Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ron Paul and 2008

Ron Paul had done something incredibly interesting this election cycle. He generated nationwide excitement for libertarianism and libertarian causes. It crossed party lines as both Democrats and Republicans realized that, to varying degrees they were agreeing on certain issues including spending, corporate welfare, taxes, and foreign policy. It was a sight to behold and one which was backed by more money than any of us expected.

Ron Paul then formalized this after his primary loses into a new political action committee, devoted to pushing libertarian causes from within the Republican party and, in some cases, from the outside. He created a counter-convention to the GOP convention and announced with third party candidates that they were with him and ready to support smaller government and his vision on a non-interventionist foreign policy. Somehow, a Republican Congressman from Texas had become the face of third party causes across America. He did that and it was very interesting to observe. As a fan of limited government, I was so pleased to see that across America a movement seemed to be forming among those who believed in these ideals. My wife and I moved to Maryland and I found a Congressional candidate who was on the front lines of this "Revolution."

Now, Ron Paul claimed he was going to be above the fray when it came to the Presidential election once he dropped out. He was not going to endorse, he was a Republican who was lost because he didn't support McCain. He didn't plan to reveal who he was going to vote for, which left a bit of a splintering of his supporters. Some tried to get him on the ballot, and succeeded in two states. Others, sought out new candidates, such as the Libertarian or Constitution Party nominee.

The Libertarians picked former Congressman Bob Barr, a man who was on the front lines of the culture war up until four or so years ago. He stood for all manner of things the LP was against -- he pushed to limit religious freedom in the military, he supported the PATRIOT ACT, he strongly supported the "drug war," he co-sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act, he's pro-life, and the list continues. His votes in Congress did not reflect his current positions, turning some Libertarians off. They said he wasn't fully in the cause, and two state parties revolted opting to nominate a different candidate (NH and MA). Then, Barr dropped out of Ron Paul's big press conference for third party candidates at the last minute. Instead of going to the press conference, Barr held his own saying that libertarian leaning voters needed to unite and that under Paul's leadership they remained splintered. This helped alienate some of the very voters he was seeking, even if his comments may have proven to be partially true. After the GOP nomination was wrapped up, instead of going third party and building up his support, the Paul momentum dissipated and that's partially Ron Paul's own doing.

The Constitution Party was also splintered because Alan Keyes came along and pulled away some supporters. Keyes wasn't fundamentally in line with the party, but the local parties are very autonomous leading to some division amongst ballot access for candidates. Nationally, they endorsed Chuck Baldwin. Baldwin is a radio host and was their VP nominee in 2004. The problems with his candidacy stem from the same ones that come out of the Constitution Party as a whole for many -- their mission statement plank of "...[restoring] American jurisprudence to its original Biblical common-law foundations" The direct integration of Christian fundamentals into a strict Constitutional party just doesn't seem to flow very well. The Constitution does not promote any one religion and, in fact, bars the pushing of any one religion on the people. For a while that was allowed on a state level, but that too was overturned by the courts. As a Biblically based party, they push for their interpretation of Christianity including bans on pornography, gambling including lotteries, and same-sex unions/marriages. Baldwin has also expressed the viewpoint that September 11th could be related to God's wrath and does not trust the government's story on what happened.

This hodgepodge medley of people from coast-to-coast were still searching for a candidate to support. They looked back to Ron Paul and his stoic, no endorsement stance. With Barr repudiating him, Paul took a turn that I did not expect -- he endorsed Chuck Baldwin. I understand partially his reasoning, his anger for Bob Barr's antics and his fundamental support for a libertarian leaning platform. But, in the end, the libertarian national movement he created has officially ended with this endorsement. Baldwin is not the best choice for 2008 for the libertarian voter. Paul wasn't perfect, but he was a better fit. Barr's platform is a better fit, even if the candidate himself has an imperfect past. Idealistic libertarianism is not Baldwin's platform. State by state, Constitution Party candidates are supporting the Biblical roots of our Constitution. Not all Americans are Christians; not all the founding fathers were Christians. For example, Thomas Jefferson was a deist who wrote his own version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ removing any references to miracles.

I'm not asking libertarian voters to vote for anyone in particular, but I am asking them this -- don't vote for Chuck Baldwin merely because Ron Paul said so. Baldwin is not the savior of libertarianism you were looking for. The Ron Paul Revolution needs to be renamed and reorganized so that by 2012, someone else can be brought forward. Bring back the likes of Gary Johnson on the scene and see if he'd be willing to run for Governor or Senator in New Mexico on the Libertarian line. Try to push for libertarian leaning state legislators and local government officials. Even if they're part of a primary party, it's better to rebuild the movement. Start small, start local, then build from there. All politics are local and it's better to start there. In 2008, look around at the libertarian leaning choices and make your own decision. Maybe Charles Jay or Bob Barr or even writing in Ron Paul would be an option you'd rather seek. Or, maybe look at the platforms of McCain or Obama to see if there's something you may like. McCain may be more up the libertarian ally with his strong anti-pork streak, but if it's social issues that are your focus then Obama may be worth a look. Review the options and don't blindly follow Ron Paul. Blind politics is what created the need for a libertarian revolution, don't let it die because Paul asked you cover your eyes.

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