Friday, February 3, 2012

Top Ten Reasons Why Ron Paul Won't Win

It seems like all I'm reading these days from Ron Paul supporters are complaints about people claiming that he "can't win."  Well, who am I to say what can't happen?  A tiny demon child could pop out of Rick Santorum's sweater vest at the next debate.  Anything's possible.  But, looking at the political reality, it's incredibly unlikely that Ron Paul will win.  So I've compiled a list of ten reasons why he won't:

The year is 1935.   As president, FDR signs into law the Social Security Act and dedicates the Hoover Dam.  Adolf Hitler announces rearmament in violation of the Versailles Treaty, and the Nuremberg Laws go into effect in Germany.  And somewhere in a western Pennsylvanian hospital, Ronald Earnest Paul is born.  That would make Ron Paul 76 years old at the writing of this article, due to turn 77 before the upcoming November general election.  That would also make Ron Paul the oldest elected president by almost a decade.  Ronald Reagan was aged 69 years and 349 days when he become Commander-in-Chief. Ron Paul would be elected at the same age that Ronald Reagan left office.  After his first term, Dr. Paul would be 81 years old.  And after his second term? Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The average age of an incoming president is 55 years old.  It's not that someone twenty years older than the average president can't win, it's just that the historical precedent works against him, and for good reason.  Toward the end of Reagan's presidency, it was apparent that he wasn't the same man he was upon inauguration.  Of course, that may have been due to his unfortunate battle with Alzheimer's, but it's also undeniable that body functions tend to decline in advanced age.  And even if that weren't the case for Ron Paul (which, if you look at his interviews or speeches from 20 years ago, it's evident that he's already losing some of what he used to have), public perception is that old age makes for a poor potential president, and public perception is really all that matters in terms of elections.    

I was thinking about just calling this one "Lew Rockwell," but then again it goes much further than that, doesn't it?  So far the only real attack that has been levied against Paul is the racist newsletters issue, but that's not for a lack of ammunition.  Should Ron Paul somehow become a threat worth attacking, his personal ties and connections are a political poison pill, in my opinion.

Some of his associations are already pretty well-known, and were addressed in 2008 a little bit, but not so much this year.  Ron Paul's worrisome associations are probably best assembled by another "Top Ten" list from  That particular list focuses on Ron Paul's racist ties.  Among them is David Duke, who is probably the most well-known racist in American politics.  There is also Don Black, who runs the white nationalist website Stormfront.  There is a large contingent of support for Ron Paul among racists because of some of his civil rights positions, his pro-Confederate view of the civil war, and his position on Israel, as well as his feeding into conspiracy theorist culture.

Speaking of conspiracy theorist culture, Ron Paul regularly appears on the Alex Jones radio show, whom is known for his enraged conspiratorial diatribes.  Of course it could be claimed that Dr. Paul goes on the show to reach out to anti-government types and doesn't believe the sort of insane conspiracy theories that Jones touts, but just listen to a few of his interviews on there and it's not difficult to discern how the Texas Congressman feels about the possibility of FEMA putting Americans into prison camps, or the building of a NAFTA superhighway, etc.

Then, of course, there is the aforementioned Lew Rockwell.  He was the supposed editor of the Ron Paul Newsletters, as well as one of the minds behind the so-called Rothbard-Rockwell strategy, which advocated an alliance with the far right by appealing to their, shall we say, insensitive sensibilities.  Rockwell, Ron Paul's former Congressional Chief of Staff, is the Chairman of the Ludvig von Mises Institute, a think tank which promotes the Austrian school of economics.  In addition to economics, though, several of the hired thinkers there have expressed what some call neo-confederate viewpoints concerning the civil war.

Oh, and by the way, most if not all of the Mises scholars are anarchists.  Now, knowing many anarchists personally, this is not an issue for me.  It's one philosophical view among many, and their form of anarchism is non-violent.  However, this is not about the merits of anarcho-capitalism -- this is about Ron Paul becoming president.  This isn't just guilt by association; Dr. Paul regularly works with and promotes the institute and its scholars.  The American peoples' comfort level and perception are what matters when it comes to winning an election, and I don't see them being very comfortable or perceiving these facts very well once they learn of them.

