Now, before I say what I am going to say, let me qualify some things. I have qualified them before, and it doesn’t seem to do any good, but hope springs eternal. I am a conservative, barely within the legal limits for Idaho. If someone bumped me too hard, I would probably tip over into a defense of feudalism not too far to the left of King Alfred. Not only so, but I would do so in a manner calculated to allow me to embrace virtually every future variant of conservatism downstream from Alfred — free market conservatism, hard money conservatism, constitutional conservatism, social conservatism, paleo-conservatism, and so on. I am every kind of conservataive except for the collectivist kind. Among the spear-Danes my loyalty is unquestioned. Among the Picts, my face is as blue as anybody’s. We stand out better that way against the red state background, and it gives liberals the creeps. Anything to give liberals the creeps.
Now one of the central characteristics of every form of true conservatism is a deep suspicion of ideology. Conservatism at its best is good at playing it as it lays. You might find yourself in a system that you would never have built yourself — like Daniel in Babylon, say — but are quite capable of working for reformational good within that system. This is pertinent because I believe that a right reading of the Constitution would not have built the kind of American empire we currently see all around us, but I also believe that there are good men within the current system pushing in the right direction — which is not necessarily the same thing as pushing your way toward a mythical restart or do-over button.
The purist is incapable of seeing the possibility of good men within corrupt systems and corrupt empires. The purist thinks that Obadiah, who had charge of the wicked Ahab’s house, had no business being there (1 Kings 18:3). This is because the purist would prefer purity and dead prophets to Obadiah’s fear of the Lord, service to Ahab, and protection of the prophets. This weird preference is what it means to be a sectarian ideologue.
The Paulbots (as distinguished from those who give thoughtful support to Paul such that they will certainly vote for him, or who are willing to support him where they agree with him . . . such as myself, fer instance) are the political equivalent of primitive baptists. They want to get back to the pristine days of the early church so they can figure out some kind of way to split that one too.
Now the conservative suspicion of ideology (and consequently ideological purity tests) is a tendency that has been used against conservatives effectively. This is how we have been consistently snookered into voting for the “most electable” rightward candidate, with professionals on the take informing us on who is most electable this year. Because we are not ideological purists, we can be more easily persuaded to hold our collective nose and vote for the establishment Republican yet again. But as Joe Sobran once put it, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times . . . I’m a Republican!”
Coming to this realization is what caused me to leave the Republican Party a decade or two ago, and is why I didn’t vote for Dubya either time, and why I won’t vote for Romney or Gingrich. I have allowed that I could vote for Santorum or Paul, depending on the circumstances. That’s me, being as judicious as all get out! That’s me, tip-toeing my way through complicated political analysis.
But it nevertheless gets me harangued by zealous Ron Paul supporters, and so the time has come to talk about that. I am showing Insufficient Zeal for the Cause, and I guess I ought to feel worse about it than I do, but part of this is driven by the fact that I was leaving behind standard Republican politics when a lot of these critics were in short pants riding around the driveway on their Big Wheels. Maybe I should work on generating some remorse for being in the tank for business-as-usual, but in order to do that, it would have to be at least kind of true. So there’s that obstacle.
Last time I checked, I was a theocrat for King Jesus, which is a position that would give the Republican National Committee the fantods, if they knew about it, which they don’t, because what I write on the Interwebs is invisible, and besides, they don’t know much of anything outside the Beltway. But if they knew, I can promise you they wouldn’t like it. I am advocate for mere Christendom — a dreamy utopian vision in which Catholic hospitals would not be forced into paying for abortifacients.
So, straight to the heart of the Ron Paul business. Over the years I have been very generous in my appreciation of what Ron Paul gets right. I have urged those who don’t support Ron Paul to cool it with the jabs about caucuses being won through effective nutworking. I have voted for Ron Paul in the past, and can easily envision circumstances in the future where I might do so again. But if I ever vote for him, it will not be with the swallow-tailed guidons of ideology snapping in the breeze above our bright and shiny light brigade.
