I go back and forth arguing with many of my libertarian friends on Facebook, and this has intensified in the months leading up to the election. They are representative of the growing libertarian movement in America, characterized by their relative youth, and shaped by what they perceive as the federal government overstepping its constitutional authority. Many of these libertarians voted for Obama in 2008, but are disappointed with his response to the economic downturn and the growing debt problem.
Many of these young libertarians eagerly rallied around Ron Paul during the Republican primaries. Even though he is approaching 80 years old, Paul energized his base with calls to end the Federal Reserve, railing against the military-industrial complex and his originalist approach to interpreting the Constitution.
Even though Paul lost in the primaries, his refusal to endorse Romney once he got the nomination speaks to the growing divide between libertarians and mainstream Republicans within the GOP that could very well manifest itself into a schism in the coming years.
Many of my libertarian friends are quick to note that Paul is not a pure libertarian. He is pro-life when it comes to abortion, and supports the notion of defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
However, it is my belief that despite the public image that Paul has crafted as only beholden to the Constitution, I cannot help but point out that some of the positions that he has are in conflict with each other, on both Constitutional and practical grounds.
First of all, Paul has been steadfast in his support for the Citizens United decision, which repealed the McCain-Feingold Act and essentially allowed for unlimited amounts of corporate soft money to be spent in elections. The Court held that spending money is the equivalent of free speech, and is therefore protected under the First Amendment.
However, what Paul and the Court do not recognize is that Citizens United interpreted the First Amendment in such a way that the freedom to spend has been put above other freedoms and political equality. Speech is not money. Some people have more money to spend, and thus more “speech,” than others. The principle of the First Amendment is that people have an inalienable, natural right and ability to create speech without limitation. By ruling that money can be spent in elections in an unfettered way, the Court has indirectly acknowledged that people with less money do not have the same right under the First Amendment to express their views.
In addition, this decision is in violation of both the Guarantee Clause of the Constitution, which guarantees to the states a republican (note the small r) form of government, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which requires equality of representation and participation. Citizens United ensures that a select elite have power, forces candidates and elected officials to devote more time to fund-raising instead of governing and addressing the needs of their constituents, and dilutes the voting power of the people.
On a more practical basis, Ron Paul’s support of Citizens United is also a contradiction to his stated opposition to the immense clout of the military-industrial complex in government. Citizens United allows corporations to gain considerably more sway with elected officials. Many of these corporations are defense contractors like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Grumman, and oil companies like Halliburton, that stand to profit from wars overseas.
Another contradiction of Paul’s principles is that he supports the repeal of the 16th Amendment, which established a federal income tax, and he is against the collection of tariffs. Maybe he opposes it on the basis that he feels it is bad policy rather than any constitutional issue, but regardless, the Taxing and Spending Clause of the Constitution grants Congress the power to levy and collect taxes and duties. If Paul had his way, the United States would be taken back to the dark days of the Articles of Confederation, where the federal government was unable to collect revenue, and as a result was essentially rendered powerless.
Ultimately, the notion that Ron Paul is a strict adherent to the Constitution is a myth, a myth that needs to be dispelled in popular political discourse in order for the truth to come forth.