Why Republicans Need Ron Paul

Johnathan Lott

Everyone in their right mind knows he can’t possibly win an election.  But you have to admire his persistence.  Ron Paul, who will be 77 years old in November 2012, recently announced his third run for president.

Paul has quite a bit of support, especially among his incredibly enthusiastic base, but he can’t seem to pick up the mainstream GOP.  And for good reason – he doesn’t want them.  His views on war, foreign intervention, social programs, and the Federal Reserve are completely out of line with the typical American conservative.

Paul isn’t running to pick up votes.  If he wanted to do that, he’d sound a lot more like the rest of the crowded GOP field.  He’s running so that the nation – and especially conservatives – will hear his views on issues.  He’s extreme, yes, but on most issues he’s extreme in the right direction.  In an age when conservative leaders flip flop, pander to their audience, and generally fail to control the spiraling deficit, Paul is one of the few people in Congress who holds uncompromising conservative values.

Take, for example, his views on Medicare and Social Security.  Abolish them, he says. 

Conservatives will talk about the evils of Medicare and Social Security all day, but when it comes right down to it, they agree with their basic premises.  “Reform,” they shout.  “Cut the waste, reign in the spending, make it sustainable.”  Never do they go so far as to want to abolish them.  But Paul takes it a step further.

And is that really so out of line with our values?  The programs, after all, are an inherent restriction on liberty.  Given 40 years of work, most of us could probably use 15.3% of our income each year (the current total FICA tax rate) to provide for our own retirement and health care, and do it in a way better suited to our needs than the one-size-fits-all government plan.  Yet few conservatives would call for these programs to end.  At least, not unless someone else started a national discussion about it.

And herein lays the value of Ron Paul.  He says what so many Republicans are thinking, and yet no one dares say.  He helps bring new discussion – discussion that is often conservative to extremes that most of us only dream about – to the national stage.

Paul’s value to Republicans is not his platform.  It’s wrought with inconsistency and completely out of line with any group of voters.  And his value is not his personality.  He’s old, cranky, and uncompromising.

His value lies in the issues.  He brings up points of discussion to the national stage that help drag our party – and the nation – to the right.  He expands the right end of America’s political spectrum in ways that draw voters to a new center, a more conservative center.

Paul hasn’t caused any radical changes in American political thought.  And many of his platform points, including withdrawing all American activity in foreign countries and ending every federal agency under the sun, will never come to fruition.  But he gives a different sort of conservative voice to the Republican party, one that expands the discussion and picks up those conservatives and libertarians who are (rightfully) disillusioned with the moderates in the party leadership.

“Ron Paul 2012” is a pipe dream.  But “Ron Paul Conservatives” is an inevitable fact of the future, one that Republicans should and will embrace as we continue to search for our values and maintain our status as the party of freedom and small government.