Ron Paul – Ralph Nader, Bill Buckley, or Howard Dean?

John Derbyshire and Andrew Sullivan see great similarity’s between Ron Paul and a young William F. Buckley, Jr. John Podhoretz and Richard Fernandez, though, see more similarities between Paul and Ralph Nader. Ed Morrissey, meanwhile, thinks he’s this years’ Howard Dean.

To the extent he’s following any of those parallels, I’d go with Dean.

As Derbyshire notes, Buckley’s conservatism was founded on anti-Communism as a principle that united otherwise disparate ideologues. Paul’s brand of libertarianism is relatively isolationist and lacks a unifying principle to rally the different parts of the Republican constituency.

Nader ran as an independent to the left of Al Gore and cost his erstwhile party the presidency. I take Paul at his word that, should he not win the Republican nomination, he’ll bow out of the 2008 race. Were he to nonetheless run as an independent, though, it’s far from clear to me that he draws more Republicans than Democrats. While there has been a strong libertarian strain in the GOP since at least Barry Goldwater, there has been a social libertarian strain in the Democratic Party even longer.

Dean, though, strikes me as the likeliest analog. Both raised wild sums of money from a highly energized online constituency and seemed to be the only candidate in their party’s field that sparked genuine excitement. Neither, though, seemed to have the experience or disposition to pass the “gravitas” threshold expected of those who would be president.

The difference between Paul and Dean is that Paul’s campaign is still active and he therefore still has a theoretical chance. He’s got the deepest support of any candidate in the Republican field. Until he wins a primary, though, I’m not likely to be convinced that his support is very broad.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mark Rushmore says:

    “…the experience or disposition to pass the ‘gravitas’ threshold expected of those who would be president.”

    Some 17 years in Congress, 30 years in politics; takes every question he’s asked as smoothly as any of them, yet usually manages a substantive answer. I think you’ll be hard pressed to back either of the quoted claims. To be honest, they seem almost canned, as if you didn’t bother to square them with reality before shooting off the post.

  2. Mark Rushmore says:

    My apologies if the “both” is supposed to reference Nader and Dean, it’s a bit ambiguous.

  3. Jaime says:

    Correction. Ron Paul DOES have a unifying principal: liberty.

  4. David says:

    Until Giuliani wins a primary, I’m not likely to be convinced that his support is very broad.

    Giuliani is the “Dean” of 2008. He is leading in the polls, making the most money, and will ultimately LOSE.

    Romney wants to be the “Kerry” and buy the nomination only to LOSE.

    McCain is the “Lieberman” filled to the brim with Joementum McMentum.

    Thompson is just a “Dole” without the pencil holder, military service, or any other redeeming quality.

    Huckabee should just go back to staring in cartoons.

  5. Darryl Schmitz says:

    Opinion columns since Monday’s fundraising event have been less dismissive of Paul’s obvious enormous support. How his powerful campaign tends to fly below the media’s and polls’ radar is indeed mystifying.
    In any case, comparing him to anyone on the right or left is inappropriate. His governing philosophy is guided by the Constitution, which is neither left nor right.

  6. Johnnyb says:

    Sorry, but I think that the ideal of small government and low taxes has been the objective of the Republican Party since FDR’s New Deal. Even the name of the Republican Party emphasises the Republic, or Rule of Law and conservatives had always argued the constitution before George W. Bush kinda confused the ideas of what a conservative was.

    As the dollar drops to new record lows everyday and inflation goes through the roof with no end in sight and an economy thats stagflating. Americans are going to become increasingly aware of the deminished purchasing power of the dollar.

    What Ron Paul is doing is raising awareness of our foriegn policy where we are literally going into debt to give away money we do not have to other countries which in no way benefits Americans, and just like domestic welfare does not help the people who it was intended to help.

    He’s also bringing up interesting questions like “Why are we subsidizing European socialism by providing for their national defense, while most Europeans dispise us?” WW2 has been over for over 60 years, the Cold War has been over for nearly 20, why do we still have troops in Europe?

    The Republicans were elected into office to reduce the size of the federal Government, but after we give them the government on a platter, they did not cut anything, and grew the government alot more than Clinton. In some ways, Clinton was a better Republican than Bush!

