Americans owe Ron Paul a huge debt of gratitude. Four years ago, while Republican candidates for president were talking positively about trillion-dollar adventures in the Middle East, the congressman from Texas built his candidacy for the White House on the principles of sound fiscal management and military restraint. Thanks to his passion, his drive, and his supporters, these principles are now back in vogue.
But some Americans also owe Ron Paul an apology. Dismissed with all manner of invective in 2008, Congressman Paul’s opponents habitually failed to answer the case that the U.S. was facing a looming economic crisis borne of the country’s massive debt. “Deficits don’t matter,” snorted former Vice President Dick Cheney. Well, that was fourteen trillion dollars ago. Today, American debt ranks as one of the most pressing issues amongst voters. It was Ron Paul who helped raise public awareness of this alarming issue.
This week, Ron Paul announced he would again explore a run for the presidency. Libertarians were delighted, as well they ought to be, for he is their fearless champion. But despite all the good he has done, and all the good he has yet to do, another run for the White House would be a bad idea.
Without resorting to the superficial and, quite honestly, insulting reasons Ron Paul should not run (too old, too extreme), there are multiple arguments for why his candidacy would be flawed.
Think of the children!
As Politico recently explained, Rep. Paul is not only a knowledgeable and eloquent advocate for libertarian ideas, but also the patriarch of a burgeoning political dynasty. With one son already safely ensconced in the Senate, and another who recently mulled a run for the Senate in Texas, Paul’s family is shaping the larger libertarian movement, and will likely continue to do so for years to come.
If the Paul brand is to endure (and libertarians uniformly hope it does), it is imperative that it is kept fresh and relevant. But if the name Paul crops up whenever a presidential election is due, the strength of the brand and the ideas behind it will inevitably diminish. Jeb Bush would be a leading candidate for president today were it not for his last name, and in 2008 Hillary Clinton could never quite shake off the accusation that is was improper for the White House to be occupied twice by her and her family.
Lightening does not strike twice
It is no exaggeration to suggest that Ron Paul led a revolution in 2008. While other GOP candidates — including the eventual nominee, John McCain — singularly failed to fire up the base of the party, Paul generated an enthusiasm amongst young voters hitherto unseen in the modern GOP. His fundraising was likewise nothing short of spectacular.
But in politics, as in so much else, moments come and go. History is replete with examples of politicians who went from rock star to also-ran in the blink of an eye. Just ask President Obama or Sarah Palin. A Paul candidacy that failed to capture the dynamism of 2008 would likely hurt the libertarian movement and give succor to those who believe only big-spending, country-invading Republicans can win election. Granted, it is possible Ron Paul could repeat his success from three years ago, but this looks unlikely because . . .
He is not alone
At presidential debates in 2008, Ron Paul was an isolated figure. But one of his finest moments came when he defended himself against Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s accusation that, by arguing for a humble U.S. foreign policy, he was the dupe of America’s enemies. While Giuliani and every other GOP candidate parroted the Bush line that American freedom could only be protected by spending American blood and treasure thousands of miles away, Paul maintained a lonely position as the only candidate who was steadfast in his defense of a modest foreign policy.
Paul was also alone in arguing about the problem of national debt. While other GOP candidates dutifully trotted out the same glib lines about cutting wasteful spending, only Paul had the vision and the record of a tax-cutting and waste-busting constitutionalist.