Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Long Shot Worth Taking

At the time of writing, voting is still going on in New Hampshire. Here's hoping Ron Paul pulls off some kind of respectable finish.

I know he's not going to be president (or even the Republican nominee). But he's by far the most libertarian candidate in the race - by far the most libertarian candidate to run for either major party in my lifetime. I have a longstanding policy of voting Libertarian in all contests where there is a candidate and Republican otherwise. (I'm not too dedicated to this, by the way. If there were a Democrat worth voting for, I would be happy to make individual exceptions. Like, for example, if the LP didn't run anyone this year and the Huckabee were the Republican nominee...) So it doesn't deviate too much from my algorithm to support Paul.

The main thing Ron Paul can do for me: remind the Republicans that they're supposed to be the party of SMALL government - not the party of wiretapping and steel tarrifs and immigration police and prescription drug handouts. They're the ones who are supposed to be getting government OUT of our lives, but for the past 8 years they've been building it almost as fast as Johnson did. Ron Paul can remind them that a core of their voters is libertarian-minded, and that if they want to win elections in the future, they need to pander to these voters the way they've been pandering to the religious right for the past 20 years.

George Will worries that the conservative fusion is tearing. By "fusion" he refers to the perception (which I share) that while the Democrats have a unified political philosophy, the Republicans are really just a rag-tag group of people without much in common save that they all have their reasons to oppose Socialism. If you've ever wondered, for example, what tax cuts have to do with abortion ... well, the answer was simpler than you thought: nothing whatever. Abortion is the religious right's issue, tax cuts belong in a basket of free-market economic issues, and the only reason these two things show up in the same party is because the religious right and libertarians agree to work together to slow the encroachment of Socialism.

The Republican Party has always been an uneasy alliance, and Will is right to worry that it may now be breaking apart. Really, Reagan is the one who even put it together in the first place: this alliance isn't that old. Before Reagan (or, arguably, Goldwater), the Republicans went through a phase of being something not unlike Canadian Red Tories. The religious right as we know it, after all, didn't exist before the late 1960s: it's largely a reaction to "them dirty hippies." And before the War, of course, the Republicans legitimately were the party of small government - but gee that's been a while!

Too long. And this time around, there just doesn't seem to be a "coalition" candidate. They're all, in their own ways, big-government types - only mildly more sensible than their Dem opponents. In the case of Huckabee, it's PARTICULARLY bad: he's both religious right and progressive populist - just about the worst combination of political stripes you can put on a shirt.

There is, simply put, no one likely to win that I can stomach. And so I do the only thing I can do: support Ron Paul now, hope he does well enough in some primaries that he'll consider a third party or independent run, and then, if he does run third party, SINCERELY hope that he sabotages the Republicans' chances of winning. If the Republican Party is going to crash and burn, as seems likely, then we might as well put our best foot forward and hope that whatever climbs out of the ashes is more libertarian than religious.

To tell the truth, I wouldn't honestly be surprised if this is America's 1993. It was in the federal election of 1993 that the old Progressive Conservative Party in Canada finally collapsed completely. They'd spent the last 8 years or so with a solid majority (in fact, the largest such in Canadian history for Mulroney's first term) in Commons. But by the end of it they were decimated: they went from governing majority to only 2 seats (a net loss of 167) in the space of 1 election - and Canada spent most of the 90s without a real opposition. It didn't last, of course, but what coalition has been strung together to replace the old PC Party is decidedly more "conservative" and less establishment than the old party was. Something like that will need to happen here too, I think, if there's any hope for global capitalism.

A democrat majority in Congress with a President Hillary is going to be painful. The size of the government will go through the roof, taxes will increase to compensate, and we'll lose a substantial amount of our freedoms and individual perrogatives for economic self-determination in the process. But no pain, no gain, right? The Republicans are taking us the same direction - just a little bit slower. If there's going to be a fight, let's at least have an honest one. Wilson the honest Socialist over Heath the disastrous pretender, as it were.

So what I want for 2008: an independent Ron Paul pulls a Nader on the Republicans and sabotages their chances for winning. The Democrats get a chance to show us just how crappy they are. And the Republicans, meanwhile, learn an important lesson: if they want to win in the future, they need to stop acting like Democrats.

Votes for Ron Paul aren't votes for the next president. What they are, really, are protest votes of a highly specific kind. Unlike Nader - who mostly just stood for Nader - Ron Paul stands for a consistent philosophy of how this nation should be governed. It's an old, time-honored philosophy because it's been with us as long as the country has. It is, in fact, the kind of government that this nation was built to establish and offer to the world. It may be lost forever, in fact - but I'm enough of a patriot to hope. The point is - none of the guys up for bid this time are bringing it any closer ... save one, and that one can't win. But maybe he can lose in the just the right way...


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