On Friday, Washington Examiner and President of the Young Conservatives Coalition Christopher Malagisi wrote an article concerning Ron Paul’s and Gary Johnson’s recent participation in the South Carolina’s Republican Presidential Debate. I encourage you to read his piece for yourself. To follow is my commentary on it.
As you can tell from the title of my work, I believe that Malagisi’s conclusions are just flat out wrong. He starts out claiming that the Republican Party is a three-legged stool, a merging of libertarians, traditionalists, and anti-communists. Unfortunately, in this article, we are left with only inadequate assumptions of what he means by these terms. However, if we look to one of his earlier posts, we find that he lists them as “1.) Classical Liberals – who believe in a limited government, individual liberty, and free markets; 2.) Traditionalists – who believe in preserving our traditional values and heritage; and 3.) Anti-Communists – who believe in a strong national defense.” Although I would shy away from using the phrase “anti-communist” because I think it is outdated and has little real significance since the collapse of the Soviet Union, I believe he is spot on regarding this fusion of political ideologies within the party.
After this one salient point, Malagisi’s work devolves into fairly mindless bashing of Paul and Johnson for embracing this libertarian or “classical liberal” wing. He claims that both men are more suited to be Democrats rather than Republicans because they don’t support the war on terror or imposed moral standards coming out of Washington D.C. Doesn’t it seem strange that Malagisi admits there are three legs of the party, while at the same time seeking to saw off one entirely? Although this news may come as a shock to those who lack either common sense or a basic understanding of physics, but this two-legged stool that Malagisi seems to be advocating cannot stand.
But Joshua, Chris implies that Ron Paul doesn’t want to defend our country. Oh really? Is it possible that one can be in favor of a robust defense while at the same time opposing undeclared wars, imperialism, and nation building? If he is so “anti-national defense”, why did Paul receive more donations than any other candidate during the Republican nomination process in 2007-08, including former military veteran John McCain?
OK, I guess, but what about his claim that Ron Paul wants to erode our social values through destroying traditional marriage and legalizing heroin. Wrong again. What Ron Paul has consistently advocated is taking power away from politicians and bureaucrats in the nation’s capital and returning this power to the states. Just because we want the federal government to do one thing or another, doesn’t that desire allow us to circumvent the Constitution? After all, are we not a nation of laws?
Let’s look at the question in another light. To use Virginia as an example, who has defended our Judeo-Christian values better, D.C. or Richmond? Which has produced greater restrictions on abortion? Which has enshrined the traditional definition of marriage in its constitution? Under federalism, conservative states, like Virginia, can offer their citizens a more upright society, while more liberal states, like Nevada or Vermont, provide outlets for sins of the flesh. Is your state too liberal or conservative? The proper remedy is to lobby your elected officials in your state capitol or move to a state more suited to your point of view rather than ram your social values, or lack thereof, down the throats of every citizen of the U.S. of A.
Those points aside, Malagisi then goes on to discuss the three most recent Republican nominees for President as “proper Republicans”. But were they? I maintain that Bob Dole and John McCain lost, not because they weren’t Republican enough (whatever that supposedly means), but because they could not appeal to all three kinds of Republicans. Specifically, they were neither conservative nor libertarian enough. As Malagisi points out, one of the reasons Bush won was that he advocated “a non-nation building approach”, an idea that resonated with most Republicans, like Paul and Johnson, who were weary of the multitude of Clintonesque adventures. Then again, we saw how long Bush held true to these ideals.
Both Paul and Johnson are a welcome change to the current Republican politicians as usual who advocate a blend of fiscal irresponsibility, moral pandering absent any real commitment for meaningful legislation, wars without end, and the shredding of our Constitution. Now, I will admit that Johnson is too libertarian for my tastes, after all, I am a social conservative. However, with the recent debate as a guide, I would support him over Rick Santorum. Although Santorum and I agree on many social issues, his statements in the debate lead me to fear that he would support an agenda more akin to fascism than liberty.
Despite what you may think from this post and others populating this blog, I am not a libertarian. However, as a constitutional or paleo-conservative, I see libertarians as allies as we both seek to rein in the power of the federal government. We can and do disagree on a number of social issues, like abortion and defending our borders, but the party should welcome these folks to counterbalance the Republicans who abandon any notion of limiting the power of government while Republicans reign. After all, as the government continues to grow unabated, the greater fear is not having too much liberty, but having too little. Still not convinced? Remember that the idol of modern Republicanism, former President Ronald Reagan once said that, “the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism”. If we punt Paul and Johnson off the team, we lose those whom Malagisi himself calls the first leg of Republicanism and, like in 1996 and 2008, the stool will collapse.
As Ron Paul’s viewpoints increase in popularity, it comes as no surprise that folks like Malagisi bash him as being a Democrat, even though such claims lack any merit. Once you get beyond the surface, how many Democrats support reining in the power of the federal government, fiscal responsibility, a noninterventionist foreign policy, and states’ rights? Can you name even one who embraces these platforms? I maintain that unlike “mainstream” candidates, Ron Paul is a blend of all three legs of the Republican Party and should be treated likewise. As I’ve explained above, shouldn’t Malagisi support Representative Paul given that the good doctor embodies Malagisi’s fundamental Republican principles of “individual freedom, limited government, free markets, a strong national defense, and preserving our traditional values and heritage”?
I would wager that either Malagisi is woefully ignorant of Paul and the conservative movement (unlikely) or he is a neoconservative who longs for the return to big government Republicanism. Either way, I encourage my fellow traditional conservatives and libertarians to steer clear of his poisonous rhetoric. Although he is welcome to his opinions, given his current political position, I fear how many other potential allies will become unknowingly tainted by his misguided and baseless words.
Update: Fellow Jeffersoniad blogger Rick Sincere offers his take on Malagisi’s article here.