What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: Gage Skidmore
Much has been said already about Rand Paul endorsing Mitt Romney. (If you’ve been hibernating, watch it here.) Given the impact this action has had on the liberty movement, I don’t want to pass up the opportunity to add my thoughts.
I think that Rand Paul should not have endorsed Mitt Romney. I think that very strongly, and I’ll explain why.
First off, as with many things, it’s important to define our terms. What is an endorsement? It is nothing more than an affirmation of support for something. In the case of politics, it is a commendation to voters for the candidacy of a certain politician. In other words, Rand Paul was encouraging his supporters and voters in general to support Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy, and by so doing, tying himself to Romney’s current positions and future actions.
It’s for that very reason that he should not have done it.
Those coming to Paul’s defense include, most notably, Jack Hunter—the smooth-talking former radio host and official blogger of the Ron Paul campaign. In a series of videos and posts, Hunter has taken to task those detractors who object to this endorsement.
For example, Hunter and others point to Murray Rothbard’s endorsement of George H.W. Bush or Gary Johnson’s endorsement of George W. Bush to suggest that Rand Paul’s endorsement of Romney is not a big deal, let alone a career-ending move. It’s true that these endorsements did not significantly tarnish the legacy of these individuals, nor hinder their praiseworthy actions before and after the endorsements were given. But simply because they endorsed awful candidates does not justify Rand in doing the same. No parent excuses their child’s bad behavior when the child says “Billy did it, too!”
In his first video on the topic of Rand’s endorsement of Romney, Hunter emphasized the pragmatic opportunity it provided and how it helps Rand Paul’s future political career (and by extension, he claims, the liberty movement). In a casual dismissal of purity in principle, Hunter claims that “there is no shame in compromising politically to advance principle.” Put differently, Hunter argues that the end justifies the means.
That is something with which many Ron Paul supporters vehemently disagree.
It’s important to note that Rand’s “means” are not all bad. Indeed, he has a bright voting record in the Senate, tarnished only from time to time with some bad votes. In the very same week that he endorsed Mitt Romney, Rand introduced bills to require search warrants for domestic drone use, legalize industrial hemp, end federal mandatory minimum sentences for all non-violent crimes, and end the TSA. These are welcome efforts, clearly showing that Senator Paul is a key supporter of liberty.
Why, then, would somebody with a mostly stellar voting record offer their explicit support of a presidential candidate who is anathema to so many of these issues? Explaining his endorsement to Sean Hannity (of all people…), Paul said that “Governor Romney and I actually have quite a few similarities.” One might think that he would then go on to list the ideological commonalities they share, but no—he listed superficialities instead. From having fathers who both ran for president to both having large families and “the same family values,” Rand led out on things that have nothing to do with the office of President and the oath that goes with it.
Moving on to just a few issues, such as auditing the Fed and protecting internet privacy, Paul twice claimed that Romney “is right there with us,” despite the opposite in fact being true. Mitt Romney has been hostile, whether through his record in office or his campaign rhetoric, to almost every significant position espoused by Ron Paul and his supporters. While Rand Paul did privately meet with Mitt Romney to discuss such issues, and even though Romney may have expressed support for looking into or supporting some of these issues, it’s highly unlikely that a President Romney would at all be an ally to the cause of liberty. His record simply does not support such a “hope” for “change.” It’s a pipe dream.
Even so, it happened. Rand Paul expressly affirmed his support of a candidate who has historically been opposed to what the so-called “Ron Paul Revolution” has been about. And on top of speaking mere words, Rand told Hannity that he would go out on the campaign trail to help Romney’s presidential bid, and that “I can be an asset in solidifying the conservative base of the party.”
…solidifying it behind a candidate who supports bailouts, stimuli, deficit spending, military occupations, indefinite detentions, torture, the Federal Reserve, the war on drugs, federal welfare schemes, and so many other unconstitutional and illegitimate government programs and policies. This is a positive thing how, exactly?
Yes, it’s true that “going along to get along” may help Rand with his future political career, whether he attempts a presidential campaign or not. But since when did the cause of liberty become contingent upon supporting things that run afoul of the cause itself? And why must principle be advanced on the shoulders of pragmatic compromise?
This movement is about more than winning elections or retaining political power. It’s about changing the hearts and minds of people around the country—around the world. It’s about upholding principle not through compromise, but consistency. It’s about sacrificing whatever is necessary to rigidly adhere to truth and morality. It’s about practicing what we preach.
Offering an affirmation of explicit support for a political candidate who is no ally to our efforts, even if for the possible opportunity to better advance our efforts in the long term, is not practicing what we preach. Reaching the end goal is not worth the effort it requires if that effort has required us to support policies and politicians whose goal is on the opposite end of the field. It’s better to move the ball only partially down the field while being true to ourselves and our cause than to get a touchdown by corrupting that cause in the name of strategy.
Rand Paul is a good man, and one with a bright future. He is a friend to our cause and an important advocate of liberty. But his inconsistency means that he cannot consistently be trusted, and his lack of leadership means that he cannot fill his father’s shoes. While he is far more friend than foe, he is not the fellow soldier in arms upon whom you can depend without question in the most dangerous of circumstances.
And that’s our loss.