Don’t Endorse Ron Paul

December 15th, 2011 at 11:08 am David Frum | 148 Comments |

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Andrew Sullivan declares himself for Ron Paul as the GOP presidential nominee, as he did in 2008 as well.

As Andrew himself jokes, the Sullivan endorsement is more likely to hurt Paul than help him. In any event, there is precisely zero likelihood of Paul winning the GOP nomination, although he may well help to stop Gingrich from winning it. Paul is inescapably a boutique candidate, appealing to a very particular fringe within the GOP.

But here’s what does need discussing, in the wake of Andrew’s endorsement of Paul.

Paul has had an outsize appeal to writers and intellectuals dissatisfied with the present state of Republicanism.

Some see him as a corrective to militaristic nationalism. Or as a principled champion of limited government. Or as a leader who can curb the excessive influence of social conservatives.

Those perceptions are not very realistic, but leave that pass for now. More to the point–even if true, which they are not, these are not the correctives present-day Republicanism most needs. The thing most wrong with present-day Republicanism is its passivity in the face of the economic crisis, its indifference to the economic troubles of the huge majority of the American population, and its blithe insistence that everything was fine for the typical American worker up until Inauguration Day 2009 or (at the outer bound of the thinkable) the financial crisis of the fall 2008.

It is the lack of concern to the travails of middle-class America that “reform Republicans” should most centrally be concerned with.

And no candidate in this race–ok, except maybe the defunct Herman Cain–has been more persistently, aggressively, and forcefully heedless of those travails than Ron Paul.

Everything else that’s wrong with Paul–the paranoia, the crank theories–exists as an adjunct to this first prime fault. And the success of Paul in winning a boutique audience for his message has driven the rest of the field to mimic his crank monetary theories. In the midst of the worst crisis since the 1930s, the one thing that all the current and former first-tier candidates have agreed upon (even Mitt Romney!) is the need for tighter money and higher interest rates. That should seem obviously nuts, and not in a theoretical or marginal way that denying evolution is nuts. The press for tighter money and higher interest rates now is the kind of nutty thing that a government can actually do--and that would inflict severe, immediate real-world harm on the US and world economy.

There’s much to dislike about Ron Paul’s politics, and I dislike every bit of it. (It’s maybe remote from current concerns, but at a minimum, I have no patience for a professed libertarian who openly prefers the slaveholding cause in the US Civil War.)

But the Ron Paul problem is bigger than Ron Paul the candidate. The real shame is the gravitational pull Paul exerts on exactly those people, like Andrew Sullivan, but many others too, who ought to be leading the fight for a GOP more attuned to the challenges and aspirations of middle-class America–but who have been attracted via Ron Paul to an ideological cure even worse than the right’s present political disease.

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148 Comments so far ↓

  • mannie

    Even giving Mr. Paul a mulligan on the charges of racism, the rest of his policy notions are a contradictory mess. He dislikes the banks, but he not only wants to deregulate them but also feels they are entitled to recoup in full all the money in non-performing loans they made. He wants no restrictions on trade, but wants the US to withdraw from any multilateral initiatives designed to harmonize or regulate cross-border business. He hates multilateralism, but wants the world to sign on to a single currency, gold. He loves liberty, but hates reproductive freedom and gay rights. Boy, I could go on, but suffice it to say Mr. Obama would draw and quarter Mr. Paul in a debate.

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  • dante

    Ok, I haven’t read the 130+ comments, but I just have to say the following: While I disagree with just about every non-foreign-policy he has, he is CONSISTENT. I know where he stands, and why he stands there. He’s not going to give us the doublespeak common among the rest of the Republicans of wanting smaller government but expanding our military complex, ag and corporate subsidies. He doesn’t say he wants less government intrusion into our (fiscal) lives but is in favor of government intrusion into everyone’s social lives. He is the one non-phony candidate that’s standing on that stage.

    I still wouldn’t vote for him, but I’d be reassured if he was the Republican candidate since I’d know what he was going to do if he ever got into the presidency.

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  • baw1064

    Actually, the Republicans are not advocating passivity in response to the financial crisis.

    They have a very definite program:

    -Cut the top marginal tax rate some more.
    -Cut corporate taxes (preferably to zero).
    -Privatize everything as much of the safety net as possible.
    -Increase defense spending (preferably, by invading a couple more countries).
    -Bash unions and public employees in general.
    -Blame Obama for everything.

    Paul has some ideas that (IMO) are pretty nutty, but at least he’s self consistent, says what he really believes, and isn’t in it for the money. Can any of the other candidates say that?

  • Gramps

    Olde men, have lectured drunks in bars…
    Have also, laid with absolutely beautiful women in bed…

    They hold the destiny of both our, circumstance and destiny…

    In their “quivering” and “shaky”…olde, HANDS… in the, Congress and the …Senate…

    Old men should retire, “post haste” if not SOONER…!

    Best regards…olde Sergeant , sends…!

    YOU…go with the new man…
    GO with HIM…

    Olde soldier sends my very BEST…~

  • theendisfar

    Too Late! I endorse Ron Paul. I will NEVER vote for the Lesser of Two Evils again, neither Socialists or NeoCons (both Keynesian BTW).

    If Ron Paul does not win the GOP nomination, I will encourage him to run 3rd Party. If he does not, I will write his name in. Ron Paul vs NeoCon vs Obama = Ron Paul 45th President.

    The Nation is tired of BS Wars for Big Business/Finance/Gov’t profit. We are American by God and that means we mean to be Free once again. Keynesians (aka Central Planning) Economics is SOCIALISM.

  • baw1064

    So, if Paul does by some fluke win the nomination, will Frum vote for Obama?

  • BobAkimbo

    This forum’s guidelines state that comments containing personal attacks are subject to removal, but apparently Frum doesn’t need to abide by this common courtesy, even though he calls himself a journalist.

    This weekend Frum, on Ali Velshi’s “Your Money,” called Ron Paul an “ignoramus” in the same breath that he told the audience they should “hit the mute button” whenever Paul speaks, suggesting that they remain ignorant of Paul’s ideas. This tortured twist of logic is best explained by the fact that Frum, along with the rest of the establishment, is seriously threatened by the prospect of a Ron Paul victory. And they should be.

    Frum’s Keynesian fantasy, that easier money can solve the problems brought about by easy money is, thankfully, is in its final days.

    Name calling is the first sign of a failing argument, and we thank Frum for proving that.

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