a paleo-conservative, but his views on American might were nowhere near those of Ron Paul’s. When it comes to Ron’s vocal criticism of the Federal Reserve, he gets a lot of things right, and sadly, gets a lot of things wrong. But again, the Fed has many critics (yours truly among them). Alas, not all Fed critics, though, come from the same place Ron Paul does. My point here is that something further has to be said about Ron Paul from this particular critic than just the mere disagreement I have with him ideologically. It is the source of the disagreement that represents the heart of the matter.
Can you imagine waking up one day and rightly identifying the probems in our society, and then determining that the best way to remedy those problems would be maintaining a multi-decade association with anarchists, pacifists, and academic lightweights like the folks at Lew Rockwell? There is no possible way anyone can tell me that they believe Ron Paul was serious about enacting change in our society, for if he was he has had over 30 years to find moral and effective affiliations to partner with – not bomb-throwers and radicals. The reason Ron Paul went one way and not the other is NOT because he misjudged tactically; it is because he IS one of the bomb-throwers and radicals. He is more at home with the teenagers at LewRockwell than he is the grown-ups at Cato. In his heart of hearts, he REALLY DOES believe that there is a global conspiracy involving the Trilateral Commission, and Rockefeller, and Halliburton, and the Council of Foreign Relations, etc., to, well, to do something. He REALLY DOES believe that IRS agents are looking to pull AK-47 rifles on innocent family men. His enemy is not the ideological reality of leftism and liberalism (though that is my ideological enemy, and most of yours); his enemy is America itself. He REALLY DOES believe that we are a global agitator, and that folks like Hitler, Stalin, Saddam, Pol Pot, Osama, and now Iran, were agitated by anglo-aggressors into becoming more feisty. He REALLY DOES believe that evil will stay calm if it is left alone. His foreign policy is morally bankrupt and devoid of any concept of the doctrine of total depravity; but the rest of his ideology is devoid of any logic, reason, maturity, or intelligence.
I commend people for being excited when Ron Paul talks about the grotesque size of government. He is right about that. But that has not been his agenda for the last thirty years. He has never passed any legislation or played any role in slowly or quickly decreasing the size of government. A lot of groups out there desire smaller government – Ron Paul repudiated the vast majority of them. Indeed, the only groups who Ron has been willing to be associated with are groups that owe their existence to the belief that a massive behind-the-scenes conspiracy exists that would shame Birchers for their lack of creativity and ingenuity. I remember when Ben Bernanke shook his head and laughed at Ron Paul (in a gentlemanly kind of way) as Ron Paul asked him about the Fed diverting money for Watergate and Saddam Hussein (etc.). Ben said it was a “bizarre” question, and measured critics of the Fed buried their heads in shame that Ron Paul was being given the authority as “Fed critic-in chief”. Ron Paul’s extreme supporters, though, were proud of him. The idea that the Fed had just gained immeasurable legitimacy because of the asininity of the questions coming from Ron Paul did not occur to them. Indeed, it didn’t occur to Ron himself. Today many folks thing Ron Paul moved the ball downfield because the talk of a Fed audit has gained mainstream acceptance. Ask Ron Paul after a few highballs if he actually thinks this represents any substantive advantage for those who want to see a less manipulated money supply. I PROMISE you Ron Paul does not believe in his heart of hearts that a Fed audit has anything to do with what he has been supposedly advocating. For Ron, this is not an ideological fight about sound economic policy; this is a war against an entrenched and organized opponent who meet behind closed doors with secret handshakes and passwords. That sad reality is what has made moot the efforts Ron Paul has claimed to be advocating throughout his life.
I was repulsed by Ron Paul’s recent tweet belittling the death of a Navy Seal hero, but I was not surprised. To regular folks, this was a man who had committed himself to a sacrificial life of heroism and danger. To Ron, this SEAL is part of the problem. He is part of the system. He is part of the machine.
I have also written in times past on my views of conspiracy theorists. I want this article to be the explanation of my real beef with Ron Paul. At the end of the day, Ron Paul’s political career has been using a cause that I actually believe in as a cover for being a textbook conspiracy loon. This is why he did not and could partner himself with more effective members of the conservative cause – because he required a belief that America was being led by a secret cabal as a prerequisite to his strategic choices and loyalties. This is why Ron Paul has had a political funeral. It is a tragedy, if you think about it. The press gives the largest microphone in a generation to someone talking about limited government, and he uses the mic to talk crazy. Ron Paul supporters should be more outraged than Ron Paul critics.
I apologize for the offense I have caused some of the Ron Paul fans over the years. I can not say that I have published anything in this piece or the aforementioned ones that I do not really believe – as much today as ever – but I am sorry nonetheless. I do, actually, desire to be at peace with all men, and I do wish that I had done a better job over the years articulating the basis for my dislike of Ron Paul. I have said before – it are the things I agree with Ron about that make me so emphatic in the things I do not agree with him. We are in desperate need as conservatives for a leading voice who is not completely unhinged. We are in need of someone who knows both the vocabulary and ideology of right-sized government. And we are in need of that person being someone who can benefit the cause, not undermine it. This is the best summary I can offer you as to why Ron Paul has rubbed me the wrong way.
His son, Rand, is an interesting part of the conversation. On one hand, many of Ron’s more emotional supporters view Rand as a traitor to the cause for his endorsement of Mitt Romney. On the other hand, Rand’s ability to reach a broader audience than it has dad ever has suggest that he could have a more impressive political career than his dad ever did (to that end, Rand has already out-paced his dad by a large margin). Do I suspect Rand is cut from the same cloth as his dad? I suppose I do, but I am open to being wrong. It really will not matter, because if Rand is a sane alternative to what his dad was offering all those years, I will be happy for him to be politically successful; and yet if Rand is actually a mere extension of his dad’s kooky long-term friends, he will surely be sniffed out and eliminated from the political conversation. Time will tell.
With that, I say goodbye to the days of reading about and writing about Ron Paul. I pray for more converts to the cause of conservatism and more converts away from the legacy of the conspiracy fringe. Ron tapped into very real problems in our country and its politics, and many good people understandably followed him; but his loony associations and conspiracy theories undermined any effectiveness he could have had. This is a pity. May Ron spend the remaining years of his life enjoying his family, and may we spend the years in front of us fighting the good fight, seeing the real enemy, and winning in the actual cause.