    More and more we are becoming too much like the Soviet Empire that we Republicans destroyed. We have always been united despite our various ideologies to the idea opf liberty, and Ron Paul is the only guy who is running for Liberty and the Constitution, and if the Republican Party no longer believes in these things then I am no longer a Republican.

  7. Ron Paul is none of the above, though has elements of them all. What stands out with Ron Paul is that his message of liberty has sparked a decentralized campaign. The key word here is decentralized. Dean’s campaign was centralized and eventually shown to be a great single act stage show. Ron Paul’s multi-stage, multi-city simultaneous extravaganza has just begun.

  8. Jay says:

    I wish I could find articles about Ron Paul that resemble the comments I see following the article. Growing numbers of people are embracing what Ron Paul stands for. It takes a mind change to understand, though. I initially thought it was crazy to bring the military out of South Korea. Then I researched it and realized Ron Paul was right. South Korea now has 40 times the economy and double the population of North Korea and Koreans want a unified country. It is time for secretive and open manipulation of foreign governments to stop.

  9. Jim Bentley says:

    “Sorry, but I think that the ideal of small government and low taxes has been the objective of the Republican Party since FDR’s New Deal. Even the name of the Republican Party emphasises the Republic, or Rule of Law and conservatives had always argued the constitution before George W. Bush kinda confused the ideas of what a conservative was.”

    This WAS the objective, at least at the Presidential level, of the Republican Party. That notion died in 1988 with the ‘kinder and gentler’ repudiation of Conservative principles. Killed in 1988 and the last seven years have been nothing more than pouring concrete over the grave.

  10. davod says:

    Bloody hell! what a brilliant gathering af Paulians. Do you give them advance notice of your posts.

  11. Mark G. says:

    To label him as one of those buffoon CFR clones is tantamount to treason.

    Like Kierkaard states;

    When you label me, you negate me

    You are witnessing a revolution which is bigger than anything you can imagine, hold on tight

    He is no Howard Dean, and certanly not a warmongering racist like Podhoretz.

    Dr. Paul is unique and so am I, it is individuality and individual rights, the ability to pursue my own happiness, and for the government to leave me the heck alone.

  12. gmason08 says:

    There is much I would like to write in reply to your, one man’s (publicly stated/for public consumption) opinion. However, I will briefly address one aspect of your piece.

    “Paul’s brand of libertarianism is relatively isolationist…”

    In my, one man’s, opinion, I am skeptical of any analysis/analyst that cannot define terms correctly and/or mislabels a candidates clearly stated position on an issue. It makes no difference whether the cause for such errors are ignorance, less than stellar intellect or a deliberate attempt at spin; the end result is “analysis” grounded in less than known reality. Would one be wise to take seriously the opinions expressed by a stockbroker that cannot/will not define the term “earnings per share” accurately or a car salesman that does not understand the difference between city and highway MPG?

    The important, accepted, standard and well defined/understood terms relative to your quote above are interventionist, non-interventionist, isolationist. Ron Paul advocates a NON-INTERVENTIONIST foreign policy, period. Let’s get that straight, once and for all, for anyone commenting on his candidacy that wishes to be taken seriously. Modifying the term Isolationist with words like “relatively” as a premise for discussing Ron Paul’s (and the Founder’s) foreign policy views is a false premise and therefore a hopelessly flawed analysis at the starting gate.

    If Ron Paul’s clearly stated position on an issue is “A” and some pundit states his position is “A-” or “B+” then makes a case against “A-” or “B+” that case against “A-” or “B+” may be relevant to something but it is irrelevant to Ron Paul.

    On a related(strongly) note to the above is understanding the actual definition of the term “Straw Man” as regards logical falacies:

    A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To “set up a straw man” or “set up a straw-man argument” is to create a position that is easy to refute, then attribute that position to the opponent. A straw-man argument can be a successful rhetorical technique (that is, it may succeed in persuading people) but it is in fact a misleading fallacy, because the opponent’s actual argument has not been refuted. [from wiki]

    People utilizing straw man arguments, either intentionally or unintentionally, should be considered with a large dose of skepticism because it indicates either an insufficency of knowledge of an issue or betrays that the individual in question considers arguing the actual facts of an issue would not be persuasive for that individuals desired outcome.

