The Republicans: Ron Paul
I'm going to spend the most time discussing the candidates I absolutely reject and those I absolutely accept; Ron Paul falls firmly into the former category. Dr. Paul, to me, is an idealist who lacks an understanding of the complexity of the real world, and as such I cannot support him.
There are certain anecdotes that have stuck in my brain regarding him that exemplify this. First, there's his stance on evolution: he dismissed it as a "theological issue", and said he didn't accept it. Paul supporters will tell me that he only said that there are no absolute answers on either side, but that he spent so much time expounding on that subject only indicates that he doesn't know/care that theories CAN'T be proven. Also, to me he staked out an absolute position the second he said "It's a theory, the theory of evolution, and I don't accept it." His discussion of science left me seeing only his ignorance on the subject, hardly an encouraging trait.
Though Paul's rejection of evolution is tolerable, as science is at best a minor issue for the presidency, his thoughts on the Civil War, as expressed on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, left me more worried. Here's the relevant excerpt:
MR. RUSSERT: I was intrigued by your comments about Abe Lincoln. "According to Paul, Abe Lincoln should never have gone to war; there were better ways of getting rid of slavery."
REP. PAUL: Absolutely. Six hundred thousand Americans died in a senseless civil war. No, he shouldn't have gone, gone to war. He did this just to enhance and get rid of the original intent of the republic. I mean, it was the--that iron, iron fist..
MR. RUSSERT: We'd still have slavery.
REP. PAUL: Oh, come on, Tim. Slavery was phased out in every other country of the world. And the way I'm advising that it should have been done is do like the British empire did. You, you buy the slaves and release them. How much would that cost compared to killing 600,000 Americans and where it lingered for 100 years? I mean, the hatred and all that existed. So every other major country in the world got rid of slavery without a civil war. I mean, that doesn't sound too radical to me. That sounds like a pretty reasonable approach.
So much misunderstanding, so little time. My primary beef is with two points. First, does Ron Paul honestly think Lincoln could have avoided the war and kept the Union together, when the South seceded even before his inauguration? Or perhaps Paul thinks that we'd have been better off split up and not resolving the slavery issue at all? He pins the whole war on Lincoln, not understanding that the Civil War has at least 85 years of history behind it. And this leads right to the second point: Ron Paul trivializes the war by making it just about slavery. The war was the result of a deep schism between South and North, of which slavery vs. abolition was merely a symptom. At least two other major causes were present: the conflict between industry and agriculture, and the conflict between Federalism and Nationalism. At the same time, Paul thinks Lincoln did this to enhance the federal government's power, to "get rid of the original intent of the republic." So the war shouldn't have been fought because "there were better ways of getting rid of slavery", but Lincoln only fought it because he wanted to enhance his own power. Get your story straight, Paul. When I heard this on top of the science issue, I started to think maybe Dr. Paul slept through high school; to get such a crucial period of our history so completely wrong...
But the most annoying anecdote of the lot is the most relevant to the debate. Ron Paul, running as the Consitutional Candidate who will Elevate that Sacred Document to the Level it Deserves, doesn't seem to think the Sixteenth Amendment exists at all. He has denounced the income tax as unconstitutional numerous times, the most recent of which was just a week ago:
BECK: We`re with presidential candidate Ron Paul.
And, boy, there`s something that nobody else says. Nobody on Wall Street will say that. And it only makes common sense that we are destroying our own currency.
One of the things that I think attracts me to libertarians is the idea of getting back to the gold standard and abolishing the IRS. Is it true -- I believe I have read that you say if you don`t pay your taxes, you are in the category of civil disobedience akin with Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
PAUL: Well, I -- I think it`s practicing the same principle, yes, because the income tax, the way it`s collected is unconstitutional. And if you believe that, and you practice civil disobedience, you to suffer the consequences.
I chose to try to change the law. I haven`t chosen that method.
But people who sincerely believe that it`s unconstitutional to be guilty until you prove yourself innocent and you be your own -- you have to testify against yourself, I think they have a legitimate cause. And I think it`s a libertarian principle to practice civil disobedience. It`s non-violent.
Now, the only possible justification I've found for this position is that there were wording errors in most of the ratification documents for the Sixteenth Amendment - but that argument has been cut off at the knees by the Supreme Court several times. So either Ron Paul doesn't know that the Sixteenth Amendment exists (unlikely since he's referenced it often); he's clinging to an age-old argument refuted by the Court; or he doesn't have any respect for the process of amending the Constitution. None of these are palatable to me, especially not coming from The Only Honest Candidate In Politics (TM).
This much convinces me that Ron Paul is ignorant; his noninterventionist foreign policy and "the perfect is the enemy of the good" economic policy shows me that his naivete leads him to dangerously simplistic idealism. The real world is more complicated than Dr. Paul seems to believe, and I would not want such a man holding the highest office in the land.
EDIT: Ah, yes, one more nail in the coffin for Ron Paul: the crazy newsletters of his past. It seems there are only a few possibilities: first, he actually wrote those diatribes (or knew about them), which makes him a racist homophobic bigot; or second, he had no knowledge of what was being printed under his name, which makes him criminally careless. Neither of these are presidential qualities. Myself, I suspect a bit of both; there's substantiation of my point about Lincoln in one of the articles as well as personal information in some others, but the overall position doesn't sound like Paul. Anyway, if Ron Paul's candidacy isn't already dead, this drives a stake through its heart, burns the corpse, and scatters the ashes to the wind.