Thursday, January 03, 2008

The danger of Ron Paul and the peril of writing him off

At last the day arrives, the starting gun of the Iowa Caucus will soon be fired and the long months of pre-presidential campaign will be over. The consensus, at least on the Left, is that after 8 years of 'neocon' Bush (note that neocon is a perjorative now) , the US will at ast be able to return to sound Democrat rule. The Republican Party has imploded they say, evidenced by the diversity of its nomintion hopefuls.

Such analysis is of course nonsense simple because the nominees across the party's are actually diverse and always have been. Only a simpleton would make such statements because they would be trying to apply the notion of a nationally held party line of issues x y and z to a nation that does not, has not, and never will work like that. The amazing thing about Iowa in the years that I have observed the electoral marvels of the American Empire is that it almost always throws up surprises. A frontrunner will fall and an outsider will rise.

Occassionally an outsider will rise and then scream and shout in victory so insanely that everyone thinks he is nuts and photoshops pictures of him squeezing the life out of a kitten in his momentary fit of pique. That was the Democrat Howard Dean if you didn't know. A guy whose campaign was built almost exclusively online. This time round there is no Democrat like him and instead the Internet buzz nominee is Dr Ron Paul. A pure constutionalist libertarian who seems to make lots of people wet with excitement, at least on the blog and YouTube anyway.

Yet if you read much of the mainstream media you will find little out about him. Supporters of Paul, and I mean the serious supporters, will talk about a conspiracy against him. Even if commentators praise his Internet rise and meteoric fundraising if the write him off they are, as James Forsythe at the CoffeeHouse has found, be accused of being part of the Murdoch Empire. To not give Paul the time of day is too be against him for some darker, or more feared reason. Personally I think this is nonsense in almost all cases.

The fact is Paul, for all his resonance online, appears to only poll at a level nationally that means he has no chance of actually winning. Whilst supporters will say this is because of the media conspiracy against him, with the exception of some very specific incidents, many commentators still only have the polls to go in their analysis and have to take much of it at face value, especially foreign correspondants. Then there is the Dean Factor. Last time round the mainstream media got excited about Deam, and then they were left with egg on their face after the screaming incident.

This is not to say they think Paul, who is in his 70s, will do a Dean. But I think they are wary about how badly they are willing to get it wrong. Getting it wrong is one thing, getting it wrong and bigging up a nutter makes them look even sillier. They are simple being cautious ahead of Iowa, and if Paul does the unthinkable it will have to change, but they're waiting for that moment. Stick with the frontrunners and then reassess when the poll is over appears to be the editorial line for now, and there really is nothing wrong with that.

Writing Ron Paul off is undoubtedly dangerous. No one can be quite sure how his online campaign will translate into votes, and I know someone who is in Iowa today doing whatever is the equivalent of knocking on doors in a British Elections. But, and there is always a but, it's not only dangerous to write Paul off but it's dangerous to consider supporting a Paul Presidency (not that I have a vote of course). At least that is my outsider view and my frame of reference has to be how the Presidency relates to the outside world not the domestic arena. Paul, for all his small government domestic appeal, would be a nightmare internationally. This is because of all the candidates, across all the parties, he has the strongest of classic American imperial denial.

There is no doubt in my mind that America is an Empire you see. Not an empire in the colonial sense, but the post-colonial hyperpower that has the responisibilty on its shoulder to bring stability to the global order. The problems is almost all American reject the concept of empire thanks to its perjorative undertones. The Left are very goos at this of course. They have a tendency to think that if the world could just have a big group hug it would all be alright. The truth is though, if America is not the global power then someone else will be and, frankly, those other options are shittier than a shitty stick stuck inside a big pile of shit.

Ron Paul, who is on the Right but firmlyin the imperial denial world too, represents a literalist view of the US Constitution which makes him an isolationist. It might sound appealing when he quips that on matters of foreign policy he would consult the constitution rather than his counsel, but a world without America as the hegemonic power is a world with a different hegemon. That is worth remembering and repeating. An isolationist America would be a very bad thing for the world. Just look at the alternative choices of China and Russia. Real Politik may make you whince, it may make you uneasy, but remember this. The others will do it too, and they ain't the nicest of folks. In the end it comes down to this. Write off Ron Paul at your peril and desire a Ron Paul presidency equally so.

