Two weeks after Mitt Romney accumulated the 1,144 delegates required to become the Republican presidential nominee, two months after his only viable competition dropped out, and half a year after anyone with access to basic fundraising disclosures knew he would eventually win, Joe Scarborough announced to the world he voted for Ron Paul.
Scarborough’s op-ed begins by contrasting Paul with Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich, which, in my humble opinion, is an utterly nonsensical undertaking because Romney has already won the nomination. Elections are about choices, and the Republican nominee has already been chosen. Protest voting is the ultimate form of mental masturbation; the protester’s principled act gives him all the satisfaction of rejecting the established choice, without forcing him to bear any of the burdens of being genuinely anti-establishment. As soon as he’s done with his symbolic ritual he goes right back to defending the Republican Party nominee on his cable TV show.
Anyway, let’s get inside his thought process:
I operate on instinct. So I should not have been surprised by my own gut reaction to the absentee ballot that lay before me on the kitchen table.
I scanned the list for Republican primary candidates and let instinct take over.
Mitt Romney? Not on your life. A big government Republican who will say anything to get elected.
Rick Santorum? No way. A pro-life statist who helped George W. Bush double the national debt.
Newt Gingrich? Ideologically unmoored. A champion of liberty one day, a central planner the next.
Ron Paul? Yep. I quickly checked his name and moved on to a far more complex task: fixing my daughter a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
After spending six months analyzing each candidate’s every move for three hours a day, five days a week, it never occurred to me that my decision to vote for the quirky congressman from Texas would happen as fast as a tornado whipping through an Amarillo parking lot.
I am truly amazed at Scarborough’s instincts. He spent “six months analyzing each candidate’s every move for three hours a day, five days a week,” and his big takeaway is that Romney’s a big government Republican? The same Mitt Romney who would rather default on our national debt than raise taxes a single penny? The same Mitt Romney who wants to give $265,000 tax breaks to the average millionaire at the same time he slashes healthcare and raises taxes on the elderly, poor, and disabled? The same Mitt Romney who wants to make life so miserable for illegal immigrants that they voluntarily “self-deport?” Mitt Romney is an unconditionally obedient, empty vessel for the most reactionary forces that have ever controlled the Republican Party. To think he will suddenly take a sharp turn to the center if elected president is to misunderstand the institutional pressures and political incentives any contemporary Republican leader faces. Romney will challenge the Tea Party to his primary reelection’s peril.
Scarborough says he voted for Paul for spending “his entire public career standing athwart history yelling “‘stop’ to an ever-expanding centralized state,” specifically citing his support for a balanced budget, opposition to government interference in the housing market, and dedication to “dismembering” the “big government beast.”
Let’s analyze each point in turn:
If Ron Paul were given complete dictatorial control over the federal government, not only would he not balance the budget, he would in all likelihood default on our debt. I know in Republicanland tax cuts for the rich are magically revenue neutral, but here in the real world if you abolish the income tax, as Paul wants to do, it would be mathematically impossible to reduce the national debt, much less balance the budget. Even if he literally destroyed the entire federal government, closing down every public school and highway, dropping every senior from the rolls of Medicare and Social Security, and disbanding the entire United States armed forces, he still wouldn’t be able to afford the salaries of the only government bureaucrats he seems to like: career politicians like himself.
Additionally, Scarborough says he likes Paul’s grand solution to preventing housing bubbles? I assume he’s referring to Paul’s policy of returning to the gold standard, an action that a poll of forty mainstream economists, liberals and conservatives alike, unanimously agreed would be bad for the average American.
The argument against it is one of pragmatism, not principle. First, a gold standard would have all the disadvantages of any system of rigidly fixed exchange rates–and even economists who are enthusiastic about a common European currency generally think that fixing the European currency to the dollar or yen would be going too far. Second, and crucially, gold is not a stable standard when measured in terms of other goods and services. On the contrary, it is a commodity whose price is constantly buffeted by shifts in supply and demand that have nothing to do with the needs of the world economy–by changes, for example, in dentistry.
The United States abandoned its policy of stabilizing gold prices back in 1971. Since then the price of gold has increased roughly tenfold, while consumer prices have increased about 250 percent. If we had tried to keep the price of gold from rising, this would have required a massive decline in the prices of practically everything else–deflation on a scale not seen since the Depression. This doesn’t sound like a particularly good idea.
And his final point, that Paul is this great anti-government crusader. I can’t really argue with him there. From wanting to end Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid, to gutting essentially every single regulation ever created, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which he said “undermine[d] the concept of liberty“ and “destroyed the principle of private property and private choices,” Paul is anything but a big government Republican. We all remember when he infamously declared the government should turn away sick people without health insurance, right? Well, in a sick twist of irony, Paul’s own uninsured former campaign manager took his freedom to the grave when he died of pneumonia at age 49, leaving his mother with $400,000 in medical bills. Surely Paul’s rank extremism is precisely why conservatives’ insistence on the evils of everything government are absurd at best and dishonest at worst. Either they don’t understand how disastrous society would be without government regulations, or they are willfully deceiving the public with their absolutist, and often demagogic, rhetoric.
I want to give Scarborough the benefit of the doubt. He’s not a crazy Paulbot. In fact, I’d be surprised if Scarborough agrees with much of anything Ron Paul stands for. So what explains his vote?
I blame the media. The same mainstream media Paul’s supporters routinely claim have conspired against his candidacy actually did him a great service by not informing the public of his actual positions. If only the public (and his own supporters) knew what he really stood for, Paul would once again be properly relegated to where he belongs: the far right lunatic fringe.