Racist Newsletters
This has been covered ad nauseam so I won't get any further into it; however, despite the Paul supporters' dismissal of this issue, it has hurt him and it is a problem.  Much of the blame goes to how the campaign decided to handle it, really.

Let's be honest: Mitt Romney is picture perfect.  He has to be.  His political posturing is so unappealing to people even his perfect candidate aura is barely enough to overcome it.  He is a confident and stylishly impressive debater; he has great posture and great presence.  He's got charm and has kissing babies and shaking hands down to a science.  He's the quintessential politician.  Ron Paul is none of these things.  He is the quintessential ranting and raving papaw.  He slouches his shoulders forward in an obvious hunch.  This may have to do with his age, but a hunch is a hunch.  It's poor posture.  In politics, image is second only to money.  Paul may be able to raise the money, but his image harms his chances immensely.  He is notorious for pointing and especially for flailing his arms, most frantically when he's particularly upset.  You see some of it here, but it's apparent he's gotten some coaching in this more recent campaign, to his credit.  Still, it's a little late to be overhauling his image.  He tends to come off as a crotchety old man.  Yeah, I said "crotchety".  Presidential candidates need to come off as presidential.  He doesn't.  Ron Paul supporters tend to laugh this one off and point to Bush as counter evidence.  Paul and Bush are apples and oranges.  The bottom line is that Paul's irritability, poor posture, strange mannerisms, and phraseology all make him unappealing as a presidential candidate.  Again, he doesn't seem presidential to people, and that's important.

The Media
Here's one I'll start off agreeing with Ron Paul supporters: He has been getting comparatively little coverage among the presidential candidates. You could call it an agenda.  You could call it a conspiracy.  You could call it bias.  I call it reality.  The media tend to focus on candidates that have a chance of winning, and the political drama that unfolds throughout the race.  Ron Paul's story, though interesting, has remained the same:  Underdog with fringe, albeit consistent, ideas is raising a peculiar amount of money.  Oh, and his supporters are...passionate.  There's really not much else to say about someone who was polling at 6% nationally throughout much of the race.  Now that there's only four candidates left, he's up to 12%, but that puts him firmly in fourth (and only four points ahead of Rick Perry, who dropped out).  Now maybe even given that, he's not covered as much as he should be, but the point is that they media will not cover a candidate that has no chance of winning as much as they will major candidates.

What confirms this is the fact that I don't know of any anti-Ron Paul ads on the airwaves, anywhere. There might be some on the internet, but so far as I know, no campaign has paid money to make anti-Ron Paul materials.  Why might that be?  That question should be rhetorical, but I'll answer it anyway: it's because no one fears Ron Paul.  He's not a threat to anyone.  The internet has done some work to help get his name out, but without media exposure it really limits his potential to take off.  He has to pay for pretty much all the media he gets.  

Fun fact: Jesse Benton is Ron Paul's campaign manager.  Another fun fact: Jesse Benton is also Ron Paul's son-in-law. I will say up front that I have no idea whether being on Ron Paul's staff is the chicken or the egg in this situation, but given what I've seen and heard about Mr. Benton, I'm confident no other federal campaign would hire him as its manager.  In both his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, family and friends fill the staffs of both his campaigns and even his affiliated organizations.  To his credit, Paul has added some decent political advisers this election cycle, but it's a case of too little, too late.  Poor campaign management due to nepotism has made for a situation in which a potential dark horse became a long shot.  It also makes you wonder how he would manage his staff/cabinet as president.  

