In a recent Republican presidential candidates’ debate, candidate Mitt Romney declared that as president he would need to consult his lawyers in order to determine whether or not he could authorize a declaration of war. In response, the increasingly popular Ron Paul could not hide his utter exasperation and disbelief that a presidential candidate for the United States of America could be so blatantly ignorant of the importance of the U.S. Constitution in the consideration of such an issue. The Constitution states that the president must receive a declaration of war from Congress in order to formally pursue military action. A former congressman from Texas, Paul’s stern adherence to the principles of the Constitution and his complete opposition to the current dogmas of the Republican Party have allowed him to build a surprisingly loyal following of Americans from all political affiliations, including anti-war Democrats, Independents, Libertarians and old-school conservatives.
The success of Paul’s simple and coherent philosophy was made evident on Nov. 5. In the course of one day, Paul’s maverick campaign managed to raise an astounding $4.2 million, which suggests that his efforts are not to be easily dismissed, as they currently are by the Republican establishment. Other Republican leaders have been quick to discount Paul’s relevance in political discussions, despite his willingness to address the issues that matter most in the upcoming election, such as America’s foreign policy, President George W. Bush’s expansion of executive power and the preservation of civil liberties.
Overall, many of Paul’s beliefs cannot be considered innovative; his popularity seems to stem from the fact that he consistently stands for such basic principles as upholding the Constitution, ensuring the privacy of American citizens against warrantless searches, limiting executive power, the practice of small government and the protection of civil liberties. Paul also advocates immediately pulling all U.S. troops out of Iraq and has consistently claimed that our invasion of Iraq was a military and strategic blunder.
In the past, it would have been unusual for a presidential candidate to frame his campaign largely on the principles of the Constitution, but the current policies and actions of the Bush administration have corrupted the political establishment of America in a way that has not been seen before.
Perhaps what is most striking about Paul’s campaign is its resonance with young Americans and Democrats who may not have been receptive to the ideas of limited government in the past. Due to the lack of gimmicks and political stunts in his campaign, Paul presents a refreshing alternative to the same old two-party politics. As a result, younger Americans are responding in large numbers through grassroots political activity, donations and Facebook networking.
However, it is necessary to acknowledge that the success of Paul’s theme of limited government may largely be in response to the fact that President Bush has amassed a devastating amount of executive power and has used his arm of the federal government to enact severely detrimental policies. However, there are troublesome and extreme aspects to Paul’s political philosophy. He has advocated an entirely non-interventionist American foreign policy, which is neither practical nor plausible. Few Americans would agree that the United States should have absolutely no role in global affairs. He has also stated that he would get rid of the Internal Revenue Service and most of the departments that make up the federal government, which are steps that are far too drastic and outside of mainstream politics to be generally acceptable.
That being said, Paul’s campaign and its current success nonetheless serve an important purpose: to induce change within the Republican Party. It is highly unlikely, for good reason, that Paul will receive the Republican nomination for President. However, the current crop of GOP candidates would seem like a monolithic bloc without Paul’s voice to contrast them, and the Republicans at this moment cannot claim to present a diversity of opinions on the most pressing issues of the 2008 election. Therefore, Paul’s candidacy represents a much-needed outlet for all of the traditional conservatives who have been left behind by the policies of the Bush administration.
For instance, in relation to the conservative principle of limited government spending, under Bush’s leadership, the national debt has hit $9 trillion. To put the spending of the Bush administration in perspective, the Associated Press has stated that, ‘It took the country from George Washington until Ronald Reagan to reach the first $1 trillion in debt.’
Ostracized conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan summarizes well the appeal of seeing Paul’s candidacy take off financially: ‘Whatever happens in this race, Paul’s candidacy has already provided a focus for all of those conservatives who despise the big-spending, unchecked executive, busy-body, Christianist wing of the GOP. And all those liberals who know that a new politics