Today I am writing to you as someone who has voted for many of the same candidates — very often for the same reasons — as you have.
Perhaps you never have considered voting for any candidate who is not a Democrat. I understand how you feel: For most of the three decades in which I have been eligible to vote, I couldn’t conceive of choosing any candidate who didn’t have the "D" affixed to his or her name. The presidencies of two Bushes, one Reagan and one Ford, as well as the Republican governorships and mayoralties under which I have lived, offered little enticement to give my vote their cohorts. To me, the so-called Grand Old Party represented warmongering and other abuses of power. I suspect that many of you have seen, and still see, Republicans in a similar way.
So why, you may ask, am I asking you to vote against your party? More specifically, you may wonder why I am asking you to vote for a Presidential candidate who doesn’t want the Federal government to sanction same-sex marriages and who opposes abortion. Moreover, he has espoused a generally anti-immigration policy that includes opposition to amnesty for illegal aliens and support for building a fence along the border with Mexico.
Right about now, you may be wondering whether: a.) this is a joke, b.) I’ve sold out on my principles or c.) I’ve regressed to indulging myself in one of the illicit pleasures of my youth. Rest assured that none of the above is true, and that I really am petitioning your support for Ron Paul’s presidential candidacy. Although your first reaction to some of his positions — and the fact that he’s running as a Republican — may be shock or horror, on closer examination you will find that you and he have more common values and interests than you realized you had.
Let’s start with the war. By now, most — if not all — of you want to bring home this country’s young men and women from Iraq and Afghanistan as soon as possible. That’s something Ron Paul wants to do within a year after his inauguration.
So what?, you say. There are other anti-war candidates, and some who sound like they’re not so crazy about the war. Why not one of them?, you wonder.
Well, for one thing, Ron Paul is the only candidate to have stated, unequivocally, that he wants to end America’s military entanglement in Iraq, the sooner the better. And he — alone, it seems — understands that the surest way of accomplishing this is to cut off the funds, which he has pledged to do if he’s elected. No money, no war.
However, Ron doesn’t want to stop with a withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. He has also stated his intention to bring American troops home from Korea, Japan, Germany and throughout the rest of the world. He seems to be the only candidate who understands that ending the debacle in Iraq is only a beginning; he knows that the system that posits the US as the world’s policeman must end if we want to prevent a future Iraq — or Vietnam.
I don’t know whether Ron Paul has made the connection I’m about to make. If he has, it will explain his immigration stance, which you — and, frankly, I — find troubling. While I believe that people should be free to enter and leave this (or any other) country, I also acknowledge that either or both of two factors will guarantee a large migration of poor, unskilled people into a country: an overarching welfare state and a current or recent status as an imperialistic power. Several European countries, of course, have cradle-to-grave safety nets and the legacy of their empires. They — most notably England and France — have seen tides of immigration from their former colonies overseas.
The United States, while not quite as generous in payouts as its European counterparts, is currently the world’s reigning colonial giant. Imperial powers induce dependency, not only in those countries they rule directly, but also wherever they have a direct or indirect military, economic or cultural influence. So, when the ruling country withdraws, the former colony almost inevitably experiences hardships and dislocations. People in those places really have no other hope of escaping their hardship but to move to the country that colonized them.
If the relationship I’ve drawn between colonialism and mass immigration is valid, we can expect that ending our military entanglements and other coercive influence in other parts of the world will probably help to ebb the waves of immigration. So will free trade, which Ron Paul favors and will also reduce any actual or perceived need for military action.
Furthermore, he also realizes that countries can wage war only to the extent that their governments have power over people’s lives. This they gain, of course, through taxation, which gives them the means not only to build bases, buy weapons and such, but also to keep domestic would-be opponents at bay. In other words, taxation allows governments to snoop as well as shoot. If governments can do either, let alone both, of these things, there is little else they can’t do to their constituents. Although you may support governmental bans on hate speech or whatever, I’m guessing that, deep down, you really don’t like the government — or anyone else — telling you what to do.
More to the point, I think that you understand (even if you haven’t acknowledged) that you can’t guarantee your own freedom by destroying or negating someone else’s. Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker that reads, "If you don’t like abortion, don’t get one." We could substitute any number of things — a gun or marijuana, for example — for "abortion" and remain consistent with your desire for personal freedom — and Ron Paul’s philosophy and voting record.
And that, after his anti-war stance, may be the most compelling reason to vote for him. He, alone among the candidates, realizes that your freedom to marry whomever you please (or not) cannot be guaranteed by legislation, no matter how tightly-written it is. Indeed, Mr. Paul is a conservative Christian who doesn’t condone homosexuality, let alone gay marriage, or the recreational use of marijuana or other drugs. On the other hand, he has no sympathy with gay-bashers or anyone else who practices bigotry.
However, he has consistently spoken and voted against any proposed federal laws to define marriage in any form, post military border patrols to combat drug trafficking and randomly test Federal employees for drugs. By the same token, he has voted against hate-crimes legislation and language in civil rights laws to "protect" various groups. He has seen that such laws aren’t deterrents to hateful behavior or people enjoying themselves in ways that could harm them. More to the point, he knows that the resources needed to enforce such laws may just as well be burned. You wouldn’t want some politico to increase your taxes so he could pay for something wholly unproductive, would you? And you wouldn’t want him to trample all over your rights in the process — right? I thought so.
Finally, I realize that some of you became Democrats during, or in the wake of, the Civil Rights movements of the 1960′s. You were stirred by the brutal treatment blacks and others received at the hands of cops, and the discrimination they faced in applying for jobs, schools and housing. Perhaps you suffered some of those indignities yourselves.
Well, Ron Paul lived through those times and shares your sense that blacks and others are treated unfairly by the criminal justice (sic) system as well as by potential employers. He has also seen the failure of overarching legislation and the welfare state in helping to bring about equality of opportunity for people of all races. For one thing, he realizes that business owners, when they can, will leave areas where they are heavily taxed and tightly regulated for places where those burdens are lighter, or nonexistent. If a business moves, the jobs go with it. While many of these jobs don’t pay well or offer benefits, they still offer a better chance than handouts permit for an escape from poverty and degradation. Work also brings people into contact with people from other walks of life. No matter what one’s talents or credentials are, contacts will do more to help that person improve his or her professional and economic status. And that, as Ron Paul understands, is something that welfare programs don’t offer.
I mean, let’s be honest: No matter how generous the government’s benefits are, you still would rather see your kid working at a good job, wouldn’t you? You don’t want your kids to smoke pot, but you wouldn’t want them to get busted for it. At least that’s what I’m guessing. And, while you may not approve of some of the things your kids want and need to live happy, fulfilling lives, you know, deep down, that if you can’t inculcate your kids with your values and aspirations, you can’t expect a government — whether through its laws, educational institutions (which include nearly all schools in this country) or other manifestations — to do the same.
And, finally, wouldn’t you feel a whole lot better knowing that your kids, your loved ones or you won’t ever have to fight a war that has nothing to do with defending your (or your country’s) property or safety?
If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, I urge you to get off the donkey — if only for this one time — and go, not to the elephants, but to Ron Paul. At least he’ll leave us with the freedom to go back to the donkey, elephant or whatever animal, mineral or vegetable we choose.
Justine Nicholas [send her mail] is the deputy director of the Office of Academic Achievement at York College in Queens, New York.