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.