Fans of Representative Ron Paul have recently begun to criticize the media. Paul's supporters believe that the media has unfairly neglected his perpetual bid to receive the presidential nomination for the Republican Party.
Perhaps Paul's supporters should reconsider their criticism of the media. For, if Paul actually received substantial scrutiny, his ideas would undoubtedly frighten most voters.
Paul is charismatic. He also comes across as a straight shooter. Some of his ideas -- like his opposition to militarism and the War on Drugs -- appeal to many voters, including liberals. His arguments about lower government spending and taxation sound good to folks who worry about budget deficits.
Paul's arguments, however, often lack an empirical basis. History has already demonstrated that many of Paul's proposed solutions will never work. Thus, while some of Paul's ideas sound solid in the abstract, they crumble once they are subjected to widely accepted theories about government and society.
Because Paul's ideas are faulty and dangerous, he would make a terrible president. Here are five reasons why Paul should never become president.
1. Paul would restrict abortion based on anecdotal "evidence," rather than science.
Ron Paul is pro-life. He says that he developed his views on abortion during his practice as an OB/GYN. Paul's official website states that: "[D]uring his years in medicine, never once did [Paul] find an abortion necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman." Paul's statement, however, is troubling for two reasons.
First, medical science -- as opposed to Paul's anecdotal "evidence" -- proves that abortions are sometimes necessary to protect the life of the mother. Second, Paul's statement also contradicts the constitutional test articulated by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade and many subsequent decisions. According to established Court doctrine, states generally must make abortion available to protect the life and health of the mother. Even if Paul never witnessed a scenario where a woman needed a life-saving abortion, it is not difficult to imagine a situation where a woman needed an abortion to preserve her health.
Furthermore, conservatives have been trying to eliminate the health exception, which they believe amounts to "abortion on demand." According to the Supreme Court, however, a health condition means a psychological or physical condition which the doctor and patient decide warrants an abortion. While many Republicans want to limit abortion to life-saving procedures, Paul believes even this extreme exception is unnecessary based on anecdotes.
2. Paul has dreadful views regarding personal liberty and fundamental rights
Because Paul opposes abortion and everything done by the federal government, he has proposed a bill called the "We the People Act." This bill, if passed, would prohibit federal courts, including the Supreme Court, from deciding whether state or local laws violate the "the right of privacy, including issues of sexual practices, orientation, or reproduction... or... the right to marry without regard to sex or sexual orientation where based upon equal protection of the laws."
Essentially, Paul wants to remove federal courts from the business of deciding whether state laws violate the federal constitution! Contrary to Paul's vision of government, the Constitution secures certain rights enforceable against the national government and states. The Supreme Court has an important role in protecting those rights against invasion.
In the context of fundamental rights, Paul, however, wants to transfer this important federal judicial role to state courts exclusively. Undoubtedly, many state courts would sharply curtail liberties currently recognized by the Supreme Court. Furthermore, this proposal would produce a system where the substance of federal rights varied state-by-state.
In addition Paul wants to "repeal" Roe v. Wade. Since Roe is a judicial opinion, rather than a statute, he really wants a constitutional amendment reversing the ruling. Regardless, Paul's horrific proposals would endanger several personal liberties secured by the Constitution, including the right to terminate a pregnancy.3. Paul would threaten the independence of the federal judiciary.
Paul's proposals show a striking disregard for the independence of federal courts. Although public opinion and the actions of the political branches influence court decisions, the courts do not operate as representatives of the electorate. Instead, the Framers envisioned a court system that would operate as a check against unlawful action by the government.
Paul, however, would remove a lot of substantive issues from the jurisdiction of the courts (see above). The We the People Act, which Paul has proposed, would also prevent the federal courts from "issuing any ruling that appropriates or expends money [or] imposes taxes. . . ." Supreme Court precedent, however, already prohibits courts from imposing taxes or expending money of the states. So Paul's proposal is unnecessary.
