Jonah: I have pretty much decided for Ron Paul myself. I am sympathetic to many of the reservations you have posted, but every piece of serious policy analysis I read confirms to me that our country has gone too far down a wrong path—a path that leads to nothing I recognize as conservatism.
Two pieces in particular have made a strong impression on me recently.
- Richard Betts’ piece “A Disciplined Defense” in the Nov./Dec. Foreign Affairs, arguing that nobody much in Washington is thinking cleraly about our national defense policy.
- Nick Paumgarten’s “The Humbling of Eliot Spitzer” in the Dec. 10 issue of The New Yorker. I’m the last person to carry a torch for Eliot Spitzer, but Paumgarten blows a hole in my theory that the best bet for our next president would be a butt-kicking s.o.b. (for example one with initials R.G.) Spitzer’s an s.o.b. who went to Albany to reform a dysfunctional establishment. He got his butt handed to him on a plate, garnished with parsley.
These are, I emphasize, straws on the camel’s back. I can’t imagine either Betts or Paumgarten as Paul voters. (My rough guess would be: Clinton, Clinton.) Yet, more and more, I think we are heading for (or perhaps are in) some kind of systemic crisis, one that not even the meanest s.o.b. could do much about. A systemic crisis needs a systemic solution, and only Paul offers that, with his return to constitutional fundamentals.
I certainly agree that he has much more than the usual number of obnoxious and wacky supporters. As I noted in my Paul piece back in July, some depressing proportion of people who are really, really interested in politics are nuts, and the proportion is bound to be larger with an out-of-left-field candidate like Paul. (Sorry: that should be right field, of course!) The American electorate, however, is not nuts, and I think has the good sense to discount the wilder fringes of Paulophilia and listen to the man himself. I have been doing so — there’s as much as you could want on YouTube and the Ron Paul campaign site, thanks to those crazy supporters — and am more and more impressed.
As for the notion, which I admit I settled on in my July piece, that there is no way Paul could win: Well, possibly so, but Paul is good enough, and his ideas are good enough — and close enough to Buckley-Goldwater conservatism—that those of us who cleave to that conservatism ought to take the wonderful opportunity offered by a presidential campaign to help promote them to the electorate.
If you think that our efforts against jihadist terrorism constitute World War Four (I don’t), you will not want Ron Paul for president. (Jonah Goldberg’s article “The Tradition of Ron Paul” in the Dec. 17 issue of National Review is key reading in that context.) If you think there would be a whole world of difference between what Hillary Clinton would accomplish in the Rome-of-the-Borgias down there on the Potomac, by comparison with what Rudy, or Fred, or Mitt would accomplish, you won’t be supporting Paul.
If, however, you think that much of the underbrush that has grown up around our national institutions this past 40 years needs to by pulled up by the roots and burned, before it chokes the life out of our Republic, then Paul’s your man.