Tuesday, February 5, 2008

My Reluctant Vote and What Ron Paul Should Have Done

This morning, I sucked it up, went to the voting booth, and voted for Ron Paul. Had the newsletter story broken earlier than it did, I would have changed my party registration so I could have supported Obama and given him a chance to win this surprisingly close state against Nixon in a Pantsu....err, Hillary.

In any event, it was amazing to me how joyless the experience of voting for Ron Paul had become only a few months after being absolutely ecstatic about his candidacy. Indeed, in the end, my vote was purely strategic and symbolic....a pure protest vote. My decision was made easier by the fact that McCain has a huge lead here in New Jersey, which is also a winner take all primary on the Republican side. Since I view Romney as on a par with Hillary on the Evil Scale, ensuring the death of his campaign had become a top priority for me. But with McCain's insurmountable lead here and the winner-take-all factor, that priority became a non-issue.

The diminishment of that priority paved the way for making a protest vote against the Republican Party's warmongering and nation-building of recent years, as well as its out of control spending and complete disregard for civil and social liberties. While Paul's value as a protest vote is greatly diminished due to the newsletter issue and his nativism on trade and immigration, as well as his emphasis on states' rights over individual rights, he is as good a protest as there is in the Republican Party these days. Since I could not vote in the Dem primary and since I am no longer a big fan of McCain, voting for Paul was the only way I felt my vote could have any impact whatsoever. Even then, my decision was still agonizing. In the end, I voted for Paul more because of McCain's douchebaggery and dishonesty in the last debate (which eliminated the main reason I could tolerate McCain) than anything else....though I hasten to add that Paul's honest and adult performance in that debate was also a factor.

It's sad, really, how reluctant my vote had become. Just a few months ago, Paul was one of the only politicians I had ever been excited about. Even after the Thanksgiving Eve Alex Jones interview, despite what my head was saying, my heart was still clearly with Paul. But the newsletter story, and especially the response to it from both the Paul campaign and the Rockwell crowd, killed whatever irrational passion I had remaining for Paul. In the end, my voyage to the polls this morning was utterly joyless, and I felt that my vote had become close to meaningless. Were Fred Thompson still in the race, I think I would have voted for him over Paul.

And it didn't need to be this way. Even after the newsletter story broke, Paul could have won my heart back or at least made my vote pro-Paul rather than just anti-Bush, Romney, and McCain. All that Paul needed to do was to come clean about the newsletters or put out one honest press release. He could have even done this without throwing his friends under the bus (even though those friends clearly had no problem throwing Paul under the bus).

Such a press release could have just been a few sentences, and would have read something along the lines of:

I wanted to address the recent allegations against me in the New Republic. It is true that for an extended period of time, I allowed newsletters with some very incendiary material to be published under my name. The incendiary material in these newsletters was part of an ill-advised attempt to raise money for causes that I support, including my Congressional campaign. For a period, some of my advisors had become convinced that my ideals had a very limited appeal that required reaching out to groups with some ugly views. The success of my current campaign, which has brought together people of all races, religions, and backgrounds under one
movement, has proven just how wrong my advisors were, and just how wrong it was
of me to acquiesce to their convictions.

As for my personal views, I have said repeatedly and clearly that I view racism as anathema to the individualism that is at the core of my philosophy. Unfortunately, my personal ethics prohibit me from identifying the individuals who wrote this material by name. Should they choose to come forward, then I will have more to add at that time. What I can say is that I was wrong in acquiescing to their strategy, and for that I deeply apologize and take responsibility. Again, the diversity and passion of my supporters in this current campaign has proven just how wrong I was for
believing that publishing the incendiary material described in the New Republic article was necessary to expanding my base of support.

...Or something along those lines. But instead of taking responsibility for his actual involvement with the newsletters, he instead has tried to avoid that responsibility by saying that he didn't write the material, didn't know about it, and doesn't know who wrote it. If his concern was that he didn't want to hurt his friends by outing them as racists (or at least as former racists), he could have issued a response like the above, which at least avoids the implausible argument that he doesn't know who wrote the materials and didn't know what was going out.

If Paul is to run a credible third party campaign for the general election, these are concerns he will have to answer. While the newsletter controversy didn't gain that much traction outside of libertarian circles and the internet last month, it will certainly gain traction if Paul runs a third party campaign where he threatens to get 10% of the national vote (which is about where he's polling right now in hypothetical races).