There is a debate going on right now between the true Republicans like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and establishment, “get-along” Republicans like Richard Burr and John Boehner who don’t want to defund Obamacare. They may say they do, but when it comes to passing a simple resolution that funds all government except the Affordable Care Act, they wilt. Many Tea Party conservatives have been derided for not being willing to budge on the Affordable Care Act and for sticking too much to their principles. The GOP will face a shellacking in the next election if they are seen as too willing to compromise.
Honestly, that is just not true.
One Republican who has always stood on principle is Ron Paul, and in doing so he sparked a revolution. Ron Paul consistently voted on a few basic principles, the most important being this: is this part of the role of the federal government? He consistently voted against unbalanced budgets, deficit spending, and federal laws which were outside the purview of the Constitution, even when it went against his own personal views. For example he voted against a law banning sex-selective abortion ( even though he himself is a pro-life former OB/GYN) because it was not a power granted to Representatives under the Constitution.
Paul was dismissed as a fringe politician and a racist for many of his positions. And yet, from 1996 until his retirement in 2012, he never lost a Congressional election and often won by healthy margins.
At first, despite all the hatred and vitriol aimed at him, Paul stood alone on principle. But after a housing bubble caused by government backed mortgages, a bank bailout, and a rising national debt, he found that he had more than a few supporters. First came the Tea Party (although the libertarian party was here before them), which arose out of objection to the $800 billion stimulus bill and the Affordable Care Act. Once again dismissed as extremists and on the fringe of the GOP, Ron Paul and his supporters shook up the 2010 elections by taking over the House and gaining seats in the Senate.
Like-minded libertarians and conservatives like Representative Justin Amash (R-Michigan), who is known for as strong a level of attention to detail and adherence to the Constitution as Ron Paul, joined Paul in the House. In the Senate, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Mike Lee of Utah carried the conservative mantle. In 2012, lightning rod Ted Cruz won election over establishment candidate David Dewhurst in the Texas GOP Senate primary and would go on to win the general election.
In Wisconsin, fiscal hawk Scott Walker won not just one, but two elections in less than 4 years. He survived a recall, winning by larger margins than the first time he beat Pat Quinn’s fellow bore of a politician, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett.
Let me make a not-so-very-bold statement and say this: If more rigid-free marketers had been setting government policies, we could have avoided the housing bubble and the student loan bubble that is soon to burst. Too often, though, we let ourselves get sucked in to the left’s compassionate arguments for fear of looking like we don’t care about poor people. We need to stand on principle and proclaim the facts: when the bubbles burst, it is those exact same people in need who get hit the hardest. Our party needs to argue for long-term policies, not short-term just-to-get-elected policies.
Ron Paul stood on principle, and after years of being ridiculed, mocked, and marginalized by both parties, people are waking up and seeing the value in his principles. If we had more people like Ron Paul that stood on principle and opposed all the federal programs that have built up and continue to plague our economy, we would certainly be better off as a country.
Matthew Lamb | Loyola University-Chicago | @mlmb24