There are some changes that do not sit well with nationally syndicated columnist Starr Parker.
One of these is a change that she perceives has having taken place among college Republicans over the span of the last 20 years or so. In her latest article, Parker writes that unlike the youth to whom she regularly spoke during the 1990’s, today’s young Republicans care not nearly as much about Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley as they do “the ‘leave me alone’ candidate”—Ron Paul.
Parker sees the Paul phenomenon as the offspring of the union of “self-centered materialism” and “moral relativism.” Even though his young Republican supporters “may be pushing back on government,” they are motivated, Parker contends, by the very same “sense of entitlement” that prevails among “their left wing contemporaries.” They have “an interest in claiming rights with little interest in corresponding personal responsibilities.”
In following her train of thought (no mean feat), it becomes painfully obvious to anyone genuinely concerned with truth just how wrong headed is Parker’s position.
The college audiences that she once addressed embraced “individual freedom, respect for constitutional limitations on government, and traditional values [.]” Seeing “Americaas a ‘shining city on a hill’,” they shared “a sense of [national] purpose.” In stark contrast, an ever growing number of her “college hosts” today request that she speak not about “values” but, rather, “the economy.”
Parker may very well be correct that college students have redirected their moral energy from the likes of Reagan and Buckley and toward Ron Paul. Yet if this is true, it most certainly is not because these same students have lost their zeal for “individual freedom, respect for constitutional limitations on government, and traditional values.” “Libertarians” like Paul are known for nothing if not their affirmation of both “individual freedom” as well as the “constitutional limitations on government” that make this freedom possible. Nor can Paul credibly be said to inspire contempt for “traditional values.”
St. Francis of Assisiis credited with having admonished his followers to spread the Gospel—and to use words “when necessary.” Paul said something similar during one of the later GOP debates. When questioned whether he thought that the “character” of a candidate should be treated with importance, he responded in the affirmative. Yet he was quick to point out that a genuinely virtuous human being—like, say, a real military hero—isn’t one who feels the need to continually talk about his excellences. Good character is self-revealing; it is disclosed through deeds. Translated in terms of the popular idiom of our times, character is essentially a matter of “walk,” not “talk.”
With respect to his stances on the key “social issues” of abortion and marriage, we can see that Paul is all walk.
A staunch proponent of life, Paul is an obstetrician who delivered over 4,000 babies during his career. He never performed a single abortion. He has repeatedly insisted that life begins at conception and opposes all government-funded abortion services. That Paul holds marriage and family in high regard is clear: he has been married to the same woman—his high school girlfriend—for about 55 years. Together they have raised a sizable family.
Paul rejects the idea of a Constitutional amendment explicitly defining marriage as a monogamous, heterosexual union for the same reason that he rejects the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade preventing the individual states from prohibiting abortion: the Constitution, he is convinced, does not authorize the federal government to speak to such matters.
Similarly, Paul opposes the federal government’s “War on Drugs,” not because he believes that drugs are harmless, but because he sees clearly that individual freedom and the Constitution positively preclude it.
Paul and his supporters are no less interested in “the social issues” than are Parker or anyone else. The difference between the Pauls and the Parkers of the world lies in the positions that they take on these issues. But it isn’t just over substance that they disagree. Ron Paul and his young supporters who Parker takes to task are both logically and morally more consistent than is she and her ilk. To put it in Parker’s own terms, it is from his commitment to “individual freedom” and his “respect for constitutional limitations on government” that Paul assumes the issues on the social issues that he does.
Parker can legitimately quibble with Paul over whether his reading of the Constitution and the requirements of liberty are correct. However, she has no rational warrant for describing Paul’s vision as a form of “self-centered materialism,” much less “moral relativism.” Putting aside the ambiguity of these labels, one very simple, and simply decisive, consideration shows just how absurd it is to ascribe them to Paul.
While Paul’s rivals deny the worth of his views, even they do not think to deny the passion, the conviction, and the consistency with which he defends them. How, we must ask, is Paul’s renunciation of “militarism” and “imperialism” either “materialistic” or “relativistic?” What about his position that it is unconstitutional and immoral for the federal government to enact paternalistic laws? Is it “materialism” and “relativism” that lead Paul to argue against “the War on Drugs” on the ground that it is “racist?”
Paul’s positions on the issues may be rationally and morally indefensible. Parker’s analysis of them definitely is.