ELIZABETHTOWN, PA —The Republican presidential candidate who
is the most divisive is Ron Paul. Pat Buchanan observes (syndicated
column, January 9) that Paul is the only candidate whom his rivals,
and most emphatically Gingrich, would never vote for, even if the Texas
Congressman were the Republican presidential nominee.
Paul loudly scolded Gingrich for packing away millions as a politician
and lobbyist and then pretending to be “against Washington.” He also mocked the
former Speaker as a “chicken hawk,” for incessantly advocating war
after having avoided military service himself. In return, Gingrich has called
Paul a phony Republican, whose isolationist views put him on the far left. Paul
later went after Rick Santorum for having enriched himself in the Senate while
pretending to despise big government. The former senator then responded forcefully: “Ron
Paul is disgusting.”
Note the accusations that Paul has been flinging around are no more
abrasive than what Gingrich and Romney have been hurling at each other.
According to Buchanan, Paul’s invectives do not even seem unusual in the current “GOP war
of all against all.” What makes them particularly offensive is that Paul
is frontally challenging the GOP establishment. Moreover, though he’ll
probably never come near the Republican presidential or vice-presidential nomination,
the Texas congressman may force what is called in the history of science a “paradigm
Such establishment GOP columnists as George Will and Charles Krauthammer
have made this observation, that Paul can exert a powerful influence
over the party to which he is only accidentally linked, if he can force
Republican leaders to accept at least some of his ideas. Will and Krauthammer
think that such conservative-libertarian concerns as scaling back the
federal bureaucracy and pursuing a more “sensible” and
less ideologically driven foreign policy can be transmitted to the party at the
national level, even if Paul will not be the nominee. They also insist, together
with Republican strategist Ed Rollins, the GOP leadership must learn to treat
Paul with respect. Otherwise they’ll face a third party candidacy
that could cost them the presidential race.
All of this may be wishful thinking. Paul and the other candidates are operating
in different political universes. While these other candidates favor the same
foreign policy as the one advocated by McCain and Bush and while they are unlikely
to make much of a dent in existing social programs, Paul would turn things around
dramatically. Unlike the others, he would not be providing a Bush-third term
or the McCain presidency that we missed in 2008, but a program of massive dismantling
of the federal bureaucracy, including and perhaps especially the Federal Reserves,
and a sharp shift away from the liberal internationalism that is the staple of
the Republican foreign policy.
Those whom Paul has attracted to his banners are typically younger
voters; and in both Iowa and New Hampshire, well over forty percent
of his votes came from independents. He will undoubtedly do worse in
the South, where the voters are overwhelmingly GOP establishment types
and big fans of the military and defense industries. (Things military
seem to be the overriding consideration of Republican voters in the
South.) But between now and next summer’s GOP convention
in Tampa, Paul will be amassing primary votes from across the country;
and in Western states, he is likely to do better than among instructed
party regulars in South Carolina. It is not the value-candidates, Santorum
and Gingrich, who represent the real break with the GOP establishment.
These candidates in office have behaved like party-line Republicans,
while being ceaseless advocates of an aggressive, human rights-based
foreign policy. The significant fissure is between Paul and the other
candidates, who would support each other but never Paul in a presidential
Paul is running for a cause rather than to decorate his resume (which
is what Romney and Gingrich seem to be doing). But he can only advance
his cause if two things happen. One, he does not end his campaign with
the GOP convention but is willing to launch a third party candidacy
and to continue running for the presidency until the election in November.
Two, Paul must also hope that the probable GOP candidate Romney comes
a cropper and that the loss can be clearly ascribed to his third-party
presidential run. Any other outcome will not help Paul’s cause. A win for Romney would put back in the White House the old
faces from the last Bush’s presidency, together with most of
the same policies. Buchanan has aptly compared the GOP to the Bourbon
dynasty in France, which when it returned to power after the French
Revolution had allegedly neither forgotten nor learned anything. Unless
the GOP suffers defeat at the hands of those on the antiwar, small-government
right that it will do nothing to accommodate, its leaders will continue
to behave like arrogant Bourbons.
The Ornery Observer archives
The Ornery Observer is copyright © 2012,
by Paul Gottfried. A version of this article appeared in the Lancaster
newspapers in Pennsylvania.
Paul Gottfried, Ph.D., is the Raffensperger professor of Humanities
at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.
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