The Radical Center


Ron Paul's press conference today has been taking a beating in the Hit & Run comment threads, mostly from people who can't see the point in appearing with non-libertarians like Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney, and Chuck Baldwin. I'm more impressed that Paul managed to get two of the most prominent left-wing figures in the country to declare that "there should be no increase in the national debt" and to attack the Fed's "arbitrary power to create money and credit out of thin air behind closed doors for the benefit of commercial interests." (Though I suppose they might still favor the power to create money and credit out of thin air if it's not done behind closed doors or for the benefit of commercial interests.)

More important, I appreciate the small-pieces-lightly-joined nature of the lineup, especially when you focus not on the figures who took the stage but on their jumbled bands of supporters, a collection of dissatisfied outsiders who aren't necessarily committed to a particular political outlook but are searching for an alternative to the status quo, mixing and matching all sorts of ideas in the process. I saw a similar potpourri when I covered the fractious Reform Party a decade ago, but because this loose coalition formed around Ron Paul rather than Ross Perot, its inclinations are much more libertarian.

Anthony Gregory reacts enthusiastically to the occasion:

I've dreamed of this: The good leftists and good rightists all agreeing on gutting the empire, dismantling the national security state and ratcheting back the profligate corporatism. Anti-Fed and anti-war, a wonderful, cross-spectrum, short-term American populist program that would do away with the worst of the national leviathan.

And how wonderful that Ron Paul is in the middle, the true moderate.

I doubt anything concrete will come out of this press conference (other than the damage to Bob Barr among what ought to be his strongest supporters). But the event reflects something interesting and valuable that's happening out there in the ideological long tail, a collection of conversations that cross the ordinary political lines. In essence, two leftists and a paleocon just held a press conference to say, "We're listening to the libertarian." They did this because actual leftists and actual paleocons are listening to libertarians. And even third-party candidates—or some of them, anyway—have sharp enough political instincts to respond to their constituencies.