Perhaps it is just me, and apologies to those Ron Paul supporters out there, but I do not understand the fascination with him as a candidate. Yes, there are things he says that I agree with, but there are also many things he says that I find, quite frankly, astounding. Yes, he has a number of concrete plans, but his unbending ideology takes his positions to a ludicrous (I don’t mean the rapper–Ludicris) level. Yes, he is a non-Romney candidate but given his positions in some areas you could say the same about Michael Moore. Because in some cases, I am not sure I can find much difference in the level of both extremes. I am not saying he and Michael Moore share the same views, just that often I see Mr. Paul taking his ideas to the same level of incredulity.
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
In a article by Leonard Pitts Jr., Ron Paul’s consistency doesn’t make him right, He sums up what it is about Ron Paul that has confounded me for so long. I am fiscally conservative and often socially moderate and given the correct circumstances, sometimes socially liberal. So I should be attracted by a committed Libertarian, but in this case I am not. To confound the problem, I don’t understand how he could have rated so high in Iowa. While there is an old joke that Iowa stands for “Idiots Out Walking Around,” I know many people in Iowa and I have traveled there many times over the years and conducted business in Iowa as well. I find the people of Iowa to be highly intelligent, dedicated, perhaps slightly more conservative, and very hard working. In short, I see nothing that would explain to me why so many have gravitated to someone who is often so far in the extreme.
I find myself in agreement with Mr. Pitts. Something that is not a common occurrence. This in itself gives me pause! But Mr. Pitts summed up my exact sentiments about Ron Paul when he said, “Ralph Waldo Emerson, meet Ronald Ernest Paul. He is the very soul of a foolish consistency. Meaning that he is willing, often to a fault, to follow his ideology to its logical and most extreme conclusions.”
I also do not find some of the extremes of Ron Paul to be that conservative. I know a few other very conservative people who refer to Ron Paul as really one of the most “liberal” people in the presidential race, some proclaim he is to the left of President Obama in many areas. I am not sure that I would draw the same conclusions. I do, however, think his brand of extremism is more than confusing; it is at least very risky–perhaps even dangerous. It is in any event at least dangerous for the Republican party.
One pundit last night suggested that perhaps Iowans were sending a message to the Republican leadership. Well if so, it is to my way of thinking a very problematic message. This election, more so than any others in recent history, will be decided by independents, and moderates in both parties. Non-Republicans, and some Republican moderates, tend to worry about the extreme views of the Republican party and the potential extreme conservative segments of its platform, just as non-Democrats and Democratic moderates then tend to worry about the extreme liberal segments of the Democratic platform.
Sending such a message and ignoring Paul’s foolish consistency in the areas of civil rights, Iran and their nuclear ambition, and the recognition that there are some areas where the federal government must play a role to promote the general welfare, if in fact that is what is being done, is not going to go far toward endearing independents and moderates to the benefits of a Republican executive branch and congress. Not since the period of the 1880s to the early 1900s have we seen such a divided ideological ocean between the parties. With it has come a broad distrust of the professional political class and significant suspicion as to motivation and potential corruption in their platforms and agendas.
In the end, Ron Paul’s finish in the race last night in a virtual dead heat with Romney and Santorum worry’s me. If the Republican party members in the U.S. now are willing to accept such a level of foolish consistency in their candidate in order to adhere to other desired ideals, we will run the risk of ignominious defeat in the presidential election. Independents and moderates will likely see Republicans as a party driven so far by ideology that these key voters will not be able to accept their perceived risk of this foolish consistency.
Perhaps the pundits are correct and Iowa is a Paul anomaly, and as we move through the remaining caucuses he will once again fade into history as did James G. Blaine in the election of 1884 or Alton B. Parker in 1904. If not, I fear, in about one year, we will be recalling the Paul pall of 2012.