Ron Paul: The Real Republican
Radley Balko’s has an interesting column at Fox News about Ron Paul this week and he clearly understands the impact that the Paul campaign could have if things go right:
Paul’s presence in the race is important because he’ll put issues on the table that would otherwise be completely ignored. His presence in the primary debates alone will make them far more substantive and interesting than they’ve been in a generation. One example is the continuing disaster that is the drug war, which Paul rightly believes to be both immoral and unconstitutional. Paul also opposed the war in Iraq from its inception. Those two issues alone will differentiate him from every other candidate on the stage.
But Paul can then swing to the right of every other candidate on federal spending, regulation, the Nanny State, and the growth of government. On these issues, he can reliably and credibly serve as the party’s conscience, and browbeat the sitting senators and congressmen running for president for their votes issues like the prescription drug benefit, the surge in federal spending, and the party’s complicity in the corrupt earmarking process.
While Paul probably can’t win the GOP nomination, there’s a chance he can survive deep enough into the primaries to foster a national debate on issues like drug prohibition, as well as force the Republican Party to do some soul-searching, and perhaps reconnect with its limited government, Barry Goldwater roots.
In a way, Paul could have the same impact on the GOP in 2008 that Howard Dean had on the Democratic Party in 2004. Dean didn’t win the nomination, but he did end up pulling the candidates and the party further toward the left, specifically on the issue of the Iraq War. He also managed to get himself appointed Chairman of the DNC and, while I don’t think, that Paul will go that far, I do agree with Balko that Paul could have an impact on the political debate that far outweighs his actual popularity at the polls:
Ideally, Paul’s bona fides on immigration, abortion, federalism, constitutionalism, and limited government will win him credibility with and respect from primary voters, giving him leverage to take principled stands and spur discussion on issues like the drug war, privacy, foreign policy, and civil liberties. He could at least win enough votes and support to last well into the spring, forcing the other candidates to adopt parts of his agenda, and the press to cover his platform.
Of course, things could also go badly:
Under the less optimistic scenario, Republican Party leaders, primary opponents, and the punditocracy punish Paul for his principles, and demagogue his position on Iraq, the drug war, and federal meddling in our personal lives. Talk radio, conservative leaders, and the party machinery dismiss him as an unserious candidate, and primary voters take their cue. Under this scenario, Paul bows out early, the remaining candidates press on with business as usual, and the Republican Party continues down its unfortunate recent trajectory.
Whether that happens depends, as Balko points out, on whether George W. Bush has succeeded in destroying the limited government soul of the GOP.
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