September 24, 2008
My friend Dave Weigel has a revealing post at Reason‘s “Hit & Run” blog about Ron Paul’s long-overdue endorsement of Chuck Baldwin. Weigel refers the scornful commentators at “Hit & Run” to some “unfiltered Chuck” detailing his opposition to the North American Union, multiculturalism, and abortion. In a second post, he quotes Chuck as stating,
This MTV generation has lost its innocence and virtue, and girls seem to be the ones leading the way. Furthermore, the days are gone when we could depend on mothers and fathers to jealously guard the purity of their own daughters. Today, it seems fashionable for girls to dress and behave like prostitutes. The more flesh that is exposed, the more everyone (including the girl’s parents) seems to like it. Whereas girls were once the prey, they are now the predators. The damning influence of pop culture icons such as Brittany (sic) Spears and Madonna has created an entire generation of girl predators.
Of course, Barack Obama has also spoken about how the president should use the bully pulpit of the presidency to condemn the decline of the culture. In June 2008 he stated, “I am not someone who believes in censorship, but I think there’s nothing wrong with speaking out against things that are teaching our kids the wrong lessons.”
A casual glance at what passes on prime time television or the news reports about female teachers sexually assaulting students suggest that Obama and Baldwin are not completely out of their minds to urge restraint. And the fact that Baldwin spelled Britney Spears’s name wrong makes this non-Christian even more eager to vote for Pastor Chuck.
What is most revealing about Weigel’s post is its gratuitous marginalization of those advocating for traditional culture, including many libertarians. Baldwin calls for no censorship in this excerpt, nor in the larger column of which it is a part. In fact, he’s not calling for any policies at all except maintaining the current age of consent. It is simply a call for restraint”and yet this is what Weigel believes is an unacceptable passage that will destroy Baldwin.
Millions of parents around the country would disagree.
Weigel’s point is also wrong. Even if we should care that leftists at The New Republic are disappointed, Barr also seems a bit more likely to be Kirchiked than Baldwin. Barr spoke at a conference of the Council of Conservative Citizens in 1998, and then frantically retreated when he received criticism, claiming he had no idea what the group was about. His defense was actually semi-plausible, but that would certainly not stop the criticism. He defended National Alliance member Chester Doles, in his professional capacity of a lawyer, true, but not something that would stop a dedicated smear artist. Barr also championed unfashionable causes in Congress: He introduced the Defense of Marriage Act and tried to ban Wicca in the military, and reopen an investigation on Waco.
However, Barr is not getting the point and stutter treatment because he tacked sharply to the cultural left in order to get the Libertarian nomination.
He has a weak immigration policy, angrily denounced alleged hordes of racists supporting his campaign, has flip flopped on drug legalization and gay marriage, and champions the left-wing of the Paul movement.
Libertarianism has historically been placed on the right because it is a movement of resistance by a traditional society against the encroachments of the left-wing managerial state forcing egalitarianism, secularization, and social control down the throats of an unwilling populace. In practical terms, it was right-wing populist, supporting the closing of public schools (even if it was in response to desegregation), opposing the Civil Rights Act, and advocating abolishing the welfare state that the Left demands as an act of racial justice.
For those of us that have grown up after the New Left, however, the traditional society no longer exists. And in the absence of any culture worth defending, conservative institutions, and real, existing self-governance by small communities, much of modern libertarianism is essentially a series of creative rationales for why the latest leftist victory is actually a triumph for the Right, or why the latest encroachment by the multicultural state is actually an expansion of freedom. Hence, many of Paul’s young acolytes, rather than become the hardcore of right-wing resistance, might actually become a force against conservatism by criticizing the neocons from the left.
Of course, without the rejection of multiculturalism and mass immigration, there is a greater chance that Barack Obama will oppose affirmative action or that Nick Gillepsie will get a decent haircut than the federal budget will be cut 1%. By diverting people who are angry at the system into pointless debates about the nature of abstract rights, libertarianism becomes a comfortable safety valve for the existing system and reinforcement to cultural leftists, rather than fuel for the populist anti-system and overtly right-wing rebellion we so desperately need.
Paul’s movement threatens to fulfill Tucker Carlson’s characterization of how most leftist actually view him”as an eccentric aberration that they can agree with on the war and drugs and ignore on other issues without cost.
Obviously, Paul could not endorse John McCain, with his calls for amnesty, war without end, and a “national greatness” conservatism that is designed to destroy the actually existing American nation. But the split between the two factions of his movement made it impossible for him to endorse either Barr or Baldwin. While any “Left/Right” coalition movement is ultimately doomed to fail for reasons I described in my last article, one could at least try to form a tactical alliance to dismantle the two party system and the bipartisan collaboration on issues like the Federal Reserve. Though perhaps impossible, this attempt is at least justifiable, if only to provide some breathing room for emergence of the real Right, for a real effort to change the country’s financial system”for any real alternative of any kind.
At the same time, the Campaign for Liberty and Ron Paul’s Rally for the Republic were designed to highlight their continuing relevance within the Republican Party. The Campaign for Liberty only endorses people who aren’t running against sitting Republicans and isn’t funding anyone. This strategic schizophrenia is a weakness, but a forgivable one. In the absence of any chance of starting a new party, it could be argued that there has to be some kind of a presence within the major parties in case there is an opening for people like BJ Lawson or Bob Conley. At the same time, the third party threat keeps these voters from being taken for granted. The real issue is whether the Campaign for Liberty can to link all these distinct subcultures.
Paul should not have waited until September to make his endorsement. That said, Paul himself is a product of the paleoconservative and paleolibertarian Right and most of his following was not. His long-term political strategy is incoherent and incompetently executed, but at the same time, short of staying in the race himself, there is nothing he could have done that would have pleased everyone. By forcing Barr to definitively break with Paul, resisting any surrender to the GOP, and endorsing Baldwin, Paul may have clearly defined his legacy as a revitalized right-wing populist movement, rather than one of harmless “liberaltarians.”
Perhaps, the best thing Ron Paul could have done for his 1.2 million voters was wait until September to make an endorsement, endorse four third party candidates, then change his mind and endorse Chuck Baldwin.