Eric Hoffer once wrote a fantastic book called The True Believer. In that book he described the kind of psychological make-up that needs a cause, any cause, just so long as it has a direction to march, a flag to fly, and a gun to point. This is nothing but ideological excess, and it has to be said there is more than a little bit of it in the Paul camp. Please note — and here I feel like Dave Barry anticipating the reactions of Neil Diamond fans — that I know and acknowledge that there are many sober and judicious Ron Paul supporters. I know a bunch of them. I have a memorial shrine set up for reasonable Ron Paul supporters in my study, and we always keep a candle lit in front of it. But even with those qualifications, someone might complain that to point out the existence of any Paulbots whatever is an ad hom, and ask me to interact with Paul’s arguments — which I have done for years, sometimes agreeing with him, sometimes not. Happy to, and I will continue to. This blog has a search bar, and if you want to, you can go see.
But something else has happened, and is happening. This is no longer about the arguments alone. It is also about a sociological movement. One commenter said in response to a previous post that many of Paul’s followers were so zealous because they were recent converts. Yes, that is obviously true. And it should be pointed out to somebody that fresh converts are often a cause’s worst liabilities. New converts often do a great deal of damage. Do you really love liberty all that much? Then learn how important it is to cool it.
Stop lecturing your elders on their deficient love of liberty when they brought you up outside the state educational system, making enormous practical and financial sacrifices to do so. This was the first time such a feat had been accomplished in the West for centuries. A number of years ago I was talking with a libertarian friend, a secularist, who was upbraiding me for how evangelical Christians were insufficiently attentive to the cause of liberty, liberty as he defined it. I asked him how many non-government schools for kids the libertarians had built. The conversation lagged a bit after that. There was the kind of silence that you might experience the moment after the ambulance crew takes the body out.
Stop telling us about an America that was somehow morally equivalent to the Soviets or the Maoist commies. Whatever it is you are using to cause your sense of indignation to grow so big, trying using some of that fertilizer on your sense of proportion. We grew up in the Cold War and were facing a truly expansionist ideology that had murdered approximately 100 million people. That was not a trifle, or at least we kind of thought it wasn’t at the time. When I was a kid in school, one of the drills was nuclear war drills, and that was not the result of fevered imaginations.
Stop acting like you are bored with the traditional pro-life thing. An older generation of conservatives has kept that issue alive over the course of four decades. You are tired of that, are you? Abortion is so politicized? Focus on the Family is against abortion, and Focus is just way uncool? That’s like a German underground activist complaining in 1941 that concern over the Jewish thing is “so thirties.”
Now when you consider this third item, and compare it to the second, it would be quite fair to point to a moral equivalence now. The abortion carnage has gotten us almost to the halfway point that the lunatic Marxists achieved. And we are now pretending, in ludicrous civil ceremonies around the country, at sorry excuses for courthouses, that a man can marry a man. But never forget that we have gotten to this point by giving the time of day to those leftist sob-sisters who made every excuse imaginable for the communists back when they were still killing lots of people, and who have now moved their expertise at logic-chopping to a defense of one of their central domestic objectives, which appears to be baby chopping. These ghouls have somehow gotten control of a narrative which they like to call social justice and as far as I am concerned, they can take it to Hell with them.
There is only one other issue, resulting in a related and generic admonition to Ron Paul supporters under the age of 25. Be sure to check one other thing, and this would be in the realm of motives. That means that only you can check, not me, and if you do it honestly, I am happy to take your word for it. But being a Ron Paul supporter is, as it seems to me, a way to be given a pass by the zeitgeist hall monitors in the junior high of cool as a passable non-conservative. This means you can adopt a position that won’t rip it with all the conservatives in the church you few up in, and you can also pass as some form of non-conservative with all the leftist cool kids. Those cool kids — you know, the ones who line up outside Apple stores in Portland before the newest release — are either leftists or libertarians. Libertarians are tolerated and accepted by the left, and this should be recognized as a significant selling point (and temptation) by many of the Christian youngsters who have been attracted to Paul. Take your Ron Paul sign to a paleo-hippie peace rally and you just might be received with a strange sort of respect. Makes you feel warm inside. Just realize that it may not be the glow of a good testimony.
One of the reasons I like Santorum is that he generates the right kind of hatred from the usual suspects. And I like even more the fact that he doesn’t care. His sense of morality is far less cool than his sweater vests.