Note: Should any Ron Paul supporters read this post and get annoyed. I can confirm that News Corp have paid me money in the past. In fact paid two cheques into my bank yesterday. Feel free to dismiss the post on those grounds alone.


Anonymous said...

I disagree. AS I see it there are 3 choices. First a President (Democrat likely) who is fully integrated abroad and leads on the major issues of the day (human rights, democracy, global warming, trade policy, nuclear proliferation etc.). Second a President (Bush) who participates in foreign policy but only in regard to his own absolute jealous interests (and not always in the interests of the American people). Third a President (Paul) who is a disengaged from foreign policy (though I'd argue Paul would inevitably get sucked into foreign policy (trade relations) to at least protect the USAs interests).

I would rather have the first option but after that I'd prefer President Paul to President Bush. Bush has been absolute disaster for the world. I cannot see how Paul can fail to do better than Bush. At the very least Paul would be concerned with American issues inside US borders instead operating a Bush like proselytising/imposing American values on the rest of the world. Paul also believes in stripping the Presidency of the extra-constitutional powers that Bush has grabbed in the last 8 years. For example where a US lawyer in a British court states that the President of the USA is legally entitled to kidnap anyone in the world, detain them without charge and torture them.

dizzy said...

"I cannot see how Paul can fail to do better than Bush." - did I say he wouldn't be then? Oh no, I didn't.

Steve_Roberts said...

Quote: "Ron Paul...represents a literalist view of the US Constitution which makes him an isolationist."

Well, no Dizzy. It makes him a non-interventionist. Free trade and agreements to mutual advantage included, meddling in other nations internal affairs by force (overt or covert) excluded. Just one question, do you think US meddling with Pakistan's governments over the years has been overall good for a) Pakistan b) the US ?

Quote "A world without America as the hegemonic power is a world with a different hegemon."
That's rather a bold assertion. The alternative is of course a world without a hegemon. Would you care to explain how that - infinitely preferable - alternative is impossible ?

dizzy said...

That's rather a bold assertion. The alternative is of course a world without a hegemon. Would you care to explain how that - infinitely preferable - alternative is impossible?"

Well that's rather easy. The histroy of humanity is the history of human empires. There has always been hegemons, and there always will be hegemons because of human nature and power. The actually truly bold assertion is that a world that negates the reality of human nature is infintely preferably, because it suggest a world without humanity, which is infintely not preferably to be because I'd be dead.


tgf ukip said...

The real danger of Ron Paul, and especially his ability to raise large amounts of money, is that after massively failing to get anywhere near the Republican nomination he decides to do a Ross Perot. Remember that it was that Texan back in 1992 who by taking such a large slab of Republican votes (19%) gave the world the most disreputable and most dishonest US President ever - one W. Clinton. How ironic it would be if another Texan, Ron Paul, by running as an Independent Republican, delivered the White House to another Clinton in 2008.

Anonymous said...

Thomas Jefferson: “I am for preserving to the states the powers not yielded by them to the union; and for preventing the further encroachment of the executive branch on the rightful powers of congress. I am for a government rigorously frugal and simple, and for retiring the national debt, eliminating the standing army, and relying on the militia to safeguard internal security, and keeping the navy small, lest it drag the nation into eternal wars. I am for free commerce with all nations, political connections with none…. I am for freedom of religion, and for freedom of the press. And against all violations to the Constitution to silence our citizens” - Thomas Jefferson on his positions for the 1800 election.

rightwingprof said...

Let's correct a few errors. There is nothing isolationist in the Constitution. Our 170 years of isolationism ended on December 7, 1941. Bush has no "extra-Constitutional" powers; Congress has, particularly since the 1970s, been unconstitutionally impinging on the Constitutional powers of the executive branch and limiting those powers. Bush has far less power than JFK or FDR had (arguably, the courts have also unconstitutionally been complicit in this).

Hillary has no chance of winning the general election, no matter who is running against her. Another Democrat might win in November, but not her. She is the most hated person in the US, both by conservatives and her own party. The only politician Democrats hate more than Hillary is Lieberman.

