Tag Archives: economy

Why Liberals Could but Won’t (and Shouldn’t) Support Ron Paul

16 Aug

The call of Ron Paul: every collegiate twenty-something feels it at some time or another. Because college is a time when young people often discover their own political leanings, the politics of the youth have always seemed to encompass more progressive views than those of general society. That’s not to say all college students are liberal –there are plenty of conservatives –just that they’re more progressive than the rest of the country. On the issues of climate change, gay rights and the legalization of marijuana, college students on a whole are left of center. The Pew research center reported that 66% of those under the age of 30 voted for President Obama in 2008. Pew even says “Among voters ages 18-29, a 19-point gap now separates Democratic party affiliation (45%) and Republican affiliation (26%).

A way to seemingly reconcile the progressive social leanings of the youth with free-market ideals is libertarianism. It seems like this is a natural way for those who were raised republican to integrate their liberal social mores with fiscal conservatism. Because the very nature of dorm life creates an integrated environment where students are exposed to and live in close quarters with people of all races, sexual orientations, geographical backgrounds and political ideologies, the desire for inclusiveness can lead to support for politics like the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, support of gay marriage, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and a host of other causes. It’s harder than it is easier to graduate college with exclusionary politics.

Although the Pew statistics suggest young people identify more with Democrats than with Republicans, a key group amongst the young politically minded are the libertarians. Often torn between the social politics of the democrats and the fiscal politics of the republicans, most libertarians I’ve met are fervent and zealous in promulgating libertarianism. After the spending-binge that is known as the George W. Bush presidency, libertarians shunned the Republican party. Early incarnations of the Tea Party were quite libertarian –then the Religious Right and Birthers infiltrated the group. With libertarians unable to call the Republican party home and unable to find solace in the Democratic party because of their pro-union, pro-spending philosophy, these politically displaced nomads were wandering around looking for a candidate they could believe in.

Enter: Ron Paul.

Rep. Ron Paul has always had a niche group of supporters; it’s why he’s been a member of Congress for so long. Ron Paul is able to draw in young supporters with his willingness to vocally oppose some of the less inclusive policies of the Republican party, to allow for some progressive views on social issues and maintain a conservative fiscal approach to the economy. The objectivists who treat Ayn Rand as a prophet find in Ron Paul a candidate who closely mirrors the philosophy that they believe in. Rand fans are to fiscal policy what evangelicals are to social policy: a vocal, zealous, block of consistent voters. I’ve been known to jokingly refer to Ron Paul’s supporters as “Rondroids” who defend him against every assailment and inflate his Google numbers and Wikipedia page far beyond his actual relevance to the rest of society. As we’ve seen in American politics, small minorities can outshine and out-maneuver silent majorities. Just as the devout showed up in high numbers to support Michele Bachmann at the Iowa Straw Poll, Rand fans turned out in high numbers to support Ron Paul.

Conservatives and libertarians adore Ron Paul – but unexpectedly, some liberals can at times be mesmerized by him too. His public persona –chalk it up to good PR or individualism—is that there is a contrast to the current Republican field of candidates. He is often perceived to be much more of an intellectual than his contemporaries. He undoubtedly gained some liberal empathy when Rick Santorum picked a fight with him during the GOP debate to garner some air time. But he frankly appealed to the youth so much because he advocated for troop withdrawal and an end to America’s militarism. This view is so far out of the mainstream that you rarely see even Democrats arguing for it –despite its popularity with liberals. The problem is that the very idea that gains him so many fans –the drawback of the military and defense spending—is what puts him so outside the status quo of Washington that he has become a dismissed entity. The dismissal of anti-militaristic views from the mainstream goes back to the post-9/11 era when any and all opposition to anything the defense department did merited accusations of anti-patriotism. The Bush administration all but sewed militarism into the American flag. Do you think the Patriot Act, the Iraq War and torture at Guantanamo Bay would have happened if a culture of fear-mongering didn’t exist? The dismissal of Ron Paul from presidential viability also gains him some empathy with liberals because that very dismissal marginalizes the anti-war sentiment of many on the left. Many Obama supporters are becoming disaffected with President Obama’s continuation of military and defense emphasis and the continuation of the Iraq War, especially after he touted his vote against the way during his campaign. The disaffection with Obama over defense policy may pave the way for some liberals to jump ship and join the Ron Paul train.

There’s little evidence of this yet; the President’s approval rating with liberals has gone down but it’s still very strong. But it would be a mischaracterization to say Paul could win over liberals in an election. While his approach to military spending is right in line with a liberal philosophy, he has extremely conservative views in too many other arenas. He opposed abortion, even reintroducing the Sanctity of Life Act. His rhetoric around the separation of church and state characterizes famous supreme court cases as a way to “deprive citizens of their religious liberty.” He was also critical of the Civil Rights act of 1964. He is one of the most fiscally conservative members in Congress. All of his fiscal views and most of his social views are conservative – so for liberals to jump from Obama to Paul would require a complete 180 on their political philosophy. Paul’s blunt anti-war sentiment has a magic surrounding its rhetoric, but at most he can elicit liberal praise. As far as liberal votes go, it’s the economy, stupid—so one progressive stance won’t negate an entire history of conservative fiscal policy and criticism of liberal economic values.

But that’s in regard to the choice liberals will make when they vote. In our daily lives on non-election days, we often don’t define ourselves through the scope of “democrat” or “republican.” We don’t have to vote up or down on the totality of a candidate as a person. Liberals can (and should) admire Ron Paul’s vocalization of anti-war sentiment. The two-party duopoly of our political system orients us in such a way that we have to see politicians as one-note. We ascribe each politician a persona –usually based on false marketing in campaign ads–and demand that they adhere to it and ignore them when they don’t. Ron Paul can’t be categorized and dismissed as such.