If you’re in the spheres of my online social networks, you may have noticed that I’ve had a certain fixation on the more insane or upsetting aspects of the Ron Paul candidacy. Call it schadenfreude if you like, or malicious cherry-picking, but I’ve felt compelled to highlight things about Paul that show his more hard-right or bizarrely conspiratorial musings. (I’ve had some thoughts about him on this blog as well.)
I’ve only now realized why this is so. It’s not the same motivation I have for, say, mocking Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann — they’re more pure comedy. Well, not pure, because there’s a hefty dose of revulsion in there. But you get my point. It’s motivated instead by what I perceive to be liberals’ sympathy for Ron Paul. He seems to keep being blessed by folks all over the progressive spectrum as “the Republican who we trust.”
Why is this? Ron Paul is by no means a sympathetic character for liberals: he’s by most accounts a rock-solid, hard-line cultural conservative. Though he may not always want the federal government to legislate on behalf of cultural conservatism, he seems to have no qualms about states doing so. He’s fully committed to opposition to the cornerstone of contemporary liberalism: the welfare state. Liberals as we know them today are descended directly from the policies of the New Deal, the basis of which was government aggressively imposing itself on the economy in order to triage a collapsed economy. But any government-based program that in any way lends support to those who need a small assist is anathema to Paul’s ideology.
What liberals really seem to like about Ron Paul are his support for ending the drug war and, most importantly, his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the last election cycle, when the Iraq War was among the most salient of all issues, Paul stood out among the GOP field for opposing the party line. Democrats and liberals, frantic with their opposition to the war and to the president that birthed it, deified Paul as the sensible Republican almost solely because of his position on one particular war.
But liberals, I think, would be hard-pressed to take Paul’s larger foreign policy vision seriously, a vision that involves loopy scare theories about the UN taking over the country and other such nonsense. And none of this even takes into account those horrible newsletters, which I think should make the entire mainstream political world shudder. Whether Paul penned those screeds himself is almost immaterial, as he allowed his name to be attached to, and then profit from, their vileness.
In other words, liberals need to stop thinking of Ron Paul as the adorable old uncle who, while he holds some antiquated views, has the right idea at heart. No, sorry. With opposition to the Iraq invasion and his opposition to our absurd drug laws, Ron Paul is almost the definition of the proverbial stopped clock; he’s been right essentially twice. Ever. But his support for Christianist social conservatism, his belief that the government should leave its people to suffer merely on a haughty principle, and his batty ideas about supervillain conspiracies trump all of that.
So stop admiring him. If nothing else, liberals should be heartily relieved that Paul has no chance of becoming president.