There’s never time enough to squeeze in all the qualifiers and footnotes one might like to in a political piece (except in academia, which is basically irrelevant) — but there is this blog, which I should really update far more frequently with such thoughts, and will. For starters:
1. I realize that to many rank and file conservatives, the simple fact that Ron Paul is in some sense a radical rules him out of bounds — even if he’s a radical who agrees with us about virtually everything. I actually have a great deal of sympathy for what might be called the mainstream-populist view, that America works well in large part because most people’s blood just doesn’t boil about political topics here the way it does in more revolution-prone parts of the globe. I think this attitude, picked up from my parents in childhood while I was enjoying shopping malls, Star Wars, the American flag, cheeseburgers, not being in Russia, and NASA — and avoiding weird hippies who take drugs, while hoping cops would catch burglars — without making too many finer distinctions about which of these things arose from good policy, was what set me on the path toward being some sort of pro-bourgeois political guy in the first place, and I still think that’s a pretty healthy frame of mind.
But at some point, as one learns about things like a federal government debt that’s now roughly the size of a year’s worth of the entire national income, one reluctantly, cautiously comes to the conclusion that politics-as-usual is doing radical things to society — and we should not fault the Ron Pauls of the world for offering a jarring wake-up call and corrective but rather the hundreds of idiots he serves with in Congress for making a radical downsizing of government necessary — and long overdue.
2. Speaking of radicals, I fully realize that most of the anarchists I mentioned in my Ron Paul article are not interested in downsizing government for the same reason I am — basically, to let the free market function unfettered — but rather than explain my similarities to and differences with anarchists-in-general, I’ll just refer you to this earlier blog entry that explains the frame of mind in which I came to attend that anarchist rally.
3. I can understand the readiness of conservatives and libertarians to point out Paul’s flaws — ideologues, myself included, can always spot flaws — but stop and think for a moment how many flaws you’ve already trained yourself to tolerate in all the other candidates. Are you considering voting for Giuliani (as I might well find myself doing in November 2008 if my Ron Paul vote doesn’t carry him to victory in the primaries — or if, for that matter, the amateurs who are likely in charge of putting Paul on the primary ballot in New York fail to do so, which wouldn’t surprise me)? If so, you’re apparently willing to tolerate a man who has favored not only gun control but the gubernatorial candidacy of Democrat Mario Cuomo (and who recently told an audience that he’s not sure if he favors a flat tax). And I’m not saying you shouldn’t like Rudy — I do too, compared to most of the alternatives. But why put up with his eccentricities — or McCain’s, or Romney’s, etc. — and not Ron Paul’s relatively tiny ones? All politics is compromise, but Paul requires very few.
And don’t give me that principled non-voter stuff, either. While you have every right to stay home if you choose, that’s compromise, too — the acceptance indeed of whatever candidate triumphs in the absence of pro-market votes. Can’t get much more squishy than that, you pliant, submissive jellyfish.
I think the wariness many conservatives and libertarians feel about Paul actually betrays a good deal of self-hatred, or what the left might call “the internalization of oppression.” A Paul victory seems too good to be true, so some can’t bring themselves to support it. Well, movement intellectuals and leaders can make it happen if they really want to, and unless they don’t really believe all that smaller-government stuff they say, they ought to want to. I hope my article on Paul — not to mention those by National Review’s John Derbyshire, Reason’s Brian Doherty, and The Weekly Standard’s Christopher Caldwell (who’s also the guy who replaced me as the default right-wing columnist at New York Press in the late 90s, by the way) — can be the pebble that starts an avalanche on the right that changes the course of the whole republic, ridiculous as that may sound.
4. I realize I am glossing over immense differences between conservative and libertarian thinking in a way that will inevitably offend some in both camps (and some who aren’t in either camp, who will have to forgive me for not addressing them more directly in this post), but for the moment, that’s the whole point: despite those important and interesting differences, I think Paul can be a unifying figure — and, far, far more importantly, that a Paul presidency would help the entire country regardless of its ideological composition, restoring the vigor of the early republic by getting government off the backs of free-marketeers, traditionalists, and liberal community activists alike. You say wariness about the market shows you’re a savvy skeptic? Well, it’s a start, I suppose, but none of us needs what government’s selling, either, and unlike EMI Records, government can put you in jail if you try to walk away from the deal.
And I hope today will mark the start, at long last, of a one-year period by the end of which I’ll have written (finally, after years of delay) a book, with the working title Conservatism for Punks, explaining all this and more in greater detail — and I’ll start updating you on my progress, just to give me an added incentive to avoid procrastinating.
But maybe we can discuss all that tonight at the bar after the aforementioned debate — which, after all, features punk singer Tibbie X defending the “right-leaning” position, to the chagrin of some of her subcultural compatriots.
P.S. Our debate after that is shaping up to be a Sept. 5 clash, also at Lolita Bar, on the question “Is Muslim Immigration a Threat to Democracy?” — but more on that later.