Sometimes I wonder why I bother to vote. Living in deep blue Alameda County in deep blue California, I know that my vote won’t matter much. Public opinion is more or less unanimous here, and in most cases the voters chose opposite of what I want. But this Primary season I feel empowered. Even if Mitt Romney will emerge as a clear winner before the California Primary, my voice will matter. I will be voting for anybody but Ron Paul.
I am very interested in libertarian economics, and find Thomas Sowell’s argument for ending the Fed persuasive. But Thomas Sowell endorsed Gingrich for President (h/t Uncle Samuel). Like Sowell and many other conservatives, I think that Paul’s foreign policy views are at best naive and at worst bigoted.
It’s naive to think that the world will be a better place if the US would pursue a policy of non-intervention. We are a force of good in the world full of genocidal tyrants. It’s short-sighted to expect that if we don’t engage our enemies at an opportune moment, they will not attack us when convenient to them. We all but ignored Al Qaeda when it was at war with us in the last decade of the 20th century — until the country woke up on 9/11. If we recall, Paul spent that last decade of 20th century courting Neo-Nazis. His campaign video smearing our armed service members is pure bigotry.
Beyond foreign policy matters, on issues like immigration, extension of constitutional protection to terrorists and legalization of heroin, Paul is squarely outside the conservative mainstream. (I actually agree with some of ideas he champions, in theory at least. For instance, entitlement reform will take care of immigration reform because illegal labor is subsidized through various federal, state and local channels. But who are we kidding? California might be well on the way to bankruptcy, and we will not touch the welfare state we created.)
As was the case in 2008, Ron Paul is not running to win the GOP nomination. In ’08, Paul wanted to built a political movement, which he did, gaining about 10% of the popular vote at the primaries and coming up in the 4th place by the number of delegates. That year he refused to endorse the Republican candidate, and although he didn’t actively campaign for President, Paul amassed tens of thousands of write-in votes. His relative success at the primary elections reflected the fact that the good doctor remained in the contest long after John McCain had won it, when the Republican primary became a two-person non-race and turnout was low.
Ron Paul’s support has grown dramatically since November ’08. Paul capitalized on the libertarian-minded Tea Party movement, although the Tea Party appears to be lukewarm to his foreign policy ideas. Here he is being booed at the CNN Tea Party Presidential Debate:
Ron Paul’s campaign is courting disaffected Democrats. See here, for instance, the Paul campaign crediting their success in Vermont where he got 1/4 of the vote, the state that sent a socialist to the United States Senate, to the Taxes Republican’s appeal to Democrats and independents. According to the Iowa Primary exit polls, Paul won about 40% of participating moderates and liberals. He did better than anyone else with people who never attended a caucus. Likewise, in New Hampshire Primary he won the largest share of self-identified liberals, and second smallest of the very conservative demographic. This is two states where Paul did very well, ending up with more than 20% of the vote.
Pundits agree that Paul’s 2012 game plan is to come up with the largest number of delegates possible to secure a prominent place at the Republican National Convention and force his agenda on the Republican party. It’s his version of the Gramscian Long march, if you will. While, as I said, I am very open to many Libertarian ideas, his foreign policy position alone should disqualify him from speaking at the national convention. I fail to see how having Paul speak at the convention will help the Republican brand. Somewhere between the Ron Paul Newsletter and legal heroin he will turn off most of the country. Plus, considering that Paulistas caused a ruckus in the recent Missouri caucus, can we expect them to behave on national television?
The Republican establishment will be in a dire straits trying to placate Paul in order to secure his endorsement of the Republican nominee and keep the convention palatable to both the conservative base and the mainstream of the country at the same time. Because Paul’s son is now building his own career within the Republican party, Paul will probably be a good sport and endorse the winner. But why tempt fortune? I don’t want him to be in a position to bargain. I expect Mitt Romney to solidify his lead by the time of the California primary. Although I doubt I will be determining the winner, I will turn out to vote for a non-Paul.