Earlier this year, I was discussing the fall of Libya with an elderly uncle of mine. A keen intellectual with the ability to effortlessly run circles around most of today’s garden variety Ph.Ds despite never having received a college degree himself, he mentioned that Gaddafi’s demise would prove to be bad news for the United States, and, by extension, the free world as a whole. This prediction came as most in the punditocracy were cheering the indisputably brutal tyrant’s removal from power. Needless to say, they would have certainly found my uncle’s opinion to be premature at best or blasphemous at worst.
Fast forward to the present, in which the Muslim Brotherhood and other assorted Jihadi-supported interests are experiencing a remarkable ascension to power from Tunisia to Egypt and everywhere in between, including, of course, Libya. Obviously, the rosy picture that so many armchair freedom fighters here in the West had painted simply was not chosen for display in Reality’s Gallery of Fine Art. What a shame that was, but not unexpected to those of us analyzing the facts on the ground in regard to highly divisive and emotional subjects such as foreign affairs. The evidence that Jihadists were the most well funded and organized political force among the various elements attempting to take hold in the rapidly developing post-dictatorial Arab world was clear for all to see; it was widely broadcast, from the BBC to Fox News, on countless occasions. Still, a great many chose to be dreamers rather than realists, and now we have what we have.
Another seemingly unrelated high speed collision between fact and fiction is about to take place across the snow-swept plains of Iowa. Here, Texas congressman Ron Paul, libertarian extraordinaire, seems poised to sweep the Hawkeye State’s presidential caucus. As even those who live under rocks surely know, it is scheduled to be held this coming Tuesday, and serves as the opening salvo of the 2012 campaign season. Paul, aside from having an impeccable ground game, is pulling grassroots support from disaffected voters who apparently feel fed up with the electoral system itself.
Their allegiance is steadfast in the face of a recent volley of strongly negative news about him; from his featuring unspeakably bigoted remarks in a set of newsletters he once touted, to voicing strong disapproval for Israel’s mere existence, according to a well respected former staffer. Indeed, with excess baggage such as this, and far more left unsaid, Paul would be hard-pressed to win a statewide election in Texas, let alone the Oval Office. To a rational mind of any political persuasion, his candidacy should be rendered as a nonentity, or, at most, an eccentric oddity.
Dreamers are anything but rational minds. Operating as feelers instead of thinkers, they go not where reason indicates, or even where the wind blows, but rather follow abstract notions of utopian ideals. The followers of Ron Paul could be best described this way: they are rebels with a loosely defined cause of liberty. Liberty is a wonderful thing, but only provided it is of a legitimate nature, allowing law abiding citizens and legal residents to go about their lives in the manner each one deems fit. However, when the Paulies begin to speak about their respective views of liberty, one is reminded of 1960s hippies preaching peace and love while honoring these fine virtues by throwing rocks at cops and relieving themselves in the streets and walkways of many a university campus. That Paul derived ample sympathy from the winter-paused Occupy Movement is no shock.
So, what, exactly do the revolutionary Libya and Paul’s absurd alternate universe, which many concerned commentators have labeled “Paulestine” due to his extreme isolationist and anti-Israel standpoints, have in common? Both were created by dreamers, and are experiencing great difficulty in being sustained by them. By this time next year, who knows how much power the average Libyan will have over whatever system of government is put in place? Likewise, it is an essentially done deal that Paul will be anything but America’s president-elect.
Looking at all this from a bird’s eye view, both popular uprisings, one militaristic, and the other purely political, are textbook examples of why the “masses” are thoroughly incapable of running a nation on purely populist principles; a strong leader is an imperative in any scenario. For Libya, this person must be able to keep terrorists at bay while fostering positive international relations and a strong economy. For the United States, he or she has to be willing to devise a comprehensive national security policy while helping a badly damaged economy heal in a natural, market-driven fashion. With that latter point being made, one might be surprised to learn that I am actually rooting for Paul to seize victory in Iowa. A Paul victory would be the best possible outcome, as his fan base will have diluted the power of theo-conservative firebrands like the earnest but zany Michele Bachmann, the snake oil-peddling pseudo-cowboy Rick Perry, and the wholly detestable Rick Santorum.
With these three birds being dealt with by casting a single stone, the practical, pragmatic Mitt Romney should have an easy path to the Republican nomination. In addition to having the best chance of defeating President Obama in next fall’s general election, I believe that a Romney win will neutralize the far-right wing of the GOP, relieving it of much of the power it has gained over the last three or so years. Should this happen, the Republican brand might actually become the reasonable alternative to the Democratic Party; a party hijacked by an agglomeration of class and race warriors allied with a peculiar coalition of peaceniks and corporatists. Indeed, as unfortunate as Paul’s surge might be, the reward which can be found by focusing on the forest just beyond the trees is indescribably greater.
Originally published in Blogcritics Magazine: http://blogcritics.org/politics/article/on-the-paulestinian-frontier-the-upside/#ixzz1hz03zi6u
Joseph F. Cotto is a scholar and columnist from central Florida. Most often writing about political affairs, he is a member of the all-but-extinct Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party, taking conservative stances on fiscal and national security issues while being a staunch centrist on social matters. For several years, he was an accredited reporter for Wikinews, Wikipedia’s news subsidiary. There, he covered major stories such as the 2008 presidential election and interviewed personalities ranging from former U.S. senators to filmmakers. He is currently at work on a book about American politics.