Kevin Drum explicates the problems with Ron Paul’s divergent and crazy policies and left-wing willingness to be drawn to the Siren call of non-interventionism:
Can we talk? Ron Paul is not a charming oddball with a few peculiar notions. He’s not merely “out of the mainstream.” Ron Paul is a full-bore crank. In fact he’s practically the dictionary definition of a crank: a person who has a single obsessive, all-encompassing idea for how the world should work and is utterly blinded to the value of any competing ideas or competing interests.
This obsessive idea has, at various times in his career, led him to: denounce the Civil Rights Act because it infringed the free-market right of a monolithic white establishment to immiserate blacks; dabble in gold buggery and advocate the elimination of the Federal Reserve, apparently because the global economy worked so well back in the era before central banks; suggest that the border fence is being built to keep Americans from leaving the country; claim that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional and should be dismantled; mount repeated warnings that hyperinflation is right around the corner; insist that global warming is a gigantic hoax; hint that maybe the CIA helped to coordinate the 9/11 attacks; oppose government-sponsored flu shots; and allege that the UN wants to confiscate our guns.
Bottom line: Ron Paul is not merely a “flawed messenger” for these views. He’s an absolutely toxic, far-right, crackpot messenger for these views. This is, granted, not Mussolini-made-the-trains-run-on-time levels of toxic, but still: if you truly support civil liberties at home and non-interventionism abroad, you should run, not walk, as fast as you can to keep your distance from Ron Paul. He’s not the first or only person opposed to pre-emptive wars, after all, and his occasional denouncements of interventionism are hardly making this a hot topic of conversation among the masses. In fact, to the extent that his foreign policy views aren’t simply being ignored, I’d guess that the only thing he’s accomplishing is to make non-interventionism even more of a fringe view in American politics than it already is. Crackpots don’t make good messengers.
Now, if you literally think that Ron Paul’s views on drugs and national security are so important that they outweigh all of this — multiple decades of unmitigated crackpottery, cynical fear-mongering, and attitudes toward social welfare so retrograde they make Rick Perry look progressive — and if you’ve somehow convinced yourself that non-interventionism has no other significant voices except Ron Paul — well, if that’s the case, then maybe you should be happy to count Paul as an ally. But the truth is that you don’t need to. Ron Paul is not a major candidate for president. He’s never even been a significant presence as a congressman. In a couple of months he’ll disappear back into the obscurity he so richly deserves. So why get in bed with him? All you’ll do is wake up in March with a mountain of fleas. Find other allies. Make your arguments without bothering to mention him. And remember: Ron Paul has never once done any of his causes any good. There’s a good reason for that.
The inherent problem with the Ron Paul dilemma is that our political state is in such a morass that we must make these sort of compromises. There are a significant number of people who look past Paul’s crackpot ideas, brushing them aside, or saying that his power to bring those ideas into action will be moderated at the Executive level. I’m glad Kevin Drum aggregated a good number of Ron Paul’s insane policy preferences next to his level-headed foreign and drug policy. It puts what he gets right into perspective. As much as Paul hits the bulls-eye with non-interventionism and an attempt to forestall America’s haste to spread Democracy, he completely misses on many others. He is a straight shooting radical, a fact which should not be ignored. You cannot pick and choose; candidates must be analyzed on their whole body of work. It might happen that if Ron Paul is elected President he follows his tenets against militarism and against the War on Drug, but the chips might as easily fall on the side of the gold standard and the repeal of the certain parts of the Civil Rights Act. Drum’s rant is not up to his usual standard of journalism. You can almost hear the steam releasing from his brain as the article goes on, as it has been stewing in his mind for quite a while. I wish the tone was a bit less fervent, and a little more evidence based. But the underlying principle is one many would do well to heed.
It is just mightily confusing how we can be at a juncture when so much of population realizes the failed policy workings in the two arenas Ron Paul gets right, yet no other Presidential candidate comes close to seizing on such trends. This is a deficiency of the American political system. There is definitive disillusionment in the ranks of moderate Republicans against infinite militarism and independents have long waited for a candidate with these values. I do not buy Drum’s assertion that Ron Paul’s brand of non-interventionism will sully the rationale of the rest of the political arena’s hard work on the issue. Ron Paul is never characterized as a mainstream thinker, is never associated with economists and political science wonks, and his cult of personality draws people from the ranks of many specific political issues, some positive, some negative. Paul does change the exchange of ideas in the country and that is certainly a positive. He is and should be lauded for the spread of what Bob Wright calls “moral imagination“, especially Ron Paul’s understanding of blowback and international interests of people who are not American. To Daniel Larison, this insertion into the discourse of foreign policy introduces a more nuanced version of non-interventionism that hinges on factoring in the accountability of all international players. But his extremely inert ideological beliefs in other categories are not the characteristics of a truly game-changing American politician. Sadly, even for all his faults, there may not be a better choice among the GOP candidates.