Ron Paul is dishonest, and his cheering squad is either stupid, or leftists. The only thing in his platform that the Constitution grants the executive the power to accomplish is his foreign policy, which would be Jimmy Carter all over again. He has no chance because only the Ronulans are stupid enough to fall for his crap.

I have no idea who will win the election, but it won't be Ron Paul, and it won't be Hillary. Take that to the bank and cash it.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Splendid Isolation.... if only WE'D practised that conservative foreign policy rather more often!!

Andrew Roocroft said...

@ rightwingprof;
'Bush has no "extra-Constitutional" powers; Congress has, particularly since the 1970s, been unconstitutionally impinging on the Constitutional powers of the executive branch and limiting those powers. Bush has far less power than JFK or FDR had (arguably, the courts have also unconstitutionally been complicit in this).'

Please tell me where in the US constitution the President is endowed with the power to declare somebody an "enemy combatant," deny them habeas corpus and deport them to a military facility outside of the United States. Or where federal agencies are granted the powers to issue self-written search-warrants without judicial approval (which was the cause in the first place of the revolution and specifically outlawed in the Fourth Amendment). Or where to find endorsement of the principle that, should constitutional protections be inconvenient for the government, it can outsource its torture and illegal imprisonment to Uzbekistan, Libya and other US allies in the war on terror. Or where the President is given the power to declare war.

The executive branch has persisted in using the pretexts of emergencies - Adams in the Quasi-war (Alien and Sedition Acts), Lincoln in the Civil War (arresting newspaper editors - in the North! - for expressing dissent, suspending habeas corpus), Wilson in WWI (Espionage & Sedition Acts), Roosevelt in WWII(internment, conscription), Carter in the Cold War (FISA) - to implement authoritarian restrictions on the liberties enshrined by the US Constitution. George W Bush is no anomaly in this regard; but the blatant exponential growth in unconstitutional federal power under his presidency has alerted the small-government wing of the Republican party for the need to arrest this stealth growth of government and revert to the original principles of the Constitution. Ron Paul represents this component of the Republican Party, which refuses to cede any more individual freedoms to the power of the federal government in the name of their protection. 'Give me liberty or give me death.'

On the point of the post, that Paul's opposition to US intervention is probably worse for the rest of the world, I tend to agree. But why should US policy, funded by US dollars earned by US citizens, have as its end anything other than assuring that those same citizens are able to trade and live peaceably with other nations? Why should US taxpayers be burdened with "the responisibilty on its shoulder to bring stability to the global order", and forced to fund the defence of South Korea, Kuwait and Israel? Shouldn't those nations undertake their own self-defence? - and if they are overrun, what business is it of ours, so long as we are not denied our freedom? US imperialism, far from benefiting America, imposes upon it irrecoverable financial costs (such as the £10 billion aid to Gen Musharraf) whilst associating it with governments perceived to be the cause of oppression; Israel, Paksitan, Saudi Arabia &c. It is immaterial whether or not these claims are justified - US involvement in subsidising regimes makes them complicit, in the eyes of those regime's enemies, in their oppression. And thus, the US ceases to be able to live peaceably with its neighbours, whilst the numbers of its enemies are swelled with the discontents from Palestine, and Iran, and Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, and so on.

This is truly what is meant by Jefferson's call for "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none." Though it be spoken in different context, Jefferson saw that involving the US in the defence of foreign countries would compel the government to compromise on the principles enshrined in the constitution - protecting each American's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - in order to continually intervene. Whether this be through the military draft, incursions on privacy, wartime confiscations of private property, the suspension of habeas corpus or mass internment of "potential enemies," the demands of constant intervention are the same of those of total war, its finality; the subordination of the individual to the collective, and the renuciation of liberty for security. This state of affairs is incompatible with the freedoms outlined and guaranteed by the US constitution.

Ron Paul will not win, for the same reason that a strict classical liberal could not win in the United Kingdom - the ideas of collectivism and interventionism have been the dominant trend of the twentieth century on both sides of the Atlantic. That there persists on one side a force fighting for our natural freedoms is, however, worthy of the support of all uncompromisingly in favour of individual freedom and personal liberty.