    Final Note: Straw Men and other logical falacies are used often, particularly in discussions of matters politcal/public policy. They are inherrently flawed and lead many to flawed conclussions, in many cases, they are designed specifically for that purpose. Flawed conclussions hurt us ALL and due to human failings and other matters beyond our control/knowledge happen often enough to cause great damage without the assistance of deliberate/ignorantly induced and avoidable flawed conclussions. Please take the time to become familiar with the various falacies of logic in order to avoid needlessly flawed conclussions, particularly in matters as weighty as the course of our great nation.

  13. >The difference between Paul and Dean is that
    >Paul’s campaign is still active and he
    >therefore still has a theoretical chance.

    The other key difference is that the Democrats never showed such obvious scorn for Dean in his supporters, nor did they repeatedly try to publically humiliate. Even if Ron Paul bows out, they’re going to have a very hard time convincing those voters to vote for the eventual Republican candidate.

    If they’re LUCKY those voters will just stay home. But I can personally say that if it ends up being Clinton vs. Guliani, I’m liable to cast my first ever vote for a Democrat president purely out of spite.

  14. Tano says:

    “You are witnessing a revolution which is bigger than anything you can imagine, hold on tight”

    Woowoo.
    Dude, you seriously misunderestimate our powers of imagination.
    Let your candidate break 5% in some poll, somewhere, then get back to us.

    And JJ,
    On what basis do you suspect that maybe a third-party Paul candidacy might draw in some Dems?
    I suspect his appeal would be zero. Obviously his libertarianism on social issues is a potential appeal, but that doesnt distinguish him greatly from the Dem candidates. And there are lots of reasons why he wouldn’t be appealing.

  15. Mark Rushmore says:

    “And JJ,
    On what basis do you suspect that maybe a third-party Paul candidacy might draw in some Dems?”

    I’m a [hitherto] lifelong Democrat, who has spent as much of that same lifetime viscerally hating Republicans – which I perceived as elitist scum growing fat off the country’s mechanisms while not even wanting to contribute back to support the same damn system they hide behind. Hypocritical on moral issues, self-defeating in foreign policy…my list of complaints went on. I’ve spat at their convention when they intruded on NYC, heckled their local candidates outside debates, and more of the same.

    The morning of November 6th, when it became clear that Ron Paul was actually a viable candidate, I marched down to the county building and re-filed as Republican. Now most of my free time is dedicated to proselytizing my entire social setting.

    Drawing off this personal experience, then, I wouldn’t discount his pull. Nothing offends truth like hypocrisy, and no candidate in a long time has escaped this charge as wholeheartedly as Ron Paul.

  16. Micah says:

    Mark Rushmore –

    Welcome to the party. I’m a former marxist, who, upon realizing that marxism was a great theoretical construct and not such a great practical model, opted for a constitutional position that kept the ambitions of the centralizing powers out of my life……

    I voted for GWB in 2000 (a very tough break for this former marxist), and for Peroutka in 2004 (constitution party). I no longer want the government to dominate the masses to implement my vision of a perfect government – I just want it to let me live my life in a setting of freedom. Why should any man force his views (beyond objective right and wrong) on another?

    Go Ron, Go.

  17. Benson says:

    And your opinion is important because?

  18. Klutometis says:

    “To the extent he’s following any of those parallels, I’d go with Dean.”

    No, sorry; Dean was a self-aggrandizer in it for the cult status. Ron has a natural, self-sustaining message capable of igniting with Promethean fire the apathetic hearts of American serfs.

  19. Edward Keithly says:

    Paul’s brand of libertarianism is relatively isolationist and lacks a unifying principle to rally the different parts of the Republican constituency.

    Dr. Paul has stated on numerous occaisions that he views liberty as the unifying principle that can pull our party together. Whatever you say about Dr. Paul, he certainly walks the talk on liberty. If a strong dedication to liberty is not sufficient for a majority of the GOP, I think that speaks more to the state of the GOP than it does to the electability of Dr. Paul.