Ron Paul and Obama have more in common than you might think.
Ron Paul appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show last night and spilled the beans that he’d be officially announcing his intentions to run for president in 2012 today at an event in Iowa.
Asked how he would save costs on Medicare and reform taxes, Paul responded, “I believe a president shouldn’t be a king, he has to persuade and get the people to agree, and get Congress to agree. Could I close dow the Fed? Not as president you can’t. But you could lead the charge on this. You have to keep pushing on it. If you could get people to agree that you have to stop printing money… I think we could get people to agree to that.”
Remind you of anyone?
If you were to take President Obama and Ron Paul and stack their political positions on their left and right shoulders consistent with which positions satisfy progressives and conservatives repsectively, you would end up with a somewhat balanced, albeit inverse, image. Sure, President Obama might be more heavily weighted on the left shoulder, but his first term has been defined by compromises, some of which satisfy those on the right, and some of which satisfy his base on the left.
In some ways Obama and Ron Paul are each other’s mirror image. Obama is fundamentally progressive, but he’s let Guantanamo play out on his watch, he hasn’t taken a federal stand for gay equal rights, he’s given the rich tax breaks consistent with the Bush years, and he has kept defense spending at preposterously high levels.
Ron Paul, on the other hand, is fundamentally conservative but has a lot to offer progressives: He wants to get rid of income tax altogether, he favors small government as a matter of principle, believes government cannot solve America’s debt crisis, and is a major pro-life believer. At the same time, he believes in limited government regulation of social behaviors and thus supports gay rights, opposes the war on drugs, criticizes neo-cons for demonizing Muslims, and believes in less elective military action, including firmly decrying the Iraq war.
Obama and Ron Paul are fundamentally unlike, say, Clinton or George W. Bush, who elated one half of the country while infuriating the other. Rather than cleaving the country, Paul, like Obama, would likely split the difference, giving both sides some of what they want and some of what they hate.
And then there’s the matter of approach: Paul’s ambition to “persuade” and “get Congress to agree” eerily recalls Obama’s style. Starry-eyed as it sounds, it’s remarkable that nearly three years and a narrowly-averted government shutdown later Obama is still sticking with compromise. Rather than lead by political trickery and dogma, he deliberates, willing to let the best argument rise to the top.
Of course, this breeds constant gridlock. Ron Paul is right—a president’s power to make unilateral sweeping changes are limited. Obama was not able to pass the universal healthcare package he wanted to, and Ron Paul, if elected president, will not be able to eliminate the income tax.
Rather, a Ron Paul presidency, much like Obama’s so far, would be a long, slow slog of incremental steps toward a series of changes—some of which you like, some of which you hate, and all of which will take a long, long time to materialize.