A Ron Paul endorsement might be the last thing you'd expect from someone who offered a full-throated endorsement of John McCain in 2008.
But the country is much different four years later, and it's considerably worse off.
The housing bubble burst. National debt is expected to reach 100 percent of GDP by 2020. The entitlement crisis continues to loom. The federal government has claimed the novel power to coerce citizens to engage in private economic activities, such as purchasing private health insurance. The military-industrial complex has transformed into a bipartisan phenomenon. So has the thirst for endless war in the Middle East. The president has claimed the power to assassinate American citizens by executive order and will soon have the power to detain American citizens indefinitely, without trial.
Ron Paul represents a complete rejection of the last 11 years of Republican misrule.
George W. Bush was the most fiscally destructive president in American history. He ran up record deficits, passed an unfunded prescription drug liability and sat idly by as the Federal Reserve inflated the money supply, leading to the bursting of the housing bubble and the collapse of the markets. Ron Paul has promised to seek $1 trillion in cuts from the federal budget in 2013. Democrats call this "draconian." I call it fiscal responsibility.
The two "leading" contenders for the nomination, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, famously supported Barack Obama's cherished individual mandate to purchase health insurance. This is fundamentally unconservative, and the idea that a "conservative" could support such a policy is blasphemous. Ron Paul's conception of limited government and maximum liberty puts him at odds with Gingrich, Romney and Obama. He appears to be as upset with the idea of an individual mandate as me.
The war in Iraq cost 4,500 American lives, 30,000 other American casualties, 100,000 Iraqi civilians and about $1 trillion in American dollars. Once on the verge of a post-Saddam civil war, Iraq is spiraling toward a perpetual state of illiberal democracy, where Christians are persecuted and flee, the country is becoming Balkanized, political corruption is rampant and Iran -- America's supposed sworn worst enemy -- has gained considerable political influence.
Every Republican contender believes that America should launch another war against Iran and repeat our mistakes in Iraq. I'm supporting Ron Paul because he thinks this is absurd.
Every Republican contender supports sweeping federal laws codifying marriage, banning pornography and generally legislating morality. I'm supporting Ron Paul because he thinks the 10th Amendment still means something.
Every Republican contender supports President Obama's method of putting American citizens on "hit lists" without a shred of due process, and every contender appears to endorse the Imperial Executive's supposed power to indefinitely detain American citizens without access to counsel, a trial or even a formal charge. I'm supporting Ron Paul because he's read Amendments 4, 5 and 6.
Today's Republicans like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have more in common with Woodrow Wilson than Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater or William F. Buckley.
Conservatism demands an adherence to the Constitution's very words and a respect for the separation of powers that the Constitution has enshrined.
Aside from Jon Huntsman, who seems intent on alienating the Republican base, there is nothing fundamentally "conservative" about any of Ron Paul's challengers. The rest of the field is made up of big-government Republicans who would return America to the destructive era of George W. Bush, where the president enjoys unchecked executive power, deficits spiral even further out of control and the country pursues a foolish, Wilsonian foreign policy. I've had enough of that for one lifetime.
Paul's critics claim that he isn't electable. But according to whom? A recent Public Policy Polling report showed Paul running dead even with President Obama in Iowa, a state that John McCain lost by nine points in 2008. A CNN poll released today showed Paul performing equally as well as Mitt Romney in a hypothetical matchup with Obama, and nearly ten points better than Gingrich. Additionally, because of his staunch libertarian stance on executive power and foreign policy issues, Paul has the ability -- utterly unmatched by any of his competitors -- to carve into Obama's liberal base. The Glenn Greenwald/Russ Feingold vote is up for grabs, much as the Pat Buchanan/Conor Friedersdorf vote would be up for grabs if the contest putted Feingold against, say, Michele Bachmann. Paul could be the great fusion candidate so many liberals and libertarians have dreamed of, to run staunchly against the Bush/Obama perpetual warfare machine. We haven't ever seen a candidate like him on the national stage.
The more I write, the more this becomes a no-brainer for a conservative like me. I don't agree with Paul on everything -- I think his call for the abolition of the Federal Reserve contradicts conservatism's adherence to gradual structural change and a respect for existing institutions -- but I agree with him on far more than any of his rivals. The people who discount Paul as a serious general election candidate do so based on little to no hard evidence that he would make a poor nominee. To the contrary, given the country's fiscal crisis, the unpopularity of the president in most quarters outside of hardcore partisans and Paul's famous fidelity to the Constitution, it is just as likely that Paul wipes out Obama in a landslide.