Let me say at the outset that I don’t know who I will vote for when the primary campaign finally wends its way to Idaho. The field will no doubt be a bit different, and we likely know a good bit more about the candidates, probably a bit more than we wanted to know.
I know which candidates are flat out — Romney, Huntsman, and Gingrich — and they are out for character/religious reasons. One of the fundamental qualifications for office in Scripture is that a man must hate covetousness.
“The prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor: but he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days” (Prov. 28:16).
“Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens” (Ex. 18:21).
This means, among other things, he must not manifestly be coveting the office he is running for. When that motivation is out of joint, other things will be obviously wrong as well, which I won’t belabor here.
My point in writing here is to discuss the problem caused by one of most obvious men of principle in the race — and that would be Ron Paul. Sometimes the principle is wrong, and leads him to embrace things that are disastrously wrong, but nobody thinks that Ron Paul is a perfectly lubricated weather vane, as Huntsman recently said of Romney. He is not taking up positions because he thinks they will make him popular. This is one of the reasons he is so popular, ironically, with young people. They have never seen anything like it.
But here is the problem. Much of Paul’s support comes from “purists,” which means a libertarian kind of purity. This is a coherent body of thought, and it leads to a kind of consistency that is so attractive in a world of double-jointed politicians. It is also a body of thought that is mostly right, which is not the same thing, alas, as being entirely right.
When I have written supportively of various politicians (Palin, say), one of the most common complaints I get is from the libertarian right, where it is loudly wondered how I could possibly support a candidate that I obviously differed with on “this important issue,” or perhaps “that one.” I am exhorted to vote the conscience ticket. I should not have to hold my nose in the ballot booth over any significant issue.
The problem with the purity test is that it clearly excludes someone like Ron Paul. He voted for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and his position on open sodomites in the military is libertarian, not biblical. It is a principled position, but it is the wrong principle. I saw him say that heterosexuals cause enormous problems in the military — which is quite true, incidentally — but which is also beside the point. The military, by its very nature, is not a haven of libertarianism. Discipline is an inescapable necessity, and this means that if you refuse to discipline those practicing sodomy, then you will of necessity have to discipline those Christians who present a consistent Christian testimony against that sodomy. Can chaplains preach from Romans 1? If sodomy is now a protected civil right, the answer is no. When I was in the Navy I had perfect liberty to witness to sailors who were having sex with hookers. I had perfect liberty to call their behavior sinful, and to call them to repentance. Does anybody seriously think that a Christian sailor, this time next year, will have the same liberty to call a homosexual crewmate to repentance? You do? What’s it like being born yesterday?
This makes Ron Paul an enemy of liberty at this point — and it is not a trivial point. When it comes to real liberty, there are no perfect candidates.
Now I have voted for Ron Paul in the past, and depending on the field I might vote for him again — but only because the purity test that many of his followers demand is exactly wrong. Ron Paul stands up for liberty in some important areas, but he is lousy on liberty in others.
At the same time, in some ways, his presence is invaluable. I recently saw Charles Krauthammer trying to give him grief over Paul’s statement that a wall on our border with Mexico could be used for keeping us in, as well as keeping illegals out. Krauthammer said that the name for such a place was a “prison,” and was Paul saying we live in a prison? Paul replied that he was primarily concerned with restrictions on the movement of capital, and he also rightly mentioned the TSA vehicle inspections in Tennessee. (I read about that travesty on a TSA “myth buster” web site, and their account of it was every bit as alarming as what I had already heard about it.)
But no, it is not like living in a prison. It is more like living in an enormous junior high school with a power-tripping principal who has done off his meds. There is more than one way for liberty to become a casualty. I recently got a free box of those spook-a-loo light bulbs mailed to me, courtesy of some overtaxed mechanic or plumber in Texas, who had their money taken from them by our nanny state, in order to subsidize some crony capitalist corportation, the better to enable them to mail their creepy light bulbs to me. There were some free light bulbs, but precious little freedom.
I fly frequently, you know, and I know what a hassle it already is to get from Idaho to Virginia. Why would the fact that it is destination Mexico bring about a change of heart in the officious checkpoint personnel? Anybody who thinks that Paul’s concerns about personal liberty of movement are misguided (like Krauthammer obviously does) needs to wake up and smell the deep doo doo, to mix a couple metaphors.
So Paul is a friend of liberty in many areas where liberty desperately needs some more friends. Two cheers for the man. He is also an enemy of civil liberty in other areas. So vote for him if you gotta. But don’t kid yourself about it.