But Paul wants more than this. He also wants to prohibit any court ruling that "otherwise interferes with the legislative functions or administrative discretion of the states." This sweeping passage would virtually negate judicial enforcement of federal law -- including the Constitution (not to worry - this is what makes the proposal unconstitutional).
If a state passes a statute that mandated racial segregation in its public schools, a decision by the Supreme Court that enjoined enforcement of that law would interfere with the "legislative" and "administrative" function of the state. It does not take much analysis to discover the danger in this proposal.
4. Paul wants to repeal historic legislation that was responsible for curtailing racial and sex discrimination in the workplace and for prohibiting racial discrimination in places of public accommodation.
Ron Paul opposes the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The legislation prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Paul believes that the legislation violates the Constitution. Specifically, he argues that Congress lacks the power to pass the law and that the law violates the rights of employers.
The Supreme Court disagrees with Paul; so does the public. Americans have decided that they want a society in which employers cannot use race and sex as a basis for exclusion. Contrary to Paul's assertion, this vision is absolutely consistent with the Constitution, via both the Commerce Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment.
Furthermore, Paul is simply rehashing the same arguments that Dixiecrats made as they struggled to maintain Jim Crow and white supremacy. People who lack knowledge of history might find Paul's statements about freedom to contract and association appealing, but they are simply a contemporary version of arguments that prevented women and persons of color from having economic opportunities. Paul would seek to reverse over five decades of social progress.
History proves that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was instrumental in achieving racial integration in southern schools. Until that act was passed, only about 1% of southern blacks went to school with whites -- despite the fact that the Supreme Court had decided Brown v. Board of Education ten years earlier. The legislation, however, tied federal funding for schools to antidiscrimination principles. The southern states sluggishly chose to integrate, rather than lose vital federal education assistance.
On the one hand, Paul opposes federal court enforcement of constitutional rights. At the same time, however, he opposes congressional remedies for racial and sex discrimination and enforcement of equal protection. Paul essentially wants to turn racial and gender equality over to the whims of the private sector and states. His ideas regarding civil rights are unsound, and they would undermine the nation's unfinished project of social justice.
5. Paul wants to erode the power of voters by repealing the Seventeenth Amendment.
Over the course of history, the American people have amended the Constitution to provide greater power to voters and to enhance democratic participation. The Fifteenth Amendment allows people to vote regardless of race (although it took nearly a century to make this a reality). The Nineteenth Amendment allows people to vote regardless of sex. The Twenty-Sixth Amendment allows persons who have reached the age of eighteen to vote. Furthermore, the Seventeenth Amendment allows individual voters of each state to elect US Senators directly. Previously, the Constitution delegated this authority to state legislatures.
Paul and many other conservatives want to repeal the Seventeenth Amendment. Although their arguments are not entirely coherent, most conservatives in this camp claim that repealing the Seventeenth Amendment would help protect the states against the national government. Others blame the growth of the national government on the inability of state legislatures to elect senators.
This position is flawed for several reasons. First, the Seventeenth Amendment is an important tool of individual liberty and democracy. Repealing it would contradict important values of American political life.
Second, the connection between the Seventeenth Amendment and growth of the federal government is sheer speculation; it is also incorrect. The government has grown because voters have decided that they need the government to deliver important services that states alone cannot secure.
Furthermore, most of the spending programs that Congress creates for the nation are voluntary. If states do not want to comply with federal regulations tied to spending programs, they can refuse the money. But state lawmakers do not want to anger voters by depriving them of important benefits, like school funding, healthcare, and safe roads.
Repealing the Seventeenth Amendment would undo a major element of America's move toward democracy. For this reason alone, Paul is unfit for president.
I applaud the efforts of Paul's fans to attract media attention for the candidate they support. This attention could lead to greater awareness of Paul's views among the electorate. If people actually hear the policies that Paul supports along with critical analysis, they will undoubtedly disapprove of his candidacy.
An earlier version of this article appeared on the blog, Dissenting Justice.