Foreign Policy
I happen to agree with Ron Paul, to a certain extent, on foreign policy.  What he advocates is close to what I believe a libertarian foreign policy should be.  He's even done a decent job of changing some minds. However, within the Republican party (which I'll address below) it's the one thing holding him back.  I can name off a handful of people from memory who I've heard say "I like Ron Paul, but for his foreign policy." And the problem isn't so much his philosophy so much as it is his unwillingness to compromise as well as his inability to craft his message to his audience.  At one point Paul essentially came out against the killing of Osama bin Laden.  Merit of his argument aside, that didn't exactly sit well with voters.  He has had trouble elucidating his view on Iran and got into some verbal binds in the debates.  Pressed on whether he would have intervened in the Holocaust or any sort of mass genocide, and he diverts by going on a rant about how interventionism caused those things.  A clever tactic, but not one that eases America's suspicions.  I feel like America would be willing to meet Ron Paul half way on his foreign policy, but he's not budging. If he did, he wouldn't be Ron Paul.

The Republican Party 
I alluded to this a little above, but among the obstacles impeding Ron Paul's path to the White House, his own party cannot be ignored as one of them.  Of course, the party establishment is not enamored with Dr. Paul and never has been.  Yet there's only so much the party can do slow him down.  More to the point, Republican Party members -- voters, more specifically -- have been Paul's most cumbersome adversary to date.  Paul focused most of his campaign efforts in Iowa, and did quite well there.  He was able to convince a significant amount of very conservative Iowans that he was the true conservative in the race.  More power to him.  He also did well in New Hampshire, an open primary.  That was his political pinnacle.  A libertarian-leaning state which allowed Democrats and Independents to vote. South Carolina was open, too, but he didn't do so well there, finishing in fourth with 12% of the vote.  His first closed primary, Florida, was even worse.  He didn't even campaign there.  Why?  Because he knows that his only shot is to get independents and Democrats out to the polls for him, as well as his Republican contingent.  He stands to do well in open primaries and caucuses, and that could bode well for him in the general election. The only problem is that he won't make it to the general election because he won't be able to make it out of his own party's primary.

Controversial Positions
There's no doubt that Ron Paul takes some positions that are controversial.  Some of his supporters like him solely because of this.  It's rebellious.  It's out-of-the-mainstream.  Dare I say, hipster?  I dare not.  In any case, this hurts Paul in two ways.  One is already taking effect while the other is potential.  There are those who have already done their research and decided that his controversial positions.  Even if I personally agree with many of them, I find his approach to them lacking, and I'll explain.  On social/civil liberties issues, I tend to agree with Dr. Paul.  Ending the drug war and legalization victimless crimes are issues Paul defends well when pressed.  However, he takes an absolutist view because of his absolutist version of constitutionalism.  This has been important for bringing these debates to the American people and has caused discussion.  In time, this should lead to progress on these issues, and we should all commend Dr. Paul for so doing.  The problem is that this does not make one very electable.  The smarter political approach would be incrementalism, which will push Overton's Window slowly our way over time.  You often here Ron Paul referred to as a "message candidate," and that is precisely correct.  He is delivering a message, one that was unpopular when he started and is gaining popularity because of him.

There are other issues that I disagree with him on.  Rand Paul ran into trouble on civil liberties during his election campaign, and Ron Paul undoubtedly holds the same views on those issues.  Arguing for the right of private property owners to discriminate based on race is not a winning issue.  This really hasn't been an issue for him since most of this sort of attention has gone to the newsletters, and the elder Paul really hasn't made too many comments on these sorts of issues.  This is more of a potential negative than an actual one.  It's looming, much like his associations, and would become an issue should be become a threat.

On economic issues, this is where Paul smooths things over and becomes vague sometimes.  He can say "I advocate Austrian Economics," but he mostly maneuvers into talking points about sound money and fiscal responsibility, yadda yadda.  But Austrian economics promotes abolishing all regulations and restrictions on the free market.  I don't know how well the public would react to someone advocating no minimum wage, no child labor laws, no social safety nets, etc. and so on.

