I've spent the year trying to study the different candidates and messages regarding America's future under a new President beginning in 2008. I've particularly mentioned some candidates that I couldn't support and I think I've made my case pretty clearly as to why. But I have not spent enough time talking about the candidates and messages that I *do* believe are worthy of support.
The two candidates that I find most compelling, given my particular values and concerns, are Barack Obama and Ron Paul. They are similar in many ways and I probably could support either of them in the general election.
Each of them talk with sincerity about unity, honesty, communication, and freedom.
At present, Paul gets the edge in my book. Paul is taking the much more difficult road, however, with his principled stance against special interest and lobbying funds – and consequently his actual message and platform are much less well-known.
Obama has plenty of mainstream corporate and lobbying support which assures him a greater probability of succeeding as either a Presidential or VP candidate in the general election, but also brings with it a great deal of baggage. Obama's substantial Israeli lobby support is, I would expect, an important part of his political calculus now – to name just one example.
Both Paul and Obama seem to have a better connection to the 'lower and middle' classes that comprise over 90% of our nation (depending on your definition, of course, read on). Congressman Paul spent decades delivering the babies of young, growing families. Senator Obama quit a law firm to follow his heart-felt calling to social work in struggling Chicago neighborhoods. The surprise and disbelief on his opponent's face last week when he asked if they realized that less than 6% of the country makes more than $97,000 (the income point that was being portrayed as 'working middle class') was just priceless – and for me, very telling. Most politicians with the means to compete at this national level are so far removed from the average citizen that it is simply unreal. But Paul and Obama – through their vocational choices – have a far greater understanding than average.
I've discussed some of Obama's multiple strengths before, but I haven't said much about Paul and he has become the candidate I support most strongly. I'll discuss them both more in future posts. Today I'd like to introduce Paul.
As a Latter-Day Saint my favorite parts of the Paul message are:
1. The Constitution is an inspired document that we have all pledged to uphold. We should follow it, and if we do not intend to, we should be honest about that and discuss it.
2. We are a Christian nation and should reasonably be expected to follow the precepts Christ taught. If we live as an example to the world, we will do far more good than if we attempt to force such values at the barrel of a gun.
3. Debt is real and must be reckoned with. The sooner the better. Denial doesn't make it go away. As Paul said the other day "My personal finances would be very good if I was borrowing $1 million a month. But someday the bills will come due." Key components in the Paul platform are reckoning with our astronomically frightening debt and fostering an atmosphere in which individuals and families could do the same. By at least one measure, simply fulfilling our current debt obligations would require $175,000 from each man, woman, and child in the nation. I don't know about you, but I won't *earn* that much this year . . . and neither will my wife or sons. The vast majority of that debt is from our ever-increasing misadventures in foreign policy. The fact that – like most debt – it's only increasing is not good. Furthermore, much of our debt is on loan from 'less-than-friendly' nations like China.
4. Individual responsibility is liberating and requisite. As nations, communities, families, and individuals we should be promoting liberty and responsibilty. Paul believes that Israel, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc. should be free of our national aid grants that purchase their military hardware and their indebtedness. They could then work out agreements that made more sense in the region and weren't complicated by pandering for our financial aid. [It is assumed by some in the media that this would benefit the Arab countries more than Israel, but there are a number of groups – even within Israel – arguing the reverse. Paul's consistency on the issue frees Israel's hand. Also it prevents the US from propping up dictators that surround them – like the $10 billion dollars and F16 aircraft we just sent Mushariff in Pakistan . . . not to mention all those years alternating propping up Iran and Iraq.]
Likewise, Ron Paul strongly advocates helping individuals and families break free of becoming dependent on government aid. He contends, quite convincingly, that if we were more rational in our foreign policy we would save so much money that not only would government welfare projects actually be solvent but further, individual Americans would see more money in their own pockets – which is an important step in reducing the number of people who become dependent on government aid.
5. Finally, for Ron Paul, every individual soul has worth and should not be dismissed with a label or attacked with a collective slander. When Ron Paul talks about our schoolchildren, soldiers, or immigrants, or the citizens in Iraq, Israel, Mexico, or Darfur – he has the same message. He doesn't need to tailor his message to appeal more to the Arab League or to the WTO or to Iowa veterans. If you listen to his reasoned wisdom on Iraq, for instance, you find that he has concern for both our valiant young men and women being sent into battle and the innocents that sometimes find themselves 'collateral damage'. He is not a weak pacifist or an isolationist. Indeed he strongly advocated going after bin Laden and al Queda – and still does – (remember when that was a shared goal?). But he believes that each use of our considerable might should be reasoned, clearly laid out, and executed quickly and judiciously.
Despite not being in the back pocket of any large and influential organizations, Ron Paul's message is so rational, so 'in touch with the people', so consistent, and so, well, "good" that he literally has the largest grass-roots support any presidential candidate has ever seen. His supporters put up signs and spend hours creating you-tube videos, writing letters to the editor, etc. Regardless of what you think of such efforts, please take a couple of minutes to watch one short exemplary fan-made video. Paul's words are clear and speak for themselves better than any summary I could attempt.