Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Ron Paul conundrum

Last week in a presidential straw poll of Iowa Republicans, tea-party favorite Michele Bachmann, the congresswoman from Minnesota, came out as the winner.

But the most intriguing was who finished second: Rep. Ron Paul.

For the uninitiated, Paul, the 75-year-old former obstetrician and who grew up in the Pittsburgh suburb of Green Tree, has represented a district in Texas off-and-on since the 1980s from which he will retire after next year. A staunch libertarian and somewhat of a curmudgeon, he has long championed the dismantling of the Federal Reserve and, if my facts are correct, was the only Republican in Congress to oppose going into war in Iraq, in the process temporarily becoming a darling to anti-war activists.

But despite his showing in Iowa, don't expect Dr. Paul to become president or even to do much better in primaries and caucuses next year. Reason? He's not, and has never pretended to be, a politician. Isn't that the kind of person we need in office?

I would suggest not. While his support is deep, it's not wide.

We're long past the time where an office-holder or candidate can simply hold fast to certain positions and hope people will support them; in this way Dr. Paul represents a throwback to an earlier time but is out of touch with today's political reality. When you take such an uncompromising stand out of "principle," especially without communicating to people how it benefits them, you risk having them vote against you -- as the tea-party movement will find out next year. He's also somewhat of an isolationist, which won't fly today because of our relations with other nations; whether he likes it or not, politically and economically we're the most powerful nation in history.

Bottom line, the public, whether blue or red, simply doesn't agree with all or even most of Dr. Paul's views, and as such were he ever to ascend to the top spot he would never get a bill passed because Congress, bowing to the will of their constituents, would oppose just about anything he would do. (It's also the reason why the Libertarian Party, although the third-largest in the United States and under whose banner he's occasionally run, will never be a major player in American politics.)

But, from a Christian standpoint, I find something more troubling about Dr. Paul: I don't detect a sense of "justice" -- that is, what's ultimately right or wrong as opposed to what simply legal or illegal. He opposed the war in Iraq not because of what it might do to the country's finances or standing in the world but only because the Bush administration didn't take the proper steps to do so. It would be nice to hear Dr. Paul's moral vision, but to my knowledge he's never demonstrated one.

Yes, we live in a land governed, at least theoretically, by a Constitution; however, its meaning and ramifications have shifted over time because we don't live under the same conditions that existed in 1789. Besides, for us Christians, the U.S. Constitution isn't the highest authority; while I wouldn't advocate adjusting it to reflect Christian principles, still we have an obligation to state what we believe to be ultimately true. That's why it surprises me that Dr. Paul has such a following among Christians, many of who are still seeking a non-existent political messiah.

Especially one who can't win.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Hi Rick,One of the Libertarians core beleifs is individual freedom with a responsibilty to conscience of the individual.Presupposing man to be good at heart.Today You don't even have to be a Calvinist to know that is fantasy.That's the bone and marrow of why the Libertarian Party can't grow.We are so far away from the conscience of our forefathers, and roots as to responsibilty to a higher power.And we are seeing more Christian leaders living unaccountably to God or man;That it backs up what you are saying.New Millenium politics runs with a 18th century engine;If you can find history books in the antique stores that revisionists didn't have a hand in, you will see the Founding Fathers told us "The Great Experiment", (Democracy) would fall if men and politicians reached our current condition.Who is still using Windows 95 and DOS? If we don't upgrade our politics efficiency it will show it's antiquation.And You have got your finger on something very right on;Christians looking for a political Messiah,will cast their vote and follow "One in the form of Christ, opposing Christ".God Bless You All..Mark