Thursday, December 15, 2011

The overly strategic endorsement

Andrew Sullivan endorsed Ron Paul in the GOP primary race. David Frum criticized that endorsement, and then Sullivan defended it thus (excerpt):
Paul's riposte would be that the current long recession was perpetuated by federal intervention, because it did not allow the market to clear more quickly (Thatcher's position in 1981, by the way). I don't buy this, because the extremity of the crisis was so great, passivity in 2008 could have galvanized a crippling global depression and ended our financial system entirely.
But Paul is not internally inconsistent; and he is radical in his libertarian absolutism. My endorsement was not of all his proposals but in part to expose the fallacy of these abstractions in our current context, by airing them openly. An electoral defeat on pure Tea Party grounds would advance the kind of reforms David and I want. We would get a real debate about limited government. And, of course, I regard steep cuts in defense as indispensable to generating the revenues necessary to cushion the socially dangerous inequality that is the singular mark of the last thirty years. A Romney presidency would muddy those waters. And David is still wedded to a neoconservaive foreign policy, which is where another deep difference resides.
Emphasis added. I find it a very odd type of endorsement that's done in the hope and expectation that the candidate will lose so that his bad ideas can be exposed. Even odder is that Sullivan at the same time is genuinely endorsing some of Paul's positions. What makes him think a Paul defeat would discredit the positions Sullivan dislikes while furthering the positions Sullivan likes? Isn't it possible Paul's defeat would do the opposite? And for that matter, isn't it also possible (though I agree, this is unlikely) that a nominee Paul would win the presidency and try to enact all of his positions?

By the way, Margaret Thatcher offered a qualified defense of the mixed economy on the grounds that "as in a cocktail, it is the mix that counts." Would Ron Paul ever say something like that?

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