The Ron Paul Rebellion
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
It looks like quite a little revolt is brewing in Maine over what to do about the fact that the Republican state convention decided to send to Tampa a delegation composed of Ron Paul stalwarts. The Press Herald, in Portland, is fronting a story today saying that a compromise scheme being pressed by the state party chairman, a backer of Governor Romney, has been rejected by Dr. Paul’s supporters, setting the stage for what the Press Herald calls “a political showdown that could see the state lose its coveted delegate seats.” The Press Herald reports this could be sorted out later this week at a meeting of Republican leaders in Washington.
Mr. Romney, in our view, is making an error of judgment here. His loyalists are complaining that the reason that 20 of the 24 delegates seats from Maine went to Ron Paul supporters is because the rules were broken and the Ron Paul rowdies essentially took over the convention that chose the delegation. The wiser course would be to use the Ron Paul delegations as a chance to bring Dr. Paul and his movement into the party, so as to help erect the kind of big tent Republicanism that President Reagan put up to win the White House in 1980. The worst thing Mr. Romney could do is suggest that there is no room in the party for the principles that Dr. Paul has been pressing.
What are these principles, after all? They are a kind of constitutional fundamentalism. Dr. Paul got into it through monetary matters. It happens that we’ve spent much of the summer in Maine, ensconced in a leather chair by a crackling fire and reading Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson, and a few of the others, as they reasoned out what kind of monetary and banking system to set up in the new republic. The only candidate in the whole race who seems to relate to what the Founders fought for in the way of an economic system in this country, and also to what they feared in fiat money, is the curmudgeonly congressman from Texas.
It seems to be Mr. Romney’s fear that if the Maine gets to seat a delegation with all those Ron Paul supporters, the convention would have to sit for an address by Ron Paul himself. What would be the harm in that? It strikes us that it would be an opportunity. It’s not just that it would be a good idea to erect a big tent. It’s also that Dr. Paul is making an important contribution in his critique of the monetary system and of the Federal Reserve; a solid bipartisan majority of the House just voted for his bill to audit the Fed. It’s important for Mr. Romney to set himself up for a campaign that gives credence to the idea that monetary policy is one of the roots of our travail. If he fails to do that, he’s going to be fighting the election entirely on turf that President Obama has defined.
“The national convention was never intended to be a coronation,” the Press Herald quotes one Maine pro-Paul delegate, Brent Tweed, as saying. “It was intended to be the place where the nominee was chosen.” The Press Herald’s report says that the compromise the Republican state party is offering would have “handed over the right to formally announce Maine’s votes at the convention” to Governor LePage, rather than one of the Ron Paul delegates. Mr. LePage has, despite all the bombast one reads about, been doing a terrific job in the state. He deserves as high a profile as he wants. But if the price of it is to edge out the Ron Paul themes from getting a full voice in the convention, we’d argue that the governor shift his priorities. Otherewise the thing could go to a fight at the Republican convention’s credentials committee.
* * *
It happens that your editor’s first assignment covering national politics was the great credentials fight at the Democratic National Convention of 1968. It was a dispute over which delegation to seat from Alabama. It pitted the Democratic Party in the state against a group of erstwhile Democrats who were loyal to the former governor, George Wallace, who committed to running that year as a third party candidate. Not only was Wallace running against the Democratic Party’s nominee, Vice President Humphrey, in the general election. He also stood for a racist remnant and had himself stood in the school house door in the greatest moral struggle of his time. It would have been unconscionable for the Democrats to bring such a movement onto the floor of their convention. So Wallace was driven out, and the Democrats lost the election (a half a million votes separated Nixon and Humphrey; Wallace’s independent campaign drew 9 million votes). The current showdown is different. Congressman Paul is not running against Governor Romney in the general election, and he does not stand as a symbol of racism. He has plenty of differences with the party, particularly in foreign affairs. But the ground he is standing on is classical economics, sound money, fiscal restraint, and constitutional fundamentalism. Surely there is a way to bring his voice into the national convention and the campaign that will follow it.