Wednesday, March 14, 2012

On Ideology vs Practicality, Ron Paul edition.

I recently read this article, in which the author vociferously whines about Ron Paul's takeover of her local Republican Party. In the comments, several Ron Paul supporters responded calmly, cogently, and intelligently. For the most part, they were met with ignorant, childish, ad hominem responses. However, I was intrigued by this comment, made in reply to a Dr. Paul supporter. It was one of the few non-Paul-supporter written posts that actually added to the conversation, both in content and form. In summary, he raises the question of Dr. Paul's competency to accomplish his vision, and also about the timeline that the good Congressman has set for doing so. Is he able to? and wouldn't that plunge the world into chaos? My answer to both of these questions is "Yes". However, my answer to the second is continued, "...and he knows it, but he also knows it won't happen on that timeline. But I'm OK with that, and so is he, and here's why." Here's my actual response (currently awaiting moderation), long form:
This is an excellent breakdown of things. As a Ron Paul supporter, I am aware of these issues; here are the reasons I still support the good Congressman. 1) You said: “I find myself primarily interested in the ability of the candidate to execute his ideology”. You also rightly pointed out that unless we get a supermajority in both houses of the Congress, he will be governing largely by veto. My response to this thought is: I don’t want a candidate who is able to execute his ideology, if the ideology itself is flawed. This is a conversation of tactics vs. strategy. If the strategy is wrong, why bother implementing it? So for me, ideology is primary, and ability to execute is secondary. 2) Now, regarding the ability to execute… First, as this very article points out, both in it’s content and the event that caused it to be written in the first place, RP’s supporters are his army, and they are very good at getting what they want done done, in the face of massive opposition. I do not underestimate RP’s ability to execute his vision at all. Secondly, the ability to execute breaks down into two main areas: offense and defense. Offense is the ability to actually do what you want, in spite of opposition. This is primarily reflected (in our government) by things such as getting bills passed, issuing Executive Orders, etc. Defense is the ability to keep the opposition from doing what they want. This is reflected by the power of the veto, combined with a non-supermajority, or possibly even non-majority, of the opposition. When it comes to switching ideologies, though, this is where a good defense (which you and I both agree that Dr. Paul will be able to run without a problem), will turn into a good offense. The art of any war, either with weapons or diplomatic or political, is to frustrate the enemies purposes, thereby creating the space for yourself to move and accomplish your own objectives. Even if you cannot at first accomplish your own objectives against them (at first), if you can keep the enemy from accomplishing theirs against you, you will have time and space to build and execute the necessary offense. Anyone who has played the dark pieces in Chess (competently, anyway) knows this. 3) Regarding the timeline. Yes, you are right. I think it would plunge the world (outside our borders) into chaos if we “just marched home”. I think RP knows this. I think the Congress, including whatever RP supporters get voted in, knows this, even if RP doesn’t (or does and is OK with that). But that’s how ideology works: you have to aim for the stars. In reality, you’ll most likely hit the moon, or maybe a street light, but at least you’re headed in the right direction. This is why ideology is primary for us. Another analogy: in martial arts, we were taught to “punch through the target”. What this meant, on a practical level, is that we were to aim for a “point of contact” approximately 6″ behind the actual target. If RP were to say, “We’ll get out of running the world in 10 years,” he would face two problems: 1) by setting that timetable, he would pretty much guarantee that it would actually happen in 30 or 40, if it happened at all, and 2) he would be termed out of office long before anything real happened. Conversely, by setting a (admittedly unrealistic) timetable of “get it done yesterday” (haha), he gains two advantages: 1) he has urgency and decisiveness on his side, and 2) he will probably actually get it done in 5-8 years, which is within his term limits. In other words, he’s “punching through” his target. —- tl;dr; When you start talking about tactics, the conversations start getting very long. But on a strategic level, Congressman Paul has demonstrated and is currently demonstrating the ability to get his vision accomplished. I trust him to continue that trend.

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