Texas Congressman and Presidential Candidate Dr. Ron Paul’s upcoming visit to Cornell’s campus on Thursday, April 19 should be of special interest to students of Cornell and every other college and university. As the popular media begins to focus on November’s election contest between typical Democrats and Republicans, the Ron Paul “Revolution” charges onward, concerned, like most Americans, with the long-term direction of the country, not short-term partisan victories. As a result, Ron Paul’s recent trips to college campuses around the country drew not just Republicans and Libertarians, but thousands of energetic students from across the political spectrum, all yearning to hear a candidate with real, authentic convictions, not simply the approval of the political establishment. Or in other terms — when was the last time a Republican Presidential Candidate drew a crowd of thousands at UC Berkeley?
As members of the Cornell Democrats, Cornell Republicans and Cornell Libertarians, we think that Ron Paul’s message deserves our attention as individuals and college students first, without concern for our political affiliations.
For democrats, Ron Paul is a Republican with whom they share serious concerns about American foreign policy under both Bush and Obama. During the runup to the Iraq war, Ron Paul was one of the few dissenters in Congress during a time when patriotic fervor squelched most criticism. His presidential bid in 2008 largely reflected the absence of serious public discussions about the lack of accountability, military-industrial complex and long-term fiscal consequences of repeated American military interventions, epitomized by the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Almost a decade later, Americans are faced with a daunting 2012 federal deficit of greater than $1.3 trillion and we, as college students of the early 21st century, will pay for it. This reflects many democrats’ outrage that recent concerns about deficit spending never seem to apply to American military expenditures, which amount to a whopping 43 percent of the world’s total military spending.
For Republicans concerned about the federal deficit, 2012 Cornell Convocation Speaker Michael Bloomberg noted that “Except for Ron Paul, none of the presidential candidates has a credible plan for dealing with the nation’s deficit.” If recent austerity riots in Greece were not enough of a cautionary tale, we should consider the long-term consequences of an exploding federal deficit, a problem we can’t entrust to those currently in power. Republicans worry about the party’s future among youth and college students, but also about whether their candidates are committed to Constitutionalism, limited government and American values. Analyzing Ron Paul’s congressional record dating back to the 1970s provides almost archaeological proof of a lifelong dedication to making true his message of limited government. We absolutely know where he stands and that he won’t budge.
For libertarian supporters, the Ron Paul movement has often brought attention to serious issues long before their consequences were clear. A decade ago, few analysts or experts anticipated the housing bubble, the financial crisis and yearly federal deficits over $1 trillion. In comparison, Ron Paul warned of the bubble years in advance, when critics often dismissed him as the eccentric “Dr. No” for his unflappable opposition to any bill in violation of the Constitution. Since then, Ron Paul’s greatest achievement has been his success in fundamentally changing American political discourse and his ability to illuminate the subtle connections between social and economic issues. Breaking from the status quo on key issues has not been easy, but discussions about the Federal Reserve, the War on Drugs or the limitations of American military might are no longer as eccentric or taboo as they used to be. Even if his success has been limited in the voting booth, Ron Paul has widened public discussions enough that defending individual liberty is not the impossible task it once was.
Even so, a steady stream of critics have labelled Ron Paul as an “idealist” and “unelectable.”
Yet on issues like privacy, marriage, internet freedom and the War on Drugs, Ron Paul’s positions resonate not only with most college students, but with Americans in general. With regard to marriage, Ron Paul argues that instead of politicizing marriage, government should refrain from defining it, leaving such choices to private citizens. Earlier this semester, a Sun columnist wrote that Ron Paul’s position on legalizing marijuana “seems to draw only a small percentage of his supporters,” despite a Gallup Poll from October which found 50 percent of Americans in support of marijuana legalization. Unlike other Republican presidential candidates, who weighed the political consequences before coming out against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), Ron Paul opposed SOPA as the inevitable next step in his consistent defense of internet freedom.
Yet Ron Paul is not just popular on those issues: A recent Rasmussen poll showed Ron Paul ahead of President Obama 43 percent - 42 percent.
Even so, questions of electability have constrained political discussions for far too long. Daunting challenges and tumultuous times often make those in political parties even more certain of their own positions and even more obsessed with ensuring election victories at all costs. As a result, valuable opportunities for reasonable discussion and meaningful change vanish, leaving us with little meaningful dialogue and no progress. The paradox of Ron Paul is that he maintains firm convictions, while building an inclusive “big tent” movement with powerful appeal among college students. By forcing us to think about politics outside of typical party lines, listening to Ron Paul provides a fresh escape from unthinking politics and partisan tunnel vision.
Jacob Arluck is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. Zachary Delle is a sophomore in the College of Industrial and Labor Relations. Dalton Vieira is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. They are members of the Cornell Libertarians, Cornell Republicans and Cornell Democrats respectively. Comments may be sent to email@example.com. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.