Young Voters and Ron Paul: An Odd Match

January 4, 2012

As the 2012 Presidential race shifts into high gear, something unexpected is happening on the campaign trail. Young Independent and Democratic voters who are disappointed in President Barack Obama are turning to Republican Libertarian Ron Paul as their candidate of choice. This is not merely odd, it’s irrational. It’s like a vegetarian giving up on her favorite restaurant because it serves too much meat, and then going to McDonald’s.

As someone who has been, at times, deeply disappointed in the President, I understand the impulse to look for a more attractive option. But I would urge young voters to take the time to learn what Paul and his candidacy are really about, rather than allowing themselves to be seduced by his most attractive positions. There is more to Paul than meets the eye, and it would be dangerous for any voter, young or old, to ignore the totality of his (mostly) strict Libertarianism.

Though my own children don’t always believe me when I say this, I was once young, too, and I understand the allure for college-age voters of a candidate who promises to end U.S. involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts AND simultaneously put an end to the so-called War on Drugs. Some even claim that Paul would legalize marijuana and other illegal substances, though if you actually listen to what he says about this, his answer is not quite that simple. He wants the Federal Government to get out of the business of regulating drugs and leave that task to the states. That would probably result in some states allowing people to stoke up a doobie, but not all. Still, as I say, I can see what young voters find attractive.

The problem is, like religious fundamentalists who follow to the letter the text of the Bible or the Torah or the Quran, Paul is a political fundamentalist who believes that the Federal Government should take on NO responsibilities that are not specifically enumerated in the Constitution. He wishes to see the Departments of Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce and Interior eliminated. He believes that Federal health care expenditures should be shifted entirely to the states in the form of block grants. He believes that Federal lands should be sold off. He believes that energy policy should be unfettered from Government regulation.

Well, you might say, that sounds a little extreme, but what’s the big deal? There’s probably a lot of waste in those programs. Maybe those steps are a good idea.

Okay, let’s look at what they really mean. Get rid of the Department of Education? Paul’s Libertarianism would mean an end to the Federal Student Loan Program, an end to Pell Grants, an end to Federal Student Financial Aid. In Ron Paul’s America, if you can’t afford college, that’s too bad.

Remove Federal regulation from the energy industry? Ron Paul believes that global climate change is an elaborate hoax. He would end all Federal investment in alternative energies and would allow oil drilling in the most sensitive coastal and protected lands our nation possesses — offshore areas along the Western and Southeastern shores, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, protected lands around Yellowstone National Park. He would also reduce regulation of nuclear power, clearing the way for more the construction of new nuclear plants.

To be fair, I should add here that Paul does not say that he will drill in Yellowstone or ANWR. He doesn’t need to because the issue is dealt with in his budget. I mentioned that he wants to eliminate the Interior Department and sell off Federal lands. In other words, he wants to do away with America’s National Park system and network of wildlife refuges and sell those lands to private interests. One assumes that he would want to see those lands still under some sort of protection, but that’s not clear in anything he says. And given that he opposes all government interference with the private market, it’s hard to see how he could enforce the protection of those precious areas.

How deep does Paul’s aversion to government “intrusion” in our lives go? Pretty deep. He would slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, eliminate nutrition programs for impoverished women and children, and privatize such crucial public safety programs as Air Traffic Control and Airport Security. Don’t believe me? Go to his website and read his budget. He has expressed his belief that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — the most significant legislative achievement of the decades-long struggle for racial equality — was a mistake.

Now his Libertarianism is not SO extreme as to allow no exceptions. In fact, there is one really big one. While he opposes all government intrusion into business, into areas of public health and welfare, into conservation and environmental stewardship, he is perfectly willing to allow the Federal Government to dictate what a woman can do with her body. He is vehemently opposed to abortion rights and supports the immediate reversal of Roe V. Wade.

Look, if you support Ron Paul because you have considered the totality of his ideology and agree with him on the issues, fine. We differ in what we want for this country, but I respect your right to make an informed political choice. But if you support Ron Paul based on one issue or two, or because your buddy told you that “he’s like Obama only better,” you have to take a closer look. You might not like what you find.

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3 Responses to “Young Voters and Ron Paul: An Odd Match”

  1. fireheart1974 said

    This. So this. Can I link to Facebook, please?? I’ve been trying to put my finger on why Ron Paul is not what I want and you’ve managed to explain it quite well!

  2. Ivan Liao said

    Hi. I’ve recently developed an interest in Ron Paul (literally just today), and I’ve read enough to give some decent counter arguments to some of your more biased main points. Hope you read this even though its been 4 months already and tell me your perspective.

    On the abolishment of the Department of Education, there will be a transition period, so students won’t just suddenly find that they cannot afford college. The big picture though is that if we take government out of education, education will become more affordable and will be of higher quality in the free market. I’m actually a student right now, and honestly you will not receive much benefit from the government unless your family makes less than 100,000 dollars, which my family does, and even then it only partially covers tuition. I go to JHU, which is one of the most expensive universities in the country and I am willing to bet if they didn’t reduce their tuition by 10-20k, people like me would not be able to afford their education and many people who can won’t willing do so. They will lose money. However, I’m not particularly worried, as I can just go to a cheaper university. There really isn’t an amazing amount of difference, particularly for undergraduate studies in say Iowa State University (I was in Iowa for high school) and JHU. Finally, there are scholarships (I actually had a full scholarship for Iowa State).

    On the abolishment of the Department of Energy, Ron Paul does not believe climate change is a hoax. He just questions how much of an human impact on climate there is. People too often panic and take a “the sky is falling down” perspective, but it’s like the debate between religion and science. Religious believers and believers of catastrophic climate change are both pushing a pretty radical perspective. However atheists and nonbelievers of catastrophic climate change cannot disprove the opposing sides views. You can’t disprove there is a God. Although I am agnostic and I do think the “Christian God” is a fake (there are just too many mistakes in the Bible and the Earth is definitely not 6000 years old). About the national parks, I can’t be too sure. There was a forum I found that had some discussion on how the responsibility of the parks would be moved to another department. But even if the parks become privatized (which is hard to believe considering how popular they are), the owners of the parks will probably recognize the park’s value and not just ruin them. I mean would you break your own possessions.

    One last big topic was abortion. He advocates repealing Roe vs. Wade, but that only means it’s up to the states to decide. I lean towards pro choice myself particularly in cases of rape, birth defects, and safety of the mother. I kind of look down upon other abortions, but in the end I think it’s the individual’s decision.

    Finally, you mention a slew of social programs. The ideology of small government is that we can trust people to volunteer and set up things like charities to address social problems. More importantly, there will probably be fewer problems in this country and its citizens future will be more secure (no economic crises, fears of war, etc.).

    I wanted to post this because I saw a previous reader was “ltrying to put my finger on why Ron Paul is not what I want” and it is too easy to influence a person when he or she is in that mindset.

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