As mentioned, Ron Paul is trailing along in national polls at 12-14%.  Romney and Gingrich are in the mid-20s.  Needless to say, Paul has got a lot of work to do if he is going to win, and the convention is in August. The campaign is taking a clever yet telling strategy of getting Ron Paul delegates to Tampa.  This will give the campaign some leverage to help craft the party platform, but little more.  It will prevent a unanimous Romney victory...that's about it.

Look, this isn't about diminishing what the man has done.  Though I have my disagreements with his message, he has been an effective messenger for his brand of constitutional conservatism.  This is about trying to bring his supporters back to Earth so they can try to think ahead to when he doesn't get the nomination.  I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Beyond Ron Paul: What's in store for the future of liberty?

This is not a prediction nor is it a suggested course.  It is simply what I think will probably happen, based on my experience in the movement and my beliefs about the libertarian movement.

The era of Ron Paul is reaching a peculiar phase.  His "revolution" reached its pinnacle in Iowa and New Hampshire, and now, just a month and a couple of underwhelming performances later, it's looking as if his campaign is moribund.  Having already stated he would not seek re-election, it appears the Ron Paul era is soon to become history. While we cannot discount the effect he will have post-politics, the fact remains is that the man is in his late seventies.  Though he is in incredible shape for a man his age, one can't help but wonder what will happen to the "liberty movement" post-Ron Paul.

To me, there's really only one logical possibility: it divides.  Call it an ideological mitosis.bbI would venture to guess that the majority of those currently supporting Ron Paul will continue to support his efforts through his son.  The others will follow different paths. But why the split, you ask?

Rand Paul is not Ron Paul.  I've seen a lot of people say that he's a better politician than his father.  If by that they mean he's a better panderer and goes along with the political game better than his father, then maybe so.  But I can say without hesitation that Rand would not be a Senator from Kentucky right now if his father had not run for president in 2008.  And it's not mere name recognition -- Ron Paul's popularity (for what it was) brought along with it unprecedented fundraising ability and a network of passionate volunteers. The '08 campaign was responsible for the creation of Young Americans for Liberty and the Campaign for Liberty, which are directly associated to Paul himself.  In fact, he staffed the boards of both organizations with friends and family.  Both organizations were involved in Rand's election campaign (in some cases illegally, not that I care). Rand inherits all of this effective immediately after his father drops out of the current presidential race.

Rand lacks Ron's charisma and the intangibles that make him a great leader and source of motivation.  It is that aura about Ron Paul, his intangibles, that is the glue that holds the "liberty movement" together.   Rand is pretty dry, and often contentious in interviews.  Many will follow him, as they have followed the elder Paul, but I would suggest they will do so with noses held or with feigned enthusiasm.  This post isn't intended to be a pile-on Rand Paul, although I'm sure I'll address him as time goes on.  The point is that Rand Paul is not, in my opinion, capable of leading a movement.  Even if he were, he's not enough like his father to be able to maintain the same sort of alliance.  He's more closely aligned Mike Lee or Justin Amash (although I do have some admiration for Amash) than Gary Johnson or Harry Browne.  The former are constitutional (in theory) conservatives, the latter are more classical libertarians (is it too soon to have a "classical libertarianism"?).  When the glue is gone, something's gotta give.  

Because of this, the movement will become a political Pangea and fracture into several pieces.  Some will remain a part of the original mass.  Tea party conservatives, paleo-conservatives, John Birch Society members, some mainstream conservatives and those with an unbreakable loyalty to Paul the Wiser will likely to continue supporting Paul the Younger.  Those who were previously apathetic will likely revert to apathy.  And what of the rest of the libertarian movement?  The classic libertarians?  The left-libertarians?  The cosmotarians? The genuine independents who like Ron but who wouldn't find Rand appealing?

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson provides one potential avenue to consider. His platform is more in line both with classical libertarianism, and, I would assert, the American people.  His promising 2012 campaign essentially became null once Ron Paul stepped into the ring and sapped practically all of Governor Johnson's potential supporters.  Knowing this, Governor Johnson decided to drop out of the race and instead run for the Libertarian Party nomination.  He's not exactly a shoo-in, but I can't see him not getting the nomination at this point.

