Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Neo-Whigs, and the Jeffersonian Conservative Menace

It may seem settled that Mitt Romney will be the Republican Party presidential nominee this year, but try telling that to Ron Paul and his supporters. Paul recently won a majority of the RNC delegates from Louisiana. According to U.S. News and World Report, “Week after week, Paul forces have been using GOP rules to dominate or exert a large influence at state Republican conventions and send pro-Paul delegates to the national GOP convention in Tampa, Florida August 27-30. They hope to influence the national party platform and gain a prime-time speaking slot for Paul. Some GOP officials are concerned about the possibility of disruption or protests by Paul backers during conventon [sic] week.” Both the Republican and the Democratic Party have experienced heated national conventions before, and it seems that they may again in 2012. Some people would be tempted to represent the clash between Romney and Paul as one between conservatism and libertarianism. However, they would be wrong. Ron Paul is not a libertarian. Let us examine his stance on gay rights. In a libertarian utopia, government would not recognize marriages of any kind. However, in a country where civil marriage exists, a libertarian would favor legalization of same sex marriage, since legal bans on same sex marriage amount to government dividing citizens into different categories of rights based on sexual orientation and promoting a view of morality far beyond the proper boundaries of the State. A libertarian would also believe that sodomy laws should be repealed for pretty much the same reasons. Now, let us look at a federal law currently in effect, DOMA, and a Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas. DOMA bans gay marriages from being recognized at the federal level. It also stipulates that if, for example, a same sex couple is married in Vermont and moves to Virginia, Virginia is free not to recognize their marriage. Lawrence v. Texas struck down laws against sodomy, which, for obvious reasons, disproportionately applied to gay people. So obviously, a libertarian would oppose DOMA and favor Lawrence v. Texas. Yet Ron Paul supports DOMA and opposes Lawrence v. Texas, supposedly based on states’ rights. Obviously, states’ rights are not the same as individual rights. If a state or local government passes a law that expands its own reach and abridges an individual’s freedom, that is a case of big government. And if the federal government intervenes and requires that state and local governments stop abridging individual freedom and let individuals make their own decisions, that is a victory for limited government. Hence, Brown v. Board of Education, which banned government schools from legally segregating based on race, took power away from states, put it in the hands of individuals, and actually promoted smaller government. But more on Brown a little later. With Paul’s support for big government at the state level, his alleged libertarian justifications for opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act fall flat, and he is exposed as a racist and a homophobe. His case is made worse by his decision to deliver a pro-Confederate speech to the Ludwig von Mises Institute on a stage with a giant Confederate Flag. Yet Ron Paul is markedly different from the conservatives running the Republican Party today, such as John Boehner and Mitt Romney. For one thing, his military policy is staunchly isolationist. Here, I commend him. Our country has continually gotten itself involved unnecessarily in foreign wars, often for economic rather than idealistic reasons. Our defense policy should be just that: a defense policy, not an attack policy in which we constantly send the U.S. military into countries that have not attacked us. The appropriate method of dealing with a foreign dictator is economic sanctions/boycotts, unless that dictator is actually attempting to attack the United States without provocation. His economic policy is also different from mainstream conservative Republicanism. The Republican Party does not and never has stood for full laissez faire capitalism. Mitt Romney certainly does not. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Yet during Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, he was more than happy to receive government largesse from the ample bosom of the Nanny State. Although Bain invested more than $18 million in 1994 to start up Steel Dynamics, a steel mill based in Butler, Indiana, the state and DeKalb County provided Bain with $37 million in grants and subsidies. On top of that, DeKalb County issued a tax increase to finance infrastructure improvements around the plant.” Furthermore, consider the 2006 Massachusetts health care bill, passed with Mitt Romney’s support. Romney and his defenders have talked a lot about how different this law supposedly is from “Obamacare.” However, both laws require that virtually everyone have insurance whether they want it or not. Romney and the current GOP’s domestic policy—anti-civil rights, pro-federal government, pro-big business, pro-government intervention in the economy—is not consistent with the traditional Republican Party. While the Republican Party historically did favor a strong federal government that was involved in the economy, I also demonstrated in “Romney’s Jeremiah Wright” that it was significantly more supportive of civil rights than the Democratic Party and centered in the North. The Republican Party today bears a much stronger resemblance to the American Whig Party, which favored a strong federal government that would actively aid business, eschewed antislavery politics, and did decently in slave states. Today’s Republican Party is in essence a combination of the Whig Party and the pre-1960s Southern wing of the Democratic Party, complete with Wilsonian foreign policy. Ron Paul, by contrast, is a proponent of real laissez faire capitalism. In 2011, Paul was quoted as saying, “My priorities, you cut off all foreign welfare and foreign militarism and corporate welfare before you go after child health-care.” This puts Paul more in line with the economic ideology of Thomas Jefferson and the pre-1896 Democratic Party, personified by Andrew Jackson. Thomas Jefferson is in the interesting position of being a hero to both libertarians and populist Democrats. William Jennings Bryan, a proponent of nationalizing railroads and sticking it to the rich by taking America off the Gold Standard, was an admirer of Jefferson. So was FDR. The reason that Jefferson can appeal to two widely divergent political groups is that in his time, followers of Alexander Hamilton advocated a strong central government that would actively support big businesses. Thus, a weak central government with a free market was considered the option more favorable to the common, heterosexual, white man. Andrew Jackson followed similar policies, though he favored a strong federal government if it could be used against slaves, abolitionists, and Native Americans. Jefferson and Jackson were far from libertarian. Both men owned multitudes of slaves, and Jackson made money as a slave trader. Jefferson apologists have tried to argue that he wished to free his slaves but was prevented from doing so by legal restrictions. This is nonsense. Jefferson wrote in a letter that he had, “Let them all [slaves] know that their runnings away should be punished.” Slaves who made repeated attempts to run away, such as James Hubbard, were punished, with Jefferson’s approval. Yet while Jefferson was conservative on civil rights, his foreign policy was far different from that of the current Republican Party. When Britain and France both tried to pressure the United States to stop trading with the other, Jefferson responded by declaring an embargo rather than going to war. Thus, our nation’s third president was a military isolationist, similar to Ron Paul. In essence, Ron Paul, like Thomas Jefferson, embodies at least two political beliefs attractive to libertarians: laissez faire capitalism and military isolationism. However, Paul, just like Jefferson, does not believe in real individual freedom, at least not for minorities. And just as Jefferson saw nothing wrong with taking advantage of big government fugitive slave laws, Paul sees nothing wrong with the principle of big government. His problem is specifically with a strong federal government. So to my readers who identify as libertarians: if you are only concerned about a strong central government, go ahead and vote for Ron Paul. But you may end up with a big brother-style government at the state level.


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