Like any decision, this one has its positives and negatives.  On the one hand, this could be one the most successful third party runs in modern U.S. history.  That will help spread the message of more classical libertarianism.  On the other hand, though, it essentially makes him electorally irrelevant henceforth.  He's damaged goods now, and likely will be unable to run as a major party candidate again.  As a third party candidate he's limited to being a spoiler.  This leaves the cosmotarian element with more questions than answers.  The potential left-libertarian savior is now destined to be national afterthought, potentially perennially.

All of this leaves more questions than it answers. I won't pretend to know what will happen, but what I would like to see is a bifurcation instead of a polyfurcation.  A libertarianism of the left and of the right.  Forthcoming posts will get into the strategy and details of this.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

What is a Cosmotarian, anyway?

Definitions are objective.  Interpretations are subjective.  As far as I can tell, is the only source out there with a definition for cosmotarian.  It is:

A cosmopolitan libertarian; a libertarian who holds socially liberal personal opinions about abortion, homosexuality, race, and other social issues. Compare to paleotarian.

So there you have it: a definition.  The following is an explanation of that definition, and my interpretation of it.  Cosmotarian is a portmanteau which blends the words (and, subsequently, definitions) cosmopolitan and libertarian.  Cosmopolitan: a worldly citizen, an internationalist, who tends to be culturally open-minded and curious, and therefore typically socially liberal.  Libertarian: a political ideology which advocates for limited government intervention and against coercion or violence.  

Libertarianism hitherto has not had a support base substantial enough to warrant any sort of divide worth noting.  The catalytic rise of Ron Paul has helped create a base of support which appears to be substantial enough at this point to warrant categorization.  That is, "libertarian" is no longer a sufficient descriptor to understand where that individual stands or what he or she believes.

The most significant divide within libertarianism is this: the individual's personal worldview on social issues.  Personally, I divide this into three camps: socially accepting, socially tolerant, socially intolerant.  Most libertarians tend to fall within the two former camps, as being socially intolerant usually does not lead one to support freedom for those of whom they are intolerant.   Socially accepting people are those who genuinely do not care about the differences in others.  Socially tolerant individuals are those who are bothered to varying degrees by certain differences they have with others, whether that be race, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, et cetera, but will tolerate the differences.  Their worldview can be summarized as "I don't agree with it, but it's not my place to say you can't do it," or something along those lines.

Those who are socially accepting tend to be cosmopolitan, and would fit into the cosmotarian category.  The socially tolerant can either fall into being socially liberal, moderate, or conservative; but, generally, in my experience, they would not fit into the cosmotarian spectrum.  Instead, they would be defined as paleotarian.    This portmanteau combines the words paleoconservative with libertarian.  It describes the more right-leaning libertarian movement promoted by Dr. Ron Paul.  I would generally describe them as paleoconservative with a few libertarian positions, but who am I to tell someone they aren't libertarian?

As the pointed out, the main points of contention between the two camps are over social issues, but it expands further than that for some into foreign policy and even economics.  It seems that the difference stems from a more fundamental divide: consequentialism vs. moralism.  The consequentialists are more utilitarian in approach, believing that  liberty is the best means of achieving utility (or happiness), whereas the moralists ardently defend the principles of liberty on principle, because they believe it is right.

This blog is dedicated to the advancement of the cosmotarian cause.  Cosmotarianism is only one term for it.  Consequentialism is similar, as is bleeding-heart libertarianism. To me they are all terms which describe a similar if not the same thing.  As we believe in markets, the best term will eventually win out.  I'm not particularly married to cosmotarianism as the best descriptor, so who knows? Maybe I'll change the title one day.

So, what is a cosmotarian?  He or she is a socially accepting, consequentialist libertarian